Saturday, October 25, 2008

Cheesecake, Apple Pie, Oh My!

I am so excited to write about some of the delicious dishes we have made the past few weeks. A few weeks ago we went to an apple festival in Western North Carolina and made a very tasty applie pie (Best-Ever Apple Pie according to Southern Living) with the apples we brought back. Then this past week it was VeggieDaddy's birthday so the girls and I made some pumpkin cheesecake cupcakes. Yesterday morning we made a Slow-Cooker Meatless Guiness Stew and another with beef for (Not So) VeggieDaddy. And, finally, I picked up some "County Seat Caraway" aged gouda at the Farmer's Market that we will have this afternoon with some of my favorite North Carolina wine from the Raffaldini winery (for me) and VeggieDaddy's blueberry porter. So, let's get to it.

Double Apple Pie with Cornmeal Crust

A few weeks ago we went to the Brushy Mountain Apple Festival in North Wilkesboro, North Carolina. We love going to this area for weekend or overnight trips because it is just a few hours away and there are some great little wineries tucked amongst the hills. I came across the apple festival after our friend Sylvia told us she wanted to go apple picking like she did in upstate NY when she was a kid. There was no actual apple picking at the festival but there was food (including homemade ice cream which Lillian loved) and multiple stages of performers. Our favorite was the bluegrass stage in the old train station. They had a piece of plywood on the floor with some sawdust for dancing and Lillian cut a rug for quite some time, after she got over her shyness. And, before we left, we bought a huge bag of Golden Delicious apples. We ate many of them whole and made apple sauce and this pie with the rest. The pie was the best apple pie we have ever had!

Cornmeal Crust Dough


  • 2 1/3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 cup yellow cornmeal
  • 2 T sugar
  • 3/4 t salt
  • 3/4 cup cold butter, cut into 1/2 inch pieces
  • 1/4 cup chilled shortening, cut into 1/2 inch pieces
  • 8 to 10 T chilled apple cider
  1. Stir together the flour, cornmeal, sugar and salt in a mixer bowl. Cut butter and shortening into the flour mixture until the mixture resembles small peas (I used the dough hook in my mixer).
  2. Gradually add the apple cider one tablespoon at a time.
  3. Gather the dough into 2 flat disks, wrap in plastic wrap, and chill 1 to 24 hours.

Apple Pie Filling


  • 4 1/2 lbs. apples (the original recipe called for 2 1/4 lbs of Granny Smith and 2 1/4 lbs of Braeburn apples. We used the Golden Delicious and a few Granny Smiths we already had)
  • 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 2 T apple jelly
  • 1 T lemon juice
  • 1/2 t ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 t salt
  • 1/4 t nutmeg
  • 1/3 cup sugar
  • Cornmeal Crust Dough
  • 3 T sugar
  • 1 T butter, cut into pieces
  • 1 t sugar
  1. Peel and core apples. Cut into 1/2 inch thick wedges. Place in large bowl and stir in the flour, jelly, lemon juice, cinnamon, salt, nutmeg and sugar. Let stand 30 minutes, gently stirring occasionally.
  2. Roll out one disk of dough on a well-floured surface to about 1/8 inch thickness, or 11 inches wide. (You can do this on wax paper so it doesn't stick to the counter, I didn't have wax paper when I did this one so I sprayed the counter with non-stick spray and then sprinkled flour).
  3. Gently press the dough into a 9 inch pie plate.
  4. Spoon the apples into the crust, packing tightly and mounding in the center. Pour all but one tablespoon of the remaining juices over the apples. Sprinkle the apples with 3 Tablespoons of sugar and dot with butter.
  5. Roll out the remaining dough disk and place over the filling. Fold the edges under, sealing to the bottom crust and crimp. Brush the top of the pie with the reserved juices from the apples. Place the pie on a jelly-roll pan. Cut 4-5 slits in the top of the pie.
  6. Bake at 425 degrees on the lower oven rack for 15 minutes. Reduce oven temperature to 350 and transfer the pie to the middle rack. Bake for 35 minutes. Cover loosely with foil to prevent excessive browning and bake 30 more minutes until crust is golden brown and apples are tender when pierced through the slits in the crust.
  7. Let cool before serving.


