Quick Applesauce

Hey there!  This was a quick and spontaneous experiment the other night. We had some apples hanging around that were still good, but just a little bit past their prime. A few minutes later, the kids were digging in and asking for more. I try to take the family apple picking every fall, but I tend to go a little crazy and buy way too many. If you’re like me and you end up with some that have lost that really crisp bite, don’t despair! Cook up some applesauce in just a few minutes. I’ve made this twice this week and we’ve had it as a side dish with dinner and also warm over vanilla ice cream (awesome!).  I think I’m going to pack some in the kids’ lunches next week, too.


Quick Applesauce


  • 5-6 ripe apples – soft variety like Macintosh or Paula Red
  • 1 tsp butter
  • 2 Tbsp water
  • 1 tsp sugar
  • 2 tsp cinnamon


Peel and core the apples, then chop into a rough dice.  Melt the butter in the saucepan, then add the apples and the water.  Cook covered for 3-5 minutes, depending on how ripe your apples were.

If the apples are soft enough, mash with a fork or the back of a spoon. If not, give them another minute or two.  After you mash them up, stir in the sugar and cinnamon. Cook for another couple minutes.  Give it a taste and add more sugar or cinnamon if you think it needs it.

That’s it!  So if you’re at the orchard or farm stand this fall, don’t be afraid to stock up!


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Kids’ corner


Hi! It’s Ginny — I’m starting a page on my dad’s blog called Kids’ Corner!

This is a page with lots of recipes for kids to make and enjoy.

Give it a look and try them out!

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Childhood Favorite – Mozzarella en Carrozza

Hey there! I have a great lunch recipe today, one I used to love as a kid. My dad is what I call a weekend gourmet. Even though he works most Saturday mornings, often the rest of the weekend is spent cooking. Growing up I knew if he stopped at the grocery store on the way home Saturday, good things would happen the rest of the day. This is one lunch-time treat we didn’t have very often, but I always relished.


Mozzarella en Carrozza serves 2


  • 1 egg
  • 1 Tbsp milk
  • 4 slices sandwich bread
  • 6 oz mozzarella cheese
  • Butter for frying
  • 1/2 cup tomato sauce
  • grated parmesan cheese (optional)

Beat the egg and milk together in a shallow bowl. Heat the tomato sauce and keep warm while you proceed with the next steps.

Lay 2 slices of bread on a board and cover with an 1/8″ layer of the mozzarella, then the rest of the bread. Add some butter to a large skillet and let it warm. You’re ready to make a mozzarella grilled cheese, but before you do, dip the bread into the egg mixture, being careful to keep the sandwich intact while turning and coating the other side.

Fry the sandwiches slowly so the cheese melts but the egg does not burn – about 3 minutes. Turn carefully and fry another 3 minutes or so.

Serve topped with the tomato sauce and parmesan, if desired. You could also use olive oil with your favorite herbs and spices, or even a pesto, but I like it best with the tomato sauce.

Hope you give it a try!

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Black Bean Soup

Happy weekend everyone! This is a great weekend recipe for lunch, a snack, or while chilling out watching a football game on TV. The first time I made this, it was an attempt to recreate a black bean soup that one of our favorite restaurants serves. I didn’t get it quite right the first time, but still loved it. I’ve tweaked it a few times since then, though. Here is where the recipe stands as of now (it might change again!) I think the red pepper gives it a bit of unexpected sweetness, which I really like. What’s also great about this soup is you can give it different twists with different garnishes.


Black Bean Soup   serves 4


  • 4 slices bacon
  • 1-1/2 cups diced red pepper
  • 1-1/2 cups diced white or yellow onion
  • 2 tsp white vinegar
  • Salt and pepper
  • 1 garlic clove
  • 1 jalapeno pepper
  • 1 can (14.5 oz) chicken broth
  • 1 can (15.5 oz) black beans
  • 2 tsp finely chopped fresh rosemary
  • 1 tsp dried or 2 tsp fresh thyme
  • Penzey’s Northwoods Fire or chipotle powder


In a large soup pot, cook the bacon until crispy. Remove the bacon and set aside, but keep the fat in the pot. Set the pot aside if your other ingredients aren’t prepared yet so the fat won’t burn.

Add the red pepper and onion to the bacon fat along with a splash of vinegar to loosen all the bacon bits from the bottom of the pan. Add the garlic clove and some salt and pepper and saute for 6-8 minutes until the vegetables soften. To limit the spiciness, you can add the jalapeno with the pepper and onion, or wait until later in the process. The later you add the jalapeno, the hotter it will be in the soup when it’s done.


Add the can of chicken broth, the can of black beans – including the “juice”, the rosemary, and the thyme. Simmer another 15-20 minutes.


If you have a hand blender, puree the soup in the pot, or transfer in batches to a stand-up blender and blend until very smooth. Simmer as needed until the soup thickens as desired. Taste for seasonings at this point and if you want more heat, add some Northwoods Fire or some chipotle powder.

Serve topped with the reserved bacon chopped into small pieces. You can also add a dollop of sour cream, guacamole or pureed avocado, tortilla strips, chopped pepper… really just about anything that sounds good!


Hope you give this a try – let me know what you think and how you garnished it in the comments!

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Two-for-one – Mushroom and Kale Naan Pizza or Side Dish

Two-for-one today! Kale seems like it’s everywhere these days, but it really is great stuff. I tend to buy “baby” kale when I can find it in my grocery store and mix it in with some arugula for a salad or add it to a soup. My next favorite thing to do with kale is the recipe below. I have made the mushroom-kale combination as a side dish a handful of times, but recently I was in the mood for it when the rest of the family wanted pizza. No worries – mushroom and kale pizza was born!

