Keeping it simple with brussels sprouts and apples

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I’ve only had brussels sprouts a few times in my life. My best friend makes them by shaving them and adding bacon—it’s so good. Since I’m trying to eat more vegetables lately, I’m trying to mix it up more, so I bought my first bag of brussels sprouts at the store last week. It was a Wednesday, so I wanted to do something simple to go with the baked chicken thighs I was baking. I also had a few apples from the farmers market that I wanted to use, so I looked up some recipes that used the two and settled on this one.

Keeping it simple worked. Next time I might be a little more adventurous, but this was a great introduction to cooking them for the first time.

Ingredients
1/2 cup diced apple
8 ounces Brussels sprouts, trimmed and quartered
2 tablespoons apple cider
2 teaspoons olive oil
1 teaspoon minced fresh thyme
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.

Combine apple and Brussels sprouts in an 11×7–inch baking dish. Add apple cider, olive oil, minced fresh thyme, salt, and freshly ground black pepper; toss well. Bake for 25 minutes or until sprouts are tender.

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Apple-based soup is a refreshing change

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This soup isn’t your average, run-of-the-mill soup. It isn’t loaded with cheese, it’s not mellow like the butternut squash soup recipe I posted a few weeks ago, and it’s definitely more tart than the white bean-and-rosemary soup I made earlier this year.

While I usually tend to favor more mellow flavors for soups, the tartness in this Hungarian Apple Soup was a refreshing surprise. When I was preparing it, I thought the potato would cancel out the apple flavor, but that flavor was first and foremost in the end. It was a pleasant surprise.

I doubled the recipe because I had two apples I needed to use, but you can visit the original recipe if you only want to make three cups of soup.

If you’re looking for a soup that will awaken your tastebuds as we head into winter, this is it.

Next week I’ll begin my cookie countdown to Christmas. Get ready for some new favorites with great flavor.

Ingredients
1 1/3 tablespoons canola oil
2 medium tart apples (such as Granny Smith), peeled and finely chopped
1 1/2 cups diced peeled Yukon Gold potato
2/3 cup finely chopped yellow onion
1/2 cup thinly sliced celery, plus leaves for garnish
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon dried sage
Pinch of paprika, preferably hot Hungarian
Freshly ground pepper to taste
2 14-ounce cans reduced-sodium chicken broth
1/3 cup reduced-fat sour cream

Heat oil in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Add apple, potato, onion and celery; cook, stirring often, until the onion is translucent, about 5 minutes. Stir in salt, sage, paprika and pepper; cook for 30 seconds. Pour in broth and bring to a simmer. Reduce heat, cover, and gently simmer until the potato is tender when pierced with a fork, 10 to 15 minutes.

Transfer the soup to a large blender or food processor, add sour cream and process until smooth. (Use caution when pureeing hot liquids.) Garnish with celery leaves, if desired.

Fall baking is a piece of cake

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As lower temperatures enter the weather forecast, my thoughts have turned to fall baking — apples, pumpkin, soups and comfort foods.

I joined Pinterest a couple months ago and have built up quite the board of recipes I want to try. Last week I saw a pin for this apple coffee cake. I added it to my “Recipes to try” board and actually got around to it. The recipe calls for two layers of apples, one in the middle and one on top. The apples in the middle stayed moist and provided a nice fresh layer to break up what would otherwise just be a piece of moist cake. The apples on top got a bit dry in the baking process so, if you want them to stay moist, you could save some of the batter for a third layer on top of the second layer of apples.

Though it smelled delicious while it was baking, I wasn’t crazy about this coffee cake at first; but it grew on me the next day after reheating a piece for breakfast. The flavors had time to come together. The cake had a nice crumb, the apples had just the right balance of sweetness and tartness and the cinnamon added a welcome dose of spice. It wasn’t overpowering; it was light enough without being devoid of flavor.

I took the coffee cake to work the next day and my coworkers devoured it. I don’t know if anything I’ve bought to work has received such rave reviews. It must have hit the spot for them.

Ingredients
5 Granny Smith apples, peeled and sliced
1/3 cup granulated sugar
1 tablespoon of cinnamon
3 cups all-purpose flour
2 cups granulated sugar
3 teaspoons baking powder
2 teaspoons vanilla
4 eggs
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup orange juice
1/2 cup apple sauce
1/2 cup vegetable oil

Preheat oven at 350 degrees and grease a 9-inch-by-13-inch baking dish. In a medium bowl, toss sliced apples, 1/3 cup of sugar, and cinnamon in a bowl and set aside. If you’re at high altitude, cook the apples, cinnamon and sugar in a pan over medium heat until the apples are soft. I’ve found that fruit doesn’t bake the same and often comes out too crisp in the final product, so cooking them beforehand ensures that they’ll be the consistency you prefer. Remember to use half the amount of baking powder, too.

In a mixing bowl combine flour, 2 cups sugar, baking powder, vanilla, eggs, salt, orange juice, apple sauce and vegetable oil. Mix well. Pour half the batter into baking dish and arrange apple slices on top. Pour and spread the rest of the batter on top of the apples. Bake for 60 minutes or until done. Cut coffee cake into squares and serve warm.

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