Apple-Bacon-Cheddar Burgers

I’m really beginning to wonder if one of the symptoms of Empty Nest Syndrome is a lack of interest in cooking, and a lack of interest in photographing the results when you do feel like cooking.

Because that seems to be my life ever since The Young One left for college.

Seriously – Beloved and I are living off of eggs, simply cooked meats and vegetables, fruits and ferments…lots and lots of ferments.  (Ferments = easy, nutritious and delicious.)  It suits our lives right now, and I’m a bit ashamed to admit that I’m rather enjoying it all.  No kids.  No pets.  Just me, Beloved, and episodes of Orange is the New Black and 24 on Netflix.  Life is good.

At any rate, I’m sure my interest in cooking and food photography will return eventually, but in the meantime I’m going to post twice a week on Tuesday and Thursday.  And it will most likely be simple, easy dishes unless the mood strikes and I make something along the lines of the Apple Fritter recipe on a Sunday morning.

This is one of those simple recipes.  It is also incredibly delicious – Beloved said it was the best burger he’s eaten in a very long time, and I have to concur with him.  They are just marvelous.

The trick is not to overcook them; low and slow is the way to go.  Check the temperature of the burgers and don’t let it go over 145 F, then cover them and put them in a warm oven for 10 minutes.  The result is an incredibly juicy, flavorful burger.

I served this with Dilly Beans, Jalapenos en Escabeche (both of which are almost completely gone now) and roasted sweet potato wedges; it was a great dinner.  Anyone interested in a recipe for the wedges?  They were pretty darn good, too.

Apple-Bacon-Cheddar Burgers. Apple and cheddar cheese really pump up the flavor of these burgers, while bacon helps keep them moist and juicy.

Click the image to enlarge

Apple-Bacon-Cheddar Burgers
Serves: 8
  • 2 pounds ground pork
  • 4 ounces bacon, finely chopped
  • 1 large apple, peeled and grated
  • 1 cup shredded cheddar cheese
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons kosher or sea salt
  • 3/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  1. Gently combine all of the ingredients in a large mixing bowl. Form 8 patties from the mixture.
  2. Heat a griddle or large frying pan over medium-low heat; cook the burgers until the internal temperature reaches 145 F.
  3. Place the burgers on a large plate or platter; cover with aluminum foil and place in a warm oven. Allow them to rest for 10 minutes before serving.
  4. Nutrition (per serving): 434 calories, 35.1g total fat, 106.1mg cholesterol, 621.8mg sodium, 395.7mg potassium, 3.9g carbohydrates, <1g fiber, 2.8g sugar, 24.4g protein

Apple Fritters

We took The G Man apple picking at a local orchard this weekend.  Despite the fact that it was cool and drizzly, we had a blast – and came home with a half a peck of apples I need to find something to do with.

This particular recipe took care of two of them, at least.

I’ve been meaning to make a good, gluten-free apple fritter for some time now – I’m glad I finally did.  These are just wonderful; crisp on the outside, fluffy on the inside and the apples were cooked to tender-crisp perfection.  They also reheat quite well in a 325 F oven for 8 to 10 minutes.

The fritters have a great  apple flavor due to macerating the apples with the sugar and spices and including the resultant liquid in the batter – simply superb.  You also want to make sure you dice the apples fairly small, to make sure there is plenty of apple in every fritter.

A lot of apple fritter recipes call for dusting them with powdered sugar or glazing them (at least one recipe I came across called for both), but I found them sweet enough on their own, with a very slight dusting of organic pure cane sugar.  Beloved drizzled his with maple syrup and declared them the most delicious thing he’d eaten all morning.

Alas, the fritters are not dairy free, but you can make them so by subbing the milk with equal amounts of water and coconut milk and the butter with coconut oil.  Use the palm oil shortening, which is what I used, and they are vegetarian as well.

Apple Fritters. Otherwise known as heavenly bites of fall-spiced bliss, these are gluten free.

