Saturday, April 20, 2013

Apple Butter

I have to confess I'm a little scared to leave my crockpot on all day while I go to work. Leaving it on on weekends and days off while I'm in and out running errands all day is fine, but leaving it on while I'm at work squicks me out a little. I know it's irrational. I know that my crockpot won't suddenly, after over 4 years of reliable use, won't all of a sudden blow up on me... But what if it does?

This apple butter is my first experiment with putting something in my crockpot while I was away at work. Do you think I could concentrate at work? Of course not. Instead of brilliant legal thoughts, my imagination went wild with thoughts of burned apples (at best) and charred house remains (at worst). 

Needless to say, my house was still standing when I got home, the apples were cooking nicely, and it smelled like I had spent all day making apple pies. It was wonderful.

Now if only I could convince myself that this all-day-while-I'm-at-work success wasn't a fluke and I should try it again.

Crockpot Apple Butter
From My Baking Addiction, adapted
Makes about 4 pints

6 1/2 lbs tart apples, peeled, cored, and sliced
2/3 - 1 cup white sugar (depending on how sour your apples are)
2/3 - 1 cup brown sugar (depending on how sour your apples are)
1/4 tsp nutmeg
1/4 tsp ground cloves
2 tsp cinnamon 
1/4 tsp salt
1 TBSP vanilla extract

Place the apples in the crockpot. Add the sugars, nutmeg, cinnamon, cloves, and salt. Stir to combine.

Cook on low for about 10 hours, stirring very occasionally (I stirred once after it cooked for about 9 hrs), until the mixture is thickened and dark brown.

Uncover, stir in the vanilla, and cook for about 2 hrs. It'll probably look like the apples are sort of breaking down and liquefying, but that's ok. Cooking uncovered will allow some of the excess liquid to evaporate.

Puree with an immersion blender until smooth. Put in sterile containers and store in the fridge or freezer.

Monday, March 25, 2013

21-Ingredient Chili

In preparation to install my magic shelves, I cleaned out the cabinets. These are my spices. Well, most of them. My cinnamon sticks and ground cinnamon got left out. Clearly, I have a problem. A delicious one.

Because of this delicious problem, I was able to make this 21-ingredient chili with only having to buy one spice. I'm not sure if that's something I should be proud of...

We both really liked this chili. My husband, who has a very narrow definition of what a chili is, declared this his "new favorite tortilla soup." It took some work, but I will definitely be making it again, with a few changes - I'll note those below.

The most exciting part of this is that I got to make it in my new crockpot. Behold:

It's pretty and shiny and I love it.

But now onto the chili.

Slow Cooker 21-Ingredient Chili
From A Year of Crockpotting
Prep Time - 25 min
Cook Time - 8 hrs
Serves 8ish

2 lbs boneless, skinless chicken thighs, cut into 1-inch chunks.
1 onion, diced
1 (15 oz) can kidney beans, drained & rinsed
1 (15 oz) can white cannellini beans, drained & rinsed
1 (15 oz) can corn (drained & rinsed)*
1 (15 oz) can fire-roasted tomatoes (NOT drained)
1 (4 oz) can diced green chiles
1 medium sweet potato, peeled and grated
1/2 cup spicy grown mustard
2 TBSP soy sauce
2 TBSP honey
3 TBSP chili powder
1 TBSP chipotle chili powder
1 TBSP onion powder
1 TBSP garlic powder
1 tsp white peper
1 tsp oregano
1 tsp cumin
1/4 tsp cinnamon**
1/4 tsp cloves
2 cups chicken broth

Put the chicken into the bottom of your cooker; frozen is okay, but cut it into chunks. Add the diced onion, canned beans, tomatoes, chiles, corn, and grated sweet potato. 

In a small bowl, mix together the mustard, honey, dried spices, and broth. Whisk together and pour into the crockpot. Stir to combine.

Cover and cook on low for 8 to 10 hours, or until chicken easily shreds with two large forks. Stir very well and serve in a large bowl with your favorite chili toppings, like sour cream and cheese.

Serve and enjoy.
*I used a second can of kidney beans instead of corn. 
** When I make this again, I will omit. 

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

White Cheddar Mac & Cheese

Hello there! Nice seeing you again! Thanks for stopping by and not forgetting about me during my unintentional blogging sabbatical. I appreciate it. :)

When I was about 14, my family moved into a new house. The kitchen had been re-done shortly before my parents bought the place and the cabinets were custom and most of them had sliding, pull-out shelves (a la Ikea). I was fascinated by them.  I had no idea this was a "thing." I'd never heard of Ikea (forgive me, Swedish ancestry). The state of Minnesota didn't even have an Ikea until I was well into my twenties. I thought that whomever designed the kitchen cabinets was genius, and really onto something.

So, fast-forward until we bought our house. We have a few really deep cabinets. I hated going into them. It was impossible to get things out of them (you can guess where this is going now, can't you). Every time I took out my flour container, it felt like a puzzle getting it back in. I had wanted for almost the entire year-and-a-half we've lived here to do something about those damn cabinets. I was crushed when I learned that one particular cabinet was not the right size to be able to drive the 4 miles to our Ikea and pick up some of the magical shelves. Then, I discovered a company that will custom-make the shelves to fit the actual dimensions of your cabinets.

So, I present to you, the before and after:

I swear, the Hallelujah chorus from Handel's Messiah went through my head. It's amazing how much easier it is to get things out - like the pasta to make this mac & cheese. Even my husband, who firmly believes that mac & cheese is a side dish, not a main dish, agrees that this is really good stuff.

Yes, this picture was taken a while ago while it was nice outside.

White Cheddar Mac & Cheese
Recipe from Annie's Eats (she got it from
Serves 4-ish (probably should be at least 6)

1 lb small pasta
4 TBSP butter
1/3 cup all-purpose flour
2 1/2 cups dairy liquid (milk, cream, half & half - whatever)
4 oz white American cheese, chopped  (I usually just use Velveeta - white American is oddly hard to find around here)
8 oz sharp white cheddar, shredded (I usually use reg. orange cheddar)
1 tsp Dijon mustard (or more, if you really like dijon)
1 tsp salt
1/4 tsp hot sauce

Cook pasta to al dente. Drain & set aside.

Meanwhile, melt the bugger in a large saucepan over medium heat (my dutch oven works well). When the butter is melted and a little bubbly, whisk in the flour, stirring constantly, for about 1 1/2 minutes. Gradually whisk in the milk and keep whisking until the lumps are gone. Reduce the heat to medium-low, stirring frequently, until mixture thickens, about 8 minutes.

Remove from heat and add the cheese by the handful, whisking until the cheese is entirely melted before adding more. Repeat until the cheese is all added. Stir in the mustard, salt, & hot sauce.

Return the pan to the heat and stir in the pasta, stirring to thoroughly coat all of the pasta with the sauce. Cook for 1-2 minutes to make sure everything is heated through.