Pumpkin Cheesecake Cupcakes

So VeggieDaddy's birthday was last Wednesday. Don't you hate a mid-week birthday? But, it did work out well this year when he was out the night before at a work dinner so the girls and I could make his birthday cake. The girls wanted to make cupcakes of course and he wanted cheesecake (his favorite) so we did cheesecake cupcakes! They were delicious. And it is very hard for us to finish a cheesecake on our own so I took some of the cupcakes to co-workers who also had birthdays last week!

Graham Cracker Crust:

  1. Melt 3 Tablespoons of butter in the microwave.
  2. In a separate bowl, mix 3/4 cup of graham cracker crumbs with 1/8 cup of sugar. (You can buy graham cracker crumbs already crushed up at the grocery store which saves some time)
  3. Add the melted butter to the graham cracker mixture and stir together.
  4. Press about one tablespoon-full into individual cupcake cups. Foil cupcake cups would work best but we did the regular paper kind with birthday decorations on them and that worked fine.
  5. Don't pre-bake.

Pumpkin Cheesecake:

  • 3 packages (8 oz. each) cream cheese, softened
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 t vanilla
  • 3 eggs
  • 1 cup canned pumpkin
  • 1 t ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 t ground nutmeg
  • 1 1/2 cups sour cream
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 1/2 t vanilla
  1. Beat cream cheese, 3/4 cup of sugar and vanilla with a mixer until well blended.
  2. Add eggs, one at a time, until blended.
  3. Stir in remaining 1/4 cup of sugar, pumpkin and spices.
  4. Bake 30-40 minutes at 300 degrees, until firm but not cracking.
  5. Remove from oven and let cool 5 minutes.
  6. Mix the sour cream, sugar and vanilla, and spoon this mixture over the cupcakes. Return to the oven for 5 minutes.
  7. Remove from oven and cool. Makes 18-24 cupcakes.

Slow Cooker Meatless Guiness Stew

This beef version of this recipe appeared in our local paper last week and I thought it would be a nice treat for VeggieDaddy on his birthday. Our plans for his birthday changed and we ended up not making the stew until yesterday. Yesterday was a drizzly day here so this nice hearty stew was perfect - we made the beef version which VeggieDaddy shared with our good friends, and this meatless version, which the girls and I ate.

  • 1 package (8 oz) Veat Chick'N Free Nuggets (Seitan would be good as well)
  • 1/2 cup flour
  • 1 small onion, coarsely chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 1 cup Guiness Extra Stout
  • 1 can vegetable broth
  • 1 t parsley
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 lb red potatoes, halved or quartered depending on the size
  • 2 carrots, peeled and cut into 1-inch chunks
  • 1 parsnip, peeled and cut into 1 inch chunks
  • 1/2 rutabaga, peeled and cut into chunks
  • 2 sheets of puff pastry, cut into quarters.
  1. If using the veat or some other frozen product, thaw in the microwave. Toss with the flour and some salt and pepper.
  2. In a 4 quart slow cooker set on high, cook the onions and garlic until softened.
  3. Stir the Guiness into the onions. Add the meatless chunks, reserving the remaining flour.
  4. Add the vegetable broth and spices, and stir.
  5. Add the potatoes, carrots, parsnip and rutabaga on top and sprinkle the remaining flour over the top. Stir together.
  6. Cover and cook on high for about 3 hours, until the vegetables are cooked. If the liquid has not thickened, remove the lid for the last 1/2 hour.
  7. About 15 minutes before you are ready to serve, bake the puff pastry at 400 degrees until golden brown. Split the pastry in half lengthwise. Place 1/2 in the bottom of a bowl, spoon stew over and top with the other half of pastry.

Shout Out to NC Wines and Cheese

I'll end this marathon post with a little shout out to our local cheesemaker and our favorite NC winery. After we went to the apple festival in Wilkesboro, we stayed overnight at a hotel with an indoor pool (one step down from DisneyWorld in our kids' minds even though it was in the middle of nowhere - they are so easy) and went to the Raffaldini Vineyards and Winery the next day. Their Sangiovese was the first North Carolina wine I discovered that I really enjoyed, and their new tasting room and building transports you to Tuscany. We sat outside on the patio and drank a tasty Pinto Grigio while the girls frolicked on the grass and checked out the vines, which were heavy with the grapes ready to harvest. It was heavenly!