Click on the image to enlarge

Apple Fritters
Serves: 8
[i]Two fritters per serving[/i]
  • 2 large cooking apples, peeled and diced
  • 2 teaspoons cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon grated nutmeg
  • 1/2 cup evaporated cane juice
  • 1 1/2 cups almond flour
  • 1/2 cup tapioca flour
  • 1 tablespoon potato flour
  • 2 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 1/4 teaspoon kosher or sea salt
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1/2 cup whole milk
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 2 tablespoons melted butter, cooled
  • tallow, lard or palm oil shortening
  1. In a large mixing bowl, stir together the diced apples, cinnamon, nutmeg and evaporated cane juice until well combined. Set aside and allow to macerate for at least 30 minutes.
  2. Transfer the apples and their juices to a colander suspended over another bowl for about 15 minutes, capturing the juice – you should have about a 1/4 cup liquid. Transfer the apples to a smaller bowl and set aside; add enough milk to the juice from the apples to make 3/4 cup and set aside as well.
  3. In another mixing bowl, whisk together the flours, baking soda and salt. Set aside.
  4. In the bowl in which you macerated the apples, whisk the eggs, vanilla and the milk/apple juice mixture. Stir in the dry ingredients just until moistened; add the butter and stir until mixed, but still a bit lumpy. Fold in the apples.
  5. In a large, deep skillet heat a good amount of the fat to 350 F. Working in batches, drop spoonfuls of the batter gently into the hot fat and fry until golden brown on the bottom; carefully flip and continue frying until golden brown on the other side and the fritters are cooked through.
  6. Serve hot, drizzled with maple syrup if desired.
  7. Nutrition (per serving): 334 calories, 22.1g total fat, 63.7mg cholesterol, 673.8mg sodium, 219.6mg potassium, 27.3g carbohydrates, 3.4g fiber, 15.6g sugar, 2.3g protein

Apple Butter

I really have to apologize for posting so many recipes that involve jars, but since it’s what I’ve been spending most of my time doing lately…well, that’s all I really have for you.

Now, that being said, we have a three-day weekend beginning tomorrow (Columbus Day here in the U.S. – they can’t shut that down, although I suppose they would try if they thought it would piss enough people off), and I plan to take advantage of the time off and cook quite a bit.  I have an idea for a seasonal dessert that I hope will blow your socks off, so everyone keep your fingers crossed.

Anyhoo, we’ve begun the yearly processing of the apples, which means more applesauce and more of this, as well – wonderfully rich and smooth apple butter.

Last year when I made it, I wondered what I’d do with it all, but it turns out it came in quite handy – it’s great in poultry and pork recipes.  It has also been appreciated by the bread eaters in the family, who occasionally enjoy a nut butter sandwich or a piece of toast.  If you have no problem with dairy, it’s great stirred into yogurt or cottage cheese, as a topping for ice cream, or poured on top of a baked brie.  This year, I’m going to use it to try and get a certain grandson to eat more vegetables – it would make a great dip for sweet pepper strips and carrot sticks.

Because, y’all, this is just about the best apple butter I’ve ever tasted.

Yes, it does have a little added sweetener – you could sub coconut sugar for the evaporated cane juice if you wanted, although I’d probably increase the amount to 3/4 cup – but if you want to go sugar free, you could.  It’ll just be a tad more tart and a little less “rich” tasting, and there’s nothing wrong with that.  But the small amount of unrefined sugar along with the cinnamon just take this over the top; it is just that good.

If you do leave the sugar out, this should be Whole30 compliant (I’m not sure if they consider this a no-no…and I’m not sure I care).

Note:  You can make apple butter from applesauce; the amount of apples given in this recipe will make about a quart of applesauce, so that is the how much you should use for this recipe – simply omit the first 3 steps of the recipe.  If you use sweetened applesauce, omit the evaporated cane juice.

Apple Butter. Rich and sweet, homemade apple butter couldn't be easier to make completely from scratch.

