Recipe: Apple Galette

I had apples, I had puff pastry, and I had a compound butter recipe I wanted to try out!

Ingredients:

  • 3 large/4 medium crisp apples (preferably Honey Crisp, but Granny Smith would go great, too)
  • 2 sheets of puff pastry that have been defrosted (you may need to put them in the fridge the night before if you have them in the freezer)
  • flour for dusting
  • 1/2 stick softened butter
  • 1/4 cup light brown sugar
  • 2 tsp – 1 Tbsp of apple pie spice (or 2:1:1 mix of cinnamon, cloves, nutmeg)

Materials:

  • 1 large or 2 medium baking sheets
  • bowl
  • knife
  • cutting board
  • rolling pin
  • 2 sheets of waxed paper larger than the puff pastry sheets
  • Silpat (or comprable) liner or parchment paper
  • spatula
  • Electric handmixer if you feel like it, otherwise the spatula is fine

Pull out the box of puff pastry sheets out of the fridge to warm up. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In a bowl, mix the softened butter, the brown sugar, and the spices until well combined using either the electric handmixer or the spatula. Core the apples and cut them into chunks and throw them into the bowl with the butter. When the apples are all cut and in the bowl, mix with the compound butter so that each apple piece is lightly coated. On a flat surface, spread out a piece of waxed paper. Dust it with flour. Put one of the puff pastry sheets on it and dust that with flour. Using the rolling pin, evenly thin out the puff pastry sheet. Transfer it to the lined baking sheet and fill the center with half of the apple mix. Fold the sides of the sheet up around the apples and crimp together. This will likely not be a dessert that looks elegant. But it’s tasty! Repeat the process with the second sheet of puff pastry. Don’t try to reuse the waxed paper even though it’s been dusted with flour. And absolutely dust it with flour before using the rolling pin. Let’s just say it was a good thing that the puff pastry sheet that met wax paper without flour in between had that side as the inner side. Bake for 40-50 minutes until evenly browned. If you have an older oven such as I, or one that heats unevenly, consider rotating the baking sheet halfway through the baking process. Enjoy!

Two uncooked apple galettes sitting on a baking sheet. They are round with apples showing through in the center.

Two baked apple galettes, sitting on the baking sheet.

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Bacon, Spinach & Cheese Mini-Quiches

This is so not an allergy friendly recipe. We’ve got dairy, eggs, and gluten. About the only thing it’s missing is nuts. Anywhoodle, I saw a photo on Pinterest for mini-quiches. I didn’t even bother to go look at the recipe because I knew exactly what I wanted to make of my own. The only thing I eventually looked at the recipe for was the baking time. This is also the recipe with which I christened my new-to-me stove. Lovely. By the way, I am *so* guesstimating on the amounts. Except for the eggs. I know exactly how many eggs I used. Materials:

  • 12-cup muffin tin (you could go smaller or bigger, but I think these are the perfect size for this kind of thing)
  • Bowl to mix eggs in (preferably with a pouring spout)
  • Whisk with which to mix eggs
  • Pan to fry up bacon and wilt spinach (I used the good old electric fry pan I’ve semi-inherited from my mom for this)
  • Tongs to move around bacon and spinach
  • Kitchen shears
  • Bowl to mix filling (you can use the same bowl for the eggs, but I’d do the eggs second and wash it out before doing the eggs)

Ingredients:

  • 6 eggs (seriously, the only hard number for sure and even then you could probably add one more in)
  • 1/4 cup of heavy cream (really, enough to stretch out the eggs to fill all of the tins)
  • 1/4 cup of bread crumbs
  • 3-4 handfuls of fresh lettuce
  • 8 oz. of uncooked bacon (which you will then cook down, but I cooked the whole 1 lb package, so there may have been more)
  • 4-6 oz. shredded mild cheddar cheese
  • Seasoning for eggs of choice

Instructions: Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Cook the bacon and reserve 1 tablespoon or so, maybe 1 1/2, of grease in the pan. When cooked to your preferred consistency (I like mine still chewy), remove the bacon from the pan and set on a paper towel to drain–and put a plate under the paper towel because the grease will totally leak through and I refuse to be responsible for you messing up your counters.