And then there is our favorite local cheese company - the Hillsborough Cheese Company. They sell their cheese every Saturday at our Farmer's Market and we have become regulars. We have a constant supply of goat cheese and feta and I picked up an aged gouda yesterday that I am hoping to have this afternoon with a glass of Raffaldini Pinot Grigio while the girls play in the yard. We might not have any grapevines in our yard, but sunshine and good wine and cheese mixed with my kids' laughter will be perfect!

Monday, October 13, 2008

Best New Veggie Burger Recipe

My Aunt just sent me this great veggie burger recipe. She oftens send us recipes she clips from the paper and they are always good. This one is the best veggie burger recipe I have come across. Most recipes result in a patty that is either too moist or too dry and ends up falling apart. This one holds together very well and tastes great. The "steaming" after browning seems to be key. Anyway, I hope others try and enjoy.

Oatmeal Walnut Veggie Burgers

2 eggs
3Tablespoons water
1 1/2 cups rolled oats
1/2 cup walnut pieces
1/2 cup shredded carrot
1/2 cup finely chopped onions
2 Tablespoons fresh herbs (basil, oregano, rosemary)
1 clove garlic, minced
1/2 cup water

1. In a small bowl, combine eggs and 3 tablespoons water and mix well.
2. In food processor, process oats and walnuts until well processed, but not fine.
3. In mixing bowl, combine oatmeal/walnut mixture with shredded carrot, onions, herbs and garlic.
4. Add egg mixture and stir until thoroughly moistened. If mixture seems too moist, add some processed oats; if too dry, add more water.
5. Pour about 1 1/2 tablespoons of olive oil into skillet and heat over medium heat. Form mixture into patties and cook about 5 minutes per side, turning as needed to brown both sides.
6. Add 1/2 cup of water to the skillet and cover with a lid. Reduce heat to low and simmer 10 minutes until water evaporates.

Serve on buns with condiments as desired.

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Peanutty Stew for Fall

I made this last week for dinner and served it with some brown rice and BOTH of my kids loved it. It is super easy and reheats well.

Creamy Butternut Squash Stew

1 sweet potato, peeled and cubed
1 butternut squash, seeded, peeled and cubed
1 onion, diced
1 can chick peas, drained
2 heaping tablespoons creamy peanut butter
3 cups vegetable broth
Cayenne Pepper

1. Cook the onion until it starts to soften.
2. Add cubed sweet potato, butternut squash, cumin and cayenne pepper (to your taste - I use about a tablespoon of cumin and about 2 teaspoons of cayenne pepper). Cook about 7 minutes until squash and sweet potato start to soften but not brown.
3. Combine 1 cup of vegetable broth with peanut butter and stir together. Add the broth mixture to the pan and stir together.
4. Add the remaining broth and bring to a boil. Cover. Turn down to low or medium low and let simmer for about 15 minutes.
5. Add the chick peas and cook for 5-10 minutes with the cover off. The stew should be thick and creamy.

You can serve this alone or over brown rice.

Monday, October 6, 2008

My Never Fail Dish: Eggplant Parmesan

The one recipe I make that never fails is my eggplant parmesan. You can get eggplant at the Farmer’s Markets in the Southeast right now so this is a great time of year to make it. For me, the key to this recipe is baking the eggplant, not frying. For kids, I think the key is all of the cheese! In any case, 1 eggplant with some pasta or a green salad makes a complete meal for us. The cheese gives us a fair amount of protein and if I want to up the vitamin content of the dish I will shred some carrots into the tomato sauce.

Eggplant Parmesan

1 large eggplant
2 cups Breadcrumbs
3 egg whites
Tomato sauce
8 oz. Mozzarella, grated
1 cup Parmesan, grated

1. Preheat oven to 375°.
2. Slice the eggplant thinly, about ¼ inch.
3. Separate whites of three eggs into a shallow bowl.
4. Put breadcrumbs on a plate or in a shallow bowl.
5. Coat both sides of each piece of eggplant with egg whites and then bread crumbs.
6. Place in a single layer on a baking sheet coated with olive oil spray.
7. Bake until browned, starting to crisp, about 45 minutes, turning halfway through.
8. Lower oven temperature to 350°.
9. In a 2 ½ quart casserole or baking dish, spread tomato sauce in a thin layer over bottom of dish. Place eggplant in a single layer over the sauce. Put a thin layer of sauce over the eggplant. Sprinkle grated mozzarella and parmesan. Add eggplant in a single layer and repeat with sauce and cheese. Finish with layer of cheese on top.
10. Bake at 350° for about 35-40 minutes until cheese is melted and starting to brown.

