Thursday, September 30, 2010

Applesauce and Comfort Foods

The weather has made a turn for the cooler this week.  School is in full swing, both for my kids at home and for the students who help me keep the lab running.  All three of my "work kids"  are stressed with lots of tests in their courses this week, so I decided to do something special for them.  In the form of:

Soft Pumpkin Cookies

2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
1/2 cup butter flavored crisco
1 cup canned pumpkin
1 large egg
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Combine the dry ingredients in one bowl, beat the wet ingredients together one at a time starting with the shortening and sugar.   Add the wet ingredients to the dry.  Drop by spoonsful onto greased cookie sheet.  Bake 15 min at 350F.  Cool on cookie sheet, glaze as follows:  1 c powdered sugar, 1 T butter, 2T milk.  Beat together and drizzle over cooled cookies.

In an adrenaline fueld frenzy last night a made a double batch of these and brought a dozen each in for the students, with 3 dozen left for the family.

This week I also started my fall/winter practice of making the meals ahead of time for the kids to shove in the oven before I get home from work.  I also find that cooking ahead reduces my stress from that most hated question "What's for dinner?"

The Rest of My Week in Cooking

On Monday I went to the store and stocked up on pasta and grated cheese.  I made Rigatoni (pasta, browned ground beef, bottled spaghetti sauce, cottage and mozzerella cheeses) for Monday's dinner and while the water was still hot boiled some medium shells and fixed a quick cheese sauce from grated cheese, milk, flour and salt cooked on the stove until the cheese is melted and the sauce is thickened.  Combine the shells with the sauce, pour into a greased pie pan, and Wednesday's Homemade Macaroni and Cheese dinner is in the fridge. 

Also during the cooking I made some Beef Stew for Tuesday's dinner:  I browned some stew meat then deglazed the pan with some red wine.  Put the meat and deglaze in a fridge container with some peeled carrots, potatoes, turnips, and onions.  Sprinkle the whole thing with seasoned salt.  Tuesday morning before work, dump the whole container into the crock pot and add some boullion and water.  By Tuesday evening you will have beef stew hot and ready to go.  I added a loaf of Pilsbury french bread and dinner was done. 

So that's 3 meals in the time it takes to cook one, and half the dirty dishes.  On Tuesday I used the time I would spend cooking to make 9 pints of applesauce. (recipe-such as it is-below).  On Wednesday, I stopped in the store again and grabbed some Tortillas and Enchilada Sauce. 

To make the Enchiladas I browned some ground beef, then mixed in some homemade salsa, refried beans, taco seasoning and grated colby jack.  Then just wrap the filling with a tortilla dipped in enchilada sauce and place in a baking dish lined with more sauce.  Sprinkle with more cheese, and Thursday's dinner is in the fridge. 

Both the Mac and Cheese and Enchiladas cook at 350 from their cooled state for about 40 min to 1/2 hour.  I made the enchiladas while the cookies were baking, saving time there. 


I haven't mentioned applesauce before, but believe me, it has been there.  Since early September we have been buying all the local apples we can get our hands on and I have been making sauce every chance I get.
George and the girls love fresh apples, but I love sauce more.  This is absolutely the easiest thing I put up.  I can make a small batch of sauce (3 pints) in about 30 minutes or a large batch (10 pints) in about 45.  This does not include processing time, but does include cooking time, during which I am usually folding laundry.

Applesauce is best made from a mixture of apples.  I core and slice the apples using that gadget thingy, but I don't peel them. Then I add a tiny bit of water, just enough, to keep them from sticking and cook until tender.  Then I run them through a food mill and add a little brown sugar to lightly sweeten.  Pour hot into hot jars and process 15 minutes for pints or 20 minutes for quarts. 

So far I have done maybe 30 pints or so.  And I am nowhere near done.  Melissa can live for days on applesauce alone.

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