Wash the fresh spinach and thoroughly dry it. Wilt it in the still hot pan with the bacon grease. Spinach goes down to nothing, so if you want a fair amount, really pack in the unwilted leaves. In one bowl, pour in the bread crumbs. Once the spinach is wilted down to nothing, remove it from the pan and place it on top of the bread crumbs. The bread crumbs will then absorb the extra bacony goodness of the grease coming off of the spinach. Let sit for a minute or so and then, using the kitchen shears, cut up the amount of bacon you want to use into chunks and place in the bowl with the bread crumbs and spinach. Dump in the shredded cheese. Thoroughly mix all of the filler so you’ve got a balance between the bacon, spinach, and cheese.

Now for the muffin pan. If it is a non-stick pan, you will likely not need added greasing between the non-stick finish and all of the bacon grease that’s in this dish. If it’s an old pan, maybe a little bit of non-stick spray couldn’t hurt. Evenly divide the filling into tins. Futz around if you need to to make it even.

In the second bowl (or the first bowl that you’ve now washed and dried after emptying it of filling), beat together the 6 eggs, the cream, and your seasoning of choice. That may be as simple as a bit of salt and pepper, but I went with Lake Shore Drive Seasoning from The Spice House. Pour the egg mixture over the filling mixture in the tins so it fills the cups between halfway and 3/4s of the way. The egg mixture will really puff up so you do not want to fill it to the top, and you don’t really have to worry about covering everything.

Place the muffin pan in the hot oven and bake for 20-25 minutes. The darker your pan, the less time you need to bake them. If, after the 20-25 minutes, they’re not a golden brown, check to see if they’re actually done by sticking a toothpick into the center. If it comes out with gooey egg attached to it, not only are your mini-quiches not done, but your oven may be broken. With that happy thought, enjoy as breakfast, lunch, dinner, or any combination thereof!

Before going into the oven: 12-cup non-stick muffin tin filled with filling and egg mixture before baking After coming out of the oven: 12-cup non-stick muffin tin filled with baked mini-quiches that are a golden yellow with bits of red from the bacon and green from the spinach Yummy goodness: Half of mini-quiche showing fluffy interior studded with bacon, spinach, and cheese.

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Financial “Diet”

When the new year started, I decided I wanted to try tracking my money again. I did a decent job for a few months last year, but my enthusiasm petered out at the end of April. Frankly, not too bad. What I did last year was attempt to track every single purchase I made and the method used. I maintained a paper log, because there are some things for which I prefer paper. Honestly? I think it was playing with the log book that enabled me to continue with the project as long as I did.

This year, I decided to try a similar, but yet very different method. I’m weaning myself away from using credit cards, and I’m actually doing a pretty good job of that. My credit cards do not reside in my wallet, so if I want to pay for something, I only have my debit card or whatever cash I have on hand. I do have a Target Red Card which I use whenever I’m there, but it’s the debit version. I like this way of conducting my personal business, and I do believe that it’s helped me to minimize the amount of debt in my life.

I decided to set up another ledger for this year, and picked up a cute notebook at Target which I could customize. Pretty notebooks make you want to use them, so go for the pretty on this type of project. I then set guidelines for the ledger:

  1. This is not be a running list the way last year’s ledger was.
  2. Sections are broken up by pay period (bi-weekly in my case), and only track the spending of that particular paycheck.
  3. The ledger only tracks charges to my checking account (yes, this is a glorified check register).
  4. Cash transactions are only noted as ATM withdrawls, rather than individually.
  5. At the end of the pay period, positive balances will be transferred either to my savings account or to one of my bank loans.