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Veggie Chicken Fajita Pasta

This is a great dish to make ahead or to throw together on a week night. I made this dish on Monday night, while making and cleaning up that night’s dinner, and reheated it for dinner last night. It reheated well but it is super quick and easy to make if you have 30 minutes to make before serving. The girls loved it and so did we. We did kick up the spice for ours though – adding the crushed red pepper. For Lillian’s we separated out the veggie chick’n from the pasta as she seems to prefer her foods “separated” these days:)


12 oz. egg noodles
8 oz. low fat sour cream
½ cup adobo sauce or enchilada sauce (depending on how much heat you want)
2 T lime juice
1 t chili powder
1 t ground cumin
½ t crushed red pepper (more or less depending on how much heat you want)
1 medium onion, thinly sliced
1 medium red pepper, cut into thin strips
1 Anaheim chile pepper, seeded and cut into thin strips
12 oz. Veggie chick’n strips (like Morningstar Farms Meal Starters)


1. Cook pasta according to package directions.
2. In large bowl, combine sour cream, adobo sauce or enchilada sauce, lime juice and spices. We added the crushed red pepper to individual bowls after so the girls’ wouldn’t be too spicy.
3. Sauté the onion and peppers in olive oil for a few minutes until they begin to soften. Add the chick’n strips and cook until lightly browned.
4. Stir together the pasta, sour cream sauce and veggies and chick’n and serve!

How to Make Cauliflower as Enticing as French Fries

This recipe is unbelievably easy and the kids love it!

Roasted Cauliflower
Southern Living September 2008

2 T olive oil
1 head cauliflower
1/2 t salt
1/4 t pepper

1. Preheat oven to 425°. Drizzle a baking sheet with 1 T olive oil. Cut cauliflower vertically into 1/4 inch-thick slices. Arrange in a single layer on the prepared pan. Drizzle cauliflower with remaining olive oil; sprinkle with salt and pepper.
2. Bake at 425° for 25 to 30 minutes or until golden brown.

You could also add other spices to change it up a bit – cumin, cayenne pepper, etc.

Labor Day Mac-n-Cheese

This post is a little late (today is actually October 1) but I'll try to catch up on some September recipes so we can dig in to some yummy fall recipes this month - I am so excited for squash and other fall vegetables at the farmer's market!

I made this Mac-n-Cheese recipe for a barbecue we had on Labor Day. After people left that afternoon, I found myself wondering when we transitioned from parties that lasted until 3 am to backyard barbecues with the kids that ended by 3 pm? Probably about the same time we started serving dishes like this one . . .

I have this recipe scrawled on a piece of paper and I have to admit I am not exactly sure where it came from. I thought it was from Celia Rivenbark's Stop Dressing Your Six-Year-Old Like a Skank (Hilarious book!) but I don't think that's right. It may be from The Sweet Potato Queens' First Big Ass Novel by Jill Conner Browne. In any case, if you are looking for a tasty way to step-up your baked macaroni and cheese, check this out.


12 oz. pasta (shells or rotini)
1 stick butter
1/4 c flour
2 c milk
Salt & Pepper
1 lb cheddar or monterey jack + 1 c cheddar, grated
1 medium onion
1 cup sliced mushrooms
Tater tots
Parmesan cheese

1. Cook pasta.
2. Sauté diced onions and sliced mushrooms.
3. Melt butter in the microwave and stir in flour.
4. Heat milk on stove until hot but not boiling and stir into butter and flour. Add a dash of salt and some pepper to taste.
5. Stir until thickens and gradually add the 1 cup of cheddar.
6. In large bowl, stir together the cooked pasta, onions and mushrooms, and cheese sauce. Stir in the remaining cheese.
7. Pour into 13x9 pan and cover with a layer of tater tots. Sprinkle with parmesan cheese.
8. Bake at 375 degrees for 1 hour.

The tater tots sound over the top but it is delicious!