Simple Applesauce

This recipe filled a 4-cup jar to the brim and I still had some leftover. Probably close to 5 cups total. You can scale it down for less, but I had a bunch of apples to use up faster than I would eat them. I used McIntosh apples because that’s what I had, but any apple or combination of apples will work.

12 or 13 small apples, washed, peeled, cored, and chopped
1 cup water
3 Tbsp lemon juice
1/4 cup brown sugar (optional)
1/4 white sugar (optional)
cinnamon or cassia to taste (optional; I used three 3-inch sticks)

Place all ingredients in a saucepan or stock pot. Cover and bring to a boil. Stir, reduce heat to a simmer and cook until the apples are tender – about 30 minutes – stirring occasionally. Remove from heat and remove the cinnamon sticks, if you used them. Mash the apples with a potato masher or hand mixer for chunky applesauce, or run it through a food processor/blender for smooth applesauce. Put the applesauce in an airtight container and refrigerate until cool.


Carrot Halwa

This recipe takes some time to make; prep work is tedious. No, really. Tedious. Grating 3 lb of carrots took me about an hour by myself. Whenever possible, get the thickest carrots you can find, because it’s ridiculously difficult to grate the skinny little ones or the ones that taper down to a point so fine you could write with them. I grated them in batches and kept them in a Ziploc bag in the fridge till I was ready to cook them. Also, your hands and fingernails may be orange-yellow for a day or two; you may want to wear gloves to prevent this.  

3-4 Tbsp ghee (clarified butter – can be found in your local Indian grocery store or you can make it) or light cooking oil, such as vegetable or coconut oil  
3 lb carrots – washed, peeled, and grated
2 cups whole milk or heavy cream
4 cups sugar
2 Tbsp raisins
3/4 to 1 tsp cardamom seeds, crushed (or use 1/2-ish tsp cardamom powder)
(optional) 3 tsp ground almonds, pistachios, cashews, or any combination
(also optional) slivered, sliced or chopped nuts for garnish
Soak raisins in water to soften them. Set aside.
Heat ghee in a heavy pan. Add carrots and cook until the carrots have cooked down by about half. Add milk and cook until about 3/4 of the milk has cooked down. Add sugar and cook until the rest of the liquid is absorbed. Drain the raisins. Stir in raisins, cardamom, and ground nuts (if using).
Remove from heat and put into serving dish(es). Garnish with slivered nuts (or don’t). Serve hot, room temperature, or refrigerate until cold, depending on your taste.

Store leftovers in the fridge. I don’t know how long it will keep, because it’s usually gone in a day or two around here.

Spiced Hot Cocoa Cupcakes

Another dessert!  These were originally meant to be pancakes, but they just wouldn’t cook up as pancakes. So I thinned the batter a little and made cupcakes instead. They use a lot of baking powder and turn out pretty fluffy.

1-1/2 c flour

1/2 c cocoa

5 tsp baking powder

1/2 tsp paprika

1/2 tsp cardamom

1 tsp cinnamon

1/2 tsp salt

1-1/2 c sugar

2 eggs

2 c milk

1/2 tsp vanilla extract

Heat oven to 350 deg F. Line muffin pan with cupcake papers.

Sift together all the dry ingredients. Add milk. Beat in eggs, one at a time. Spoon batter into the cups, filling them only 2/3 full. Bake for 17-20 minutes, or until a toothpick in the center comes out clean or with a few moist crumbs. Remove from the pan as soon as possible. Cool completely before topping.

Now, because these were meant to be pancakes, I didn’t have a topping prepared. I dusted them with powdered sugar, but whipped cream or marshmallow cream would probably be pretty good on top too.


Very Berry Shortcupcakes

Let’s kick off the blog with something sweet, shall we?

My birthday recently passed, and I thought I would share the cupcakes that have become my latest favorite. They take a little work, but they’re definitely worth it.

For the Cake:
1-1/2 c flour
1 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
3/4 c unsalted butter, softened
1-1/4 c granulated sugar
3 eggs
1/3 c milk or buttermilk
1/2 tsp vanilla extract

Heat oven to 350 deg F. Line muffin tin with cupcake papers (you’ll be discarding the paper later, so don’t use your pretty or fancy papers!) or grease and flour a 10-inch cake pan. Sift together flour, baking powder, and salt.
Using a mixer on high, cream butter and sugar together until fluffy. Add eggs one at a time, fully incorporating each one into the batter before adding the next.
Add the flour mixture and the milk in alternating thirds, fully incorporating each batch into the batter before adding the next and scraping down the bowl between batches.
Stir in vanilla. Spoon into pan, filling each space 2/3 full. Refrigerate unused batter to bake later; use it as soon as possible. Bake 17-20 minutes (25-30 minutes for a cake) or until a toothpick in the center comes out dry or with a few moist crumbs. Cool in the pan for a few minutes and then remove from pan to cool completely.

For the Fillings:
3 oz each fresh or frozen blueberries, strawberries, blackberries and raspberries
1/2 cup white sugar

Chop berries, but do not puree them! Combine chopped berries with sugar, cover, and refrigerate until ready to use.

1 cup cream cheese (or, if you can find it, mascarpone cheese)
1/4 cup milk
1/4 cup powdered sugar
1/2 tsp vanilla extract

Using a mixer, whip ingredients together until stiff peaks form. Refrigerate until ready to use.

For the Frosting:
*Tip: use a metal bowl and a metal whisk, and put them, along with the cream, in the freezer for 15 minutes before making the frosting. This will ensure a nice fluffy result.*
1 cup heavy cream
1/2 cup powdered sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract
A few fresh berries for garnish

Using a metal bowl and a mixer with a whisk attachment, whip ingredients together until still peaks form. Do not over-mix, or you’ll end up with very sweet butter! Refrigerate until ready to use.

Use a cake slicer or a serrated knife to cut the tops of the cupcakes off at the paper line. (Save them for snacking later!) Carefully remove the papers from the cupcakes. Cut the cakes in half horizontally. Set aside the top halves for now. Lightly press a small dent into the bottom half. Fill the dent with the cream cheese filling and make a small dent in the center of that. Place berry filling in this dent; don’t let it drip down the sides. Add the top half of the cupcake. Frost the top and sides of cupcake with whipped cream frosting and garnish with fresh berries.

Keep them in the fridge, especially if you live somewhere hot. Be sure to eat these within a week. Remember to use your leftover batter as soon as possible!