Show Stopping Apple Crisp

Show Stopping Apple Crisp

It’s slowly becoming common knowledge that I make the best apple crisp on earth. Every year I get more and more people on the apple crisp train, and so therefore every year I make more and more apple crisp. Usually I make them at random for functions and whatnot. This year, after a very long month of working I decided I needed to have a fall gathering to remind myself and all the friends I’d been ignoring that I am, in fact, still alive. And what better centerpiece for a fall party than apple crisp?

At first I thought it would be just a small gathering for a few friends…. that quickly turned into 16 people. It’s a wonderful feeling when you invite a bunch of people over and just about all of them show up. I like to think its me and not the apple crisp, but it’s probably 50/50. Sixteen people means two apple crisps. Accompanying the fall show stopped was warm apple cider with a selection of booze, and a new creation of mine: pumpkin pie spice popcorn. All I did was pop a big batch of popcorn on the stovetop in a small stockpot. Just buy any brand of loose popcorn kernels and pop according to the package directions – it is super easy, WAY better than microwave, and WAY cheaper. Once popped I tossed the corn with a stick of melted butter, a few pinches of kosher salt, and mixture of 1/4 cup sugar, 2 tsp cinnamon, and 1/4 tsp each ground nutmeg, allspice, and clove. Add and toss to taste. It is quite the addictive sweet treat and perfect for accompanying our favorite Halloween classic, Hocus Pocus, starring the Divine Miss M and a very young Sarah Jessica Parker. Hilarious.

And what makes my apple crisp so good? It’s all in the topping. Sugar, oatmeal, flour, salt, and my personal touch, lots of diced pecans. I’ve attached the recipe below – you’re welcome.

What’s your fall favorite?

Show Stopping Apple Crisp – Recipe PDF

 

Acorn Goodness

Roasted Acorn SquashThis time of year I’m seeing bins of acorn squash at all my local grocery stores. It’s perhaps a little off putting to see a vegetable in the shape of a giant hard acorn. I mean what the hell are you supposed to do with it, crack it? Plant it and see if a tree grows? But the truth is that when roasted properly, acorn squash makes a delicious and satisfying winter time dinner that will fill you up without deviating at all from your healthy regimen. Definitely Bootcamp friendly. ;-)

So here is what you do. Very easy. Preheat your oven to 425 degrees. Cut your acorn squash in half against the grain. Scoop out the seeds and guts from the crevices and then trim the outer ends so that the squash will sit straight up with the crevices facing up. Coat the outside skin with a very thin layer of olive oil, then place them on a foil lined quarter sheet pan. Now for some flavor. In a small bowl combine the following:

  • 2 tbsp pure maple syrup
  • 2 tsp maple sugar
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp allspice
  • 1/2 tsp cardamom
  • pinch of fresh grated nutmeg
  • pinch of clove
  • pince of cayenne pepper (or to taste)

Mix thoroughly and spread evenly between the two halves. Rub mixture thoroughly over the flesh of the squash and drain any excess that pools into the bottom of the cavity back into the bowl and set aside. Season liberally with salt and fresh ground pepper. Then place a small pat of butter in each half of the squash. Put tray into the bottom half of the oven and roast for 30 minutes or until the flesh is soft and the edges are crispy.

Eat directly from the squash, drizzling the remaining maple syrup mixture over each half and adding some extra butter as desired. Or, scoop out all the squash, place into a bowl and lightly mash together with the left over syrup, some extra butter, and an extra sprinkle of maple sugar. As I always tell you, do not run out to buy spices you don’t already have. Make up your own seasoning. Brown sugar can easily be substituted for maple sugar, but maple sugar is really great stuff.

Have a fantastic weekend!

Crust Knots

I’m an unapologetic user of store bought refrigerated pie crust. Correction – I’m an unapologetic user of PILLSBURY refrigerated pie crusts. Unless it’s Thanksgiving when everything is extra special and over-the-top and you just have to make the crust lest you desecrate the fictional sacred tradition of our puritan ancestors, then yes I’ll make a pie crust… but let’s be serious, even then no one would really care or likely even notice (at least no one at my Thanksgiving table). If there is any downside to using a refrigerated pie crust, it would be that one winds up with a lot of excess crust. Though now that I think of it, you can hardly call this a downside. I mean who doesn’t want extra pie crust? And come on, the starving artist wastes nothing, particularly a chance to get creative with pie crust dough. And that’s just what I’ve done.