The stipulation of point number two can be a bit funky. Here’s an example using my paycheck which hits tomorrow:

Photograph of handwritten ledger page noting the pay period dates, bills which hit during that time frame, other major expenses in that time frame, and the ledger itself which is separated into columns noting: description, income, expense, if it has cleared, and balance.Now, the “PL” which has the other designation “whited out” is my personal loan. Amica is my car insurance. Between the three bills hitting this pay period listed (rent is the third for those who can’t see the image), that’s pretty much my entire paycheck. I also forgot to note in there my Discover card payment which completely kills my paycheck. However, because I knew this would be a bill heavy pay period, I specifically saved money from the pay period which ends today to cover the personal loan payment and the car insurance. What I’ll be doing is noting those charges in that section (the pay period previous to the one pictured) so I can then figure out the appropriate amount to transfer into my savings account.

By focusing on my money one paycheck at a time, I think this will allow me to be more cognizant of my spending habits as well as give me the opportunity to rebuild a bit of a savings account. I’m expecting to move to an apartment where the rent will be about 150% more than of what I’m currently paying in the next few months (I was never even close to being a math major <G>), so it will be even more vital that I have a tight reign on my cash flow.

What fun ideas have you come across for tracking your money?

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Welcome 2014!

For the first time in four years, I did not make my trek to a large body of water to usher in the new year. I’ve enjoyed this tradition, and I’m going to try to do it this weekend, but I got hit with a nasty cold last night. Going out and walking around in very chilly weather would not help me feel any better. 2013 was a pretty damn good year for me on many fronts. No specific resolutions, but something I’m going to make a point of continuing to do is post more recipes here. I’m planning on moving to a bigger place this year–hopefully end of March–so I’ll have a wee bit larger prep space as well as full-sized appliances.

Moving will also give me an opportunity to cull through a lot of the things I’ve accumulated over the last two years. The smaller living space has helped keep buying impulses in check, and I have periodically weeded through various collections–notably clothes and shoes. However, I do need to weed more. At the very least, 2014 is shaping up to be an interesting year!!

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Recipe: Caramel Apple Cheesecake Bars

These were the fourth recipe of dessert bars I made last night. I saw the Biscoff cookies in the cookie aisle and I knew I wanted to use them in a crust. I’d already gotten the caramel chips and I was playing around with ideas for almost a couple of weeks. Finally, I decided to Frankenstein a couple of recipes and came up with this.

Ingredients:

  • 1 1/2 cups finely ground Biscoff cookies
  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) of melted butter
  • 16 oz. cream cheese
  • 1/2 cup & 1/4 cup sugar (used separately, so keep divided)
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 teaspon vanilla extract
  • 3 medium apples (I strongly suggest a tart baking apple such as Granny Smith or Honey Crisp), finely diced
  • 1 tablespoon Apple Pie Spice
  • 11 oz. caramel bits

Materials:

  • Pan to melt butter
  • Hand mixer (or stand mixer)
  • Spatula
  • Large mixing bowl
  • 9″ x 13″ baking pan or 2 8″ x 8″ baking pans
  • Baking spray (or butter which I highly recommend) to grease the pan–make sure you get the sides well greased, too
  • Medium mixing bowl
  • Knife & cutting board (to dice apples)
  • Measuring cups and spoons

Directions:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Melt butter and mix with ground cookies. Spread evenly across bottom of greased pan/s. Using the mixer, cream together the cream cheese and the 1/2 cup of sugar. After about three minutes of mixing, you can then add in the eggs and vanilla extract. Mix until silky smooth. Pour mixture over the ground cookies. Finely dice the apples and mix with 1/4 cup sugar, apple pie spice and caramel bits. Spread apple mix over cheesecake filling. Bake in oven for 30 minutes or until filling has set. Let sit for at least one hour after baking to firmly set.