Click the image to enlarge

Apple Butter
[i]Makes about 3 cups[/i]
  • 3 pounds assorted apples – the sweeter the better
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1/2 cup evaporated cane juice
  • 1 tablespoon cinnamon
  1. Remove the stems from the apples, and quarter them – do not peel or core them. Add the apples and water to a large stock pot that is large enough to hold all of the fruit with room to spare, as the apples will expand as they cook.
  2. Cook over low heat, stirring frequently, until the apples are soft. Remove from heat and allow to cool enough to handle.
  3. Working in batches, push the cooked apples and liquid through a a fine-mesh sieve, discarding the skins and seeds, or process through a food mill (again, discarding the skins and seeds).
  4. Transfer the applesauce to a large saucepan; stir in the evaporated cane juice and cinnamon. Bring to a boil over high heat, stirring constantly, then reduce heat to a simmer. Continue cooking, stirring frequently, until the sauce has thickened and reduced by about a third (the apple butter will continue to thicken as it cools).
  5. Makes about 3 cups and can be frozen or processed in water bath canner for 20 minutes.
  6. Nutrition (per serving): 44 calories, <1g total fat, 0mg cholesterol, <1mg sodium, 63.2mg potassium, 11.6g carbohydrates, 1.5g fiber, 9.4g sugar, <1g protein

Winter Squash Casserole

It’s funny, where you can find inspiration for a dish.

I don’t know about anyone else, but the little “ticker” over on the right-hand side of the screen on Facebook fascinates me.  I’ll often click on it just to see the photo or status someone on my friends list “likes” or see the post or status they’re commenting on.  I’ve found some hilarious and infuriating things over there – and, occasionally, something instructive.

Such was the case last weekend when I clicked on something that looked like a recipe by my friend Barbara, a professional chef who owns the blog Tigers and Strawberries.  (She hasn’t blogged for quite some time, but has left the blog up – which is a great thing; it is a marvelous resource of recipes and cooking knowledge.)  In fact, that’s exactly what it was – a simple recipe on one of her friend’s post about discovering delicata squash.

And, like all of Barbara’s recipes, it looked marvelous.  Right away I sent her a private message saying I planned to make the dish soon (I made it the next night, as a matter of fact) and asking if I could post the recipe here when I did.  Gracious as always, her reply was, “Go for it.”

So here it is.

And it is every bit as marvelous as I had anticipated.

Barbara gave no real measurements – it was just a list of ingredients and general instructions for the dish – so I had to sort of wing it when it came to proportions.  We had a fairly large butternut squash that we’d just pulled out of our garden, so I used that, along with two Fuji apples because they are delicious and hold up fairly well to cooking.  The only other ingredients were 2 parts almond butter to one part maple syrup, dried cranberries and slivered almonds.

Since the almond butter I used was an all-natural butter with no added salt or sugar, I ended up reversing the proportions of that and the maple syrup (which turned out to be a good thing once I saw the calorie content of a serving).  On a whim, I also added raisins along with the dried cranberries and I had no slivered almonds, so I used chopped pecans instead.

I also didn’t realize when I began that it was going to make a HUGE amount, but that’s okay – it is so very, very good that we’ve eaten the leftovers every day this week for lunch (and there is still some left in the fridge that we’ll probably polish off today).  In fact, it’s so good that Beloved is campaigning for it to be part of our Thanksgiving dinner this year, and I may very well accommodate him.

This would work well with just about any kind of winter squash, and Barbara says you can use sweet potatoes if you prefer.  She also says this would make a great dessert, and if you use sweet potatoes, I’d have to agree.

Note:  This dish is vegetarian as written; if you sub the butter with olive oil or palm oil shortening for greasing the pan, it will become vegan – and dairy-free – as well.

Winter Squash Casserole. This delicious and simple casserole is perfect for a chilly autumn day - or your holiday table.