When making the blueberry pie I posted about earlier this week, I wound up not only with extra pie crust, but a ton of extra egg wash, which I feel like is also something of which one always has too much. So, while my pie was baking, I pulled out a baking sheet and got to work on the extra dough. I broke up the dough into 2-inch strips and sort of wrapped each strip around itself into a little knot-shaped bundle. I then dropped all of the knots into the bowl of leftover egg wash and tossed them gently. Then, they were  plunged into a bowl filled with cinnamon and sugar and tossed to coat (I use a 2 to 1/2 ratio granulated sugar to cinnamon). After giving the baking sheet a spray with non-stick spray I arranged the knots onto the sheet and threw them in the oven with the pie. Once they were browned and crisp, I removed them from the oven and brushed on a bit of melted butter. Yes. Instant tasty treat – no waste, no extra fuss, totally resourceful, and totally addictive. And the really good news is you can bake these at whatever temperature you’re already baking at, just keep an eye on them for doneness. Yummm!!!!

You know, this is inspiring me to explore other ways of using pie crust that isn’t crust for pie. I feel like the possibilities are endless…. any other ideas out there?

Gingerbread Waffles

I know very few people who don’t love a good waffle. I love the classic, but, you know me: traditional is rarely good enough for the starving artist. I am obsessed with gingerbread, so I had the idea to combine it with my waffle batter – quite the good idea if I do say so myself. And my guest Tim, who had his birthday yesterday, heartily agreed that it made for a fantastic birthday breakfast. This one is easy to pull off for me since I always have baking basics (flour, sugar, powder, soda, butter) in my kitchen, not to mention all the spices. All I need to buy is buttermilk and eggs and I have breakfast for three (or as many as five). I also had some sausage leftover from my Impromptu Comfort Food recipe I posted a few days ago, so I just fried those up in a skillet and added some maple syrup in at the end for a quick and easy breakfast sausage. So delicious – a must-try.

Now I have to tell you that this batch of waffles has a special ingredient: Trader Joe’s Speculoos Cookie Butter. My roommate bought a jar for her parents. I saw it sitting on the table while I was assembling the waffle batter and thought… yeah, this needs to happen. If you haven’t tried cookie butter yet, run, don’t walk, to your nearest Trader Joe’s and pick some up. It’s the most divine combination of gingerbread and cookie, melded into this spread that still has a light crunch to it. I warn you it is VERY dangerous stuff – I have mindlessly housed half a jar on more than one occasion. At 90 calories per tablespoon, it is no small indulgence. Yikes. You will likely be getting many more recipes that employ this heavenly concoction. For this one, not only can you put it in the batter, but if you’re feeling exceptionally decadent, you can even put it on top. Gasp! Personally, I stick to the tradition whipped butter and syrup. If you read my post “Griddled Amazingness“, you’ll know all about my feelings on both of those toppings.

What’s that? You thought waffles were too involved for the starving artist? Oh sweetie, just you wait – I do it all. Whether I’m whipping together waffles for friends or baking a decadent treat for a party, I’m always looking for the same traits: simple, resourceful, affordable (mostly), and a little out of the ordinary. And honestly, the joy and warmth that comes with serving fresh hot waffles (or any warm baked good) to your loved ones is always worth it, regardless of price.

I am going to continue the breakfast theme for the rest of the week, so check back in to see what I get up to. What do you put in your waffles?

Gingerbread Waffles (Recipe PDF)

Cinnamon Ginger Popcorn

I have two shocking revelations for you about popcorn.

  1. Butter and salt is not the only way you can eat it
  2. It certainly does NOT have to come from a bag in the microwave

Seriously, stop buying bags of microwaveable popcorn. Wherever you can find microwave popcorn, you can buy bags of popping corn. Shockingly, I get mine at Trader Joe’s – $3.99 for a bag that will last for ages. Just 1/2 cup of kernels will pop enough corn to fill a giant bowl to serve at your party. To pop, all you need is a small lidded stockpot and a little bit of oil. And you know what? It is super fun. You get the kernels in the hot oil, put the lid on, and shake it continuously until the pot is filled with corn. I’m telling you, try it once and you’ll never go back. The best part is it leaves you a canvas on which to unleash your culinary artwork… by which I mean you can dress it with whatever you want.

The most important tip I can give about popping your own corn is that no matter what you plan to do with your corn (savory or sweet), the first thing you do when you’re done popping is add salt. I love Kosher salt, in fact it’s the only salt I use to cook, BUT  it is not the best salt for popcorn. Too coarse. What you need is regular old table salt. I believe they may actually sell popcorn salt, but the starving artist says don’t waste your money. If all you have is coarse salt, just throw some in your food processor and pulse until it’s fine.

One of my favorite things to do with popcorn is make it sweet. I toss it with salt, butter, and a mixture of sugar, cinnamon, and ginger. It’s totally addicting. I served this at my friend’s halloween party and I had to make a second batch because everyone mowed through the first bowl. People will freak out. Like with the salt, you want to make sure your sugar is a fine ground. Some organic sugars (like what they sell at Trader Joe’s) is more coarse than regular sugar. If that’s the case, do the same thing with the salt – throw it in your processor and pulse until fine.

Anyone have any fun unique ways to use and/or dress up popcorn?

Cinnamon Ginger Popcorn (PDF Recipe)