Before baking:

Photo of caramel apple cheesecake bars before baking

 

From side before baking:

Photo of caramel apple cheesecake bars taken from side before bakingFrom side after baking:

Photo of caramel apple bars taken from side after baking showing how puffy the cheesecake filling isAfter baking:

Photo of caramel apple cheesecake bars after baking, showing how brown the apple topping becomes

 

 

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Recipe: S’mores Bars

My office has a now-annual tradition to have a bake-off on Halloween. I say “now-annual” because last year was our first. I didn’t participate last year for two reasons: A. the theme was chocolate chip cookies, and toaster ovens are not convenient for large batches of cookies, and B. I was the emcee/coordinator. This year’s theme is dessert bars, and I’m no longer coordinating the fundraiser for the office that this is in support of. I’m actually entering four different bars. I’ve already posted the recipe for Apricot Oatmeal Bars–though I used peach preserves this time. The third bar I’m making is Seven Layer Magic Bars which has been a favorite since childhood. I’ll post the fourth recipe later tonight after I actually make them. On to the S’mores Bars! The theory behind these was to reimagine s’mores as a layer bar.

S’Mores Bars

Ingredients:

  • 1 1/2 cups ground graham crackers
  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) butter, melted
  • 10 oz. bag of mini-marshmallows
  • 15 oz. (1.5 10 oz. bags) Ghirardelli 60% Bittersweet chocolate chips
  • 1 1/2 – 2 cups crushed mini-pretzels
  • 14 oz. can sweetened condensed milk (I use Eagle brand)

Materials:

  • 9″ x 13″ baking pan OR
  • 2 – 8″ x 8″ baking pans
  • large bowl to mix marshmallows, pretzels & chocolate chips
  • small bowl to melt butter in microwave OR
  • small pan to melt butter on stovetop
  • parchment paper to line the baking pan/s OR butter to grease them

Directions:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Melt butter however you like and then mix it with the graham crackers. Press the resulting mixture into the bottom of the greased or parchment paper-lined pan/s. Mix the marshmallows, pretzels and chocolate chips in a large bowl and then pour on top of graham cracker crust (split evenly if using 2 8″ x 8″ pans). Pour sweetened condensed milk over the filling and let sit for a bit to trickle down to the crust. Bake in oven for 15 minutes. Marshmallows should be very puffy and sweetened condensed milk a nice caramel-y color. After baking, let cool for at least an hour for them to harden. Cut into bars and serve.

Before baking:

Picture of two pans of s'mores bars before bakingAfter baking:

Two pans of s'mores bars after coming out of the oven with very browned tops.

 

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Recipe: Breakfast Pizza

My original plan for dinner tonight was to make Apple Butter Pork Loin in the slow cooker. That would have required me to remove the pork loin from the freezer to defrost sometime yesterday, however. I toyed with various ideas and then settled on breakfast pizza with a homemade crust. After cruising the web for ideas on how to make it since I was stuck on what to use as “sauce”, I cobbled together the following recipe. This is for baking in a toaster oven, so it’s on the small side. For use in a regular oven, just double the ingredients.

Breakfast Pizza

Ingredients:

  • Ball of favorite homemade pizza dough, about the size of a large orange. Enough to make a rectangle of about 7″ x 11″
  • 1-2 oz. of chive and onion cream cheese spread
  • 8 oz. cooked bacon, crumbled
  • 2 eggs scrambled in your favorite manner – try to make the resulting scramble on the thin side to make it easier to spread on pizza
  • 1-2 oz. shredded mozzarella and provolone cheese (Sargento makes this, but you can totally use your favorite shredded cheese)

Directions:

Preheat toaster oven for five minutes to 375 degrees. Roll out ball of dough onto parchment paper to around 7″ x 11″. I bake my pizzas on the broiler pan, and this almost fills it. Spread chive and onion cream cheese spread in a thin layer on top of dough. Sprinkle crumbled bacon evenly across cream cheese. Place scrambled egg bits on top of bacon. Sprinkle shredded cheese on top. Bake in toaster oven for approximately 20 minutes or until shredded cheese and crust are lightly browned.

Before baking:

Photograph of unbaked, assembled breakfast pizza ready to go into toaster oven.

 

After baking:

Photograph of breakfast pizza after baking

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