This pizza is made with pre-made naan bread from the grocery store, but you could always use a store bought dough or traditional pre-made pizza crust. See my ham and Swiss pizza recipe for tips on using different crust options.


Mushroom and Kale Naan Pizza or Side Dish serves 2


For side dish:

  • 1-1/2 cups sliced mushrooms
  • 2 good handfuls of baby kale
  • 1/4 tsp Penzey’s Northwoods Fire or your favorite spice
  • Garlic powder
  • salt and pepper
  • 1/2 Tbsp butter
  • Olive oil

If making pizza:

  • 1 pkg of 2 pre-made naan bread
  • Olive oil
  • 1-1/2 cups shredded mozzarella cheese


In a large skillet melt the butter with a bit of olive oil. I like to use both – the oil keeps the butter from burning on you and the butter keeps the oil from getting too hot and smoking. Add the mushrooms and sauté for a couple of minutes. When they start to soften, add the kale and stir to wilt it evenly. Add some spice – I like Northwoods Fire from Penzey’s – or simply some salt, pepper, and garlic powder. If you are serving as a side dish, you are set. It’s that simple!


To use it on a pizza, pop a pizza stone, if you have one, in the oven and preheat to 450. Spread some olive oil on your crusts. Again, I used pre-made wheat naan bread. Cover the naan with the mozzarella cheese, then the mushroom and kale combination. I like to put a little more cheese on top so everything holds together better when it’s done. Slide onto your stone or a baking sheet and bake for about 8 minutes. That’s it! Hope you try this dish either way and enjoy it! Let me know what you think and share with your friends!


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Taste of Spain – Olive and Almond Steak “Salsa”

Hi everyone! My wife and I have really gotten into Spanish cuisine lately and we absolutely love this recipe. It’s been adapted (and simplified) from a great Spanish cookbook we picked up a few years ago. It only takes about 20 minutes, so it can be a good weeknight dinner option to kick up and transform any good steak into something extraordinary.


Olive and Almond Steak “Salsa”


  • 3/4 cup Kalamata olives, pitted and chopped
  • 3/4 cup slivered almonds
  • 2 Tbsp dried parsley
  • 3 Tbsp good olive oil
  • 1 tsp smoked paprika
  • 1 finely chopped garlic clove or 1/4 tsp garlic powder
  • Pepper
  • Flank steak, or similar cut


Toast the almonds on medium high heat, sliding and shaking the pan pretty constantly to prevent burning. You want to get the almonds as brown as you can without scorching them — the extra toasting will really enhance the flavor of the salsa. This should take about 6-8 minutes. Remove them from the pan immediately or they will keep cooking and burn. Set aside for a minute to cool, and then chop into small pieces.


Chop the olives to about the same size as the almonds. Combine the olives and almonds in a medium bowl. Add the parsley, olive oil, paprika, garlic, and pepper to taste. Mix well and let stand while you grill the steak.


I try to use a flank steak with this recipe, but you could use a London broil, too. Grill or broil to your desired doneness. Let stand for 5 minutes before slicing. I serve the steak and the salsa separately at the table so everyone can heap as much as they want on their plate! As you can see, I served this with the cucumber salad I recently posted.

Obviously, I recommend a Spanish wine with this dish – go with a nice Rioja or Tempranillo.

Hope you can give this a try and let me know how you like it!


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Farmers’ Market Guacamole

Hey there! In my last post on the summer cucumber salad, I challenged everyone to hit up their local farmers’ market. I’m lucky enough to have a number of markets in my area that set up shop weekly, as well as a great farm that has a stand open every day. I recently went looking for corn on the cob (which was fantastic!) and ended up buying some onions, tomatoes, and peppers as well — I just couldn’t resist. Add in some avocados from the supermarket, and I was ready for some guacamole!


Guacamole dip


  • 1 small or 1/2 large white or yellow onion (about 1/2 – 3/4 cup)
  • 2 small tomatoes (about 3/4 – 1 cup)
  • 1 jalapeno pepper
  • 1 large garlic clove
  • 2 avocados
  • 2 tsp lime juice
  • Chipotle powder
  • Salt and pepper


In a food processor or mini-chopper, combine the tomato and onion in large chunks. You can increase or decrease the total amount as desired (and depending on how big your avocados are) but I like about 1.5 times more tomato than onion. Open up the jalapeno, remove the seeds and the ribs, and chop into large chunks. Add the jalapeno and the garlic clove to the tomato and onion. Pulse your processor until you have a finely chopped but still chunky texture. Don’t go all the way to a puree. Set aside.


Prepare the avocados. Start with the ripest avocado. Slice in half and remove the pit, then score the flesh crisscross as shown before scooping out with a spoon into a medium bowl. Add 1 tsp of lime juice and mash with a fork until it’s fairly creamy. Add the second avocado and the rest of the lime juice, and mash just a little bit, leaving some chunks this time.


Spoon the tomato-onion mixture into the avocados gradually until you reach your desired proportions. Mix well. Add some chipotle powder if desired, and some salt and pepper. Give it a taste and adjust seasonings if necessary. You’re probably wondering where the cilantro is… I just happen to not like it very much so I don’t include it, but you could certainly add some at this point as well.

Grab some chips and your beverage of choice and you’re good to go! Enjoy!


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