Click the image to enlarge

Winter Squash Casserole
Serves: 12
  • 3 cups butternut squash, peeled and cut into 1/2″ dice
  • 2 cups apples, peeled, cored and diced
  • 1/2 cup unsalted almond butter
  • 1 cup pure maple syrup
  • 1 cup dried unsweetened cranberries
  • 1 cup raisins
  • 1 cup chopped pecans
  • 2 teaspoons kosher or sea salt
  • 1 teaspoon black pepper
  1. Preheat oven to 350 F. Generously butter a 9″ x 13″ baking dish.
  2. In a small bowl, whisk together the almond butter and maple syrup until well-blended. Set aside.
  3. In a large bowl, combine the remaining ingredients except the salt and pepper. Pour the almond butter mixture over the contents of the bowl and toss to coat all of the pieces of squash and apple evenly. Add the seasonings and stir to combine.
  4. Pour the squash mixture into the buttered baking dish and spread out evenly. Cover with aluminum foil and bake for 30 minutes, or until the squash and apples are tender. Remove the foil and return to the oven and bake for an additional 10 minutes or until the top of the casserole begins to brown.
  5. Nutrition (per serving): 425 calories, 13.2g total fat, 0mg cholesterol, 343.5mg sodium, 426.3mg potassium, 77.5g carbohydrates, 6.6g fiber, 26.5g sugar, 3.8g protein

Beef Liver with Apples and Onions

This is one of those dishes that, if you’re a fan of organ meats, make you want to sing hosannas to The Gods of Liver.

Yeah.  It was good.

Really, really good.

Now, having said that, I’m a tad prejudiced because I’ve always liked liver.  Beloved, on the other hand, did not – I practically had to force him to eat it the first time I made it for him (up until that point, the only time I got to eat it was when I ordered it at a restaurant).  These days, he has a very different attitude towards offal, and we eat liver, both beef and chicken, on a fairly regular basis, and enjoy odd bits such as tongue, heart, jowls and sweet breads as often as we can.

It’s all good.  And good for you.

Of course, how you cook liver has a lot to do with how palatable – or in this case, delicious – it is.  Over cooking it will turn it into a mealy, nasty piece of shoe leather.  Cooking it to a nice medium, leaving it delicately pink in the center, makes it tender and tasty.  Beef liver also tends to be pretty strong flavored, especially compared to calf and chicken liver, but soaking it for a couple of hours in milk, coconut milk or some sort of marinade greatly mitigates that.

Anyhoo, this recipe came about because 1) apples are just now beginning to come into season and B) I needed something to do with the leftover white wine from a couple of nights prior.  I have to say, I couldn’t be more pleased with how the dish turned out, and Beloved simply devoured it.    It was simply marvelous served over a roasted parsnip puree.

Fall is right around the corner.  This is a good thing.

Beef Liver with Apples and Onions. A great variation of Liver & Onions - the sweetness of the apples and onions pairs well with the earthiness of the offal.

Click the image to enlarge

Beef Liver with Apples and Onions
Serves: 4
  • 4 ounces sliced bacon
  • 4 tablespoons ghee or clarified butter, divided
  • 1 large onion, thinly sliced
  • 2 large firm sweet apples, such as Gala, cored, peeled and cut into 2″ cubes
  • 2 tablespoons white wine vinegar
  • 1 pinch coconut sugar
  • 1/4 cup dry white wine
  • 1 pound beef liver, cut into 2-inch by 1-inch strips
  • 1 tablespoon chopped chives
  1. In a large skillet cook the bacon over medium heat until crisp; transfer to paper towels to drain. Pour off the fat, reserving 4 tablespoons.
  2. Return 2 tablespoons of the bacon fat to the pan and add 2 tablespoons of the ghee. Cook the onions over medium-low heat, stirring occasionally, until they are softened and beginning to turn golden. Add the apples and continue cooking until the fruit is a light gold color. Stir in the vinegar, sugar, and wine; increase heat to medium-high and continue cooking for 3 minutes, or until the mixture thickens. Transfer to a plate or dish and keep warm.
  3. Wipe out the skillet with a paper towel and heat the remaining 2 tablespoons of ghee and bacon fat over high heat. Pat the liver dry, and sprinkle it lightly with salt and pepper. Cook the liver, turning it frequently, for 3 to 4 minutes, or until it is browned but still slightly pink in the center.
  4. Divide the liver between four plates and top with the apple and onion mixture. Crumble the reserved bacon over the top, garnish with the chives and serve.
  5. Nutrition (per serving): 441 calories, 28.5g total fat, 361.7mg cholesterol, 318mg sodium, 539.7mg potassium, 16.6g carbohydrates, 1.4g fiber, 8g sugar, 27g protein