Caramel Apples

Caramel ApplesBoo Humbug
I don’t know what Halloween will be like in your neck of the woods, but where I live there will be no trick or treating. It’s beyond disappointing, especially for the kids. But, I get it. That doesn’t make it any less depressing. As the mother of a kid who is not handling the isolation well, it’s just one more item to add to the list of things she has looked forward to that have now been taken away during this pandemic. No getting around it. The whole situation stinks…

In talking with friends and neighbors I have heard different ideas on how to still make Halloween fun while keeping everyone safe. Some are planning social distanced “pod” parties with costumes. Others are buying the King Size candy to give to the kids next door. And for others it’s just a regular Saturday night…maybe with a horror movie on demand. For me I see this as an opportunity to do something for Halloween that I have always wanted to do, but just wasn’t practical.

love caramel apples and I have always wanted to be “that house” that gave out the really cool caramel apples to kids on Halloween but haven’t for a few reasons. First, most parents aren’t too cool with their kids getting the homemade treats in their candy bags. This is mainly because you just don’t know what’s in them or if they are safe. I totally get it and have been guilty of making my kids toss those items ‘cause I’m not sure about them.

Second, who has that much time? In a regular year I’m lucky if I remember to stock up on fun size Snickers and Reese’s in between Halloween concerts and sporting events. Also, making caramel apples requires a decent amount of caramel and whether you unwrap all of those little caramels and melt them or make your own, it’s labor intensive. Lastly I have come to the realization that while I have Martha Stewart tendencies I am not, in fact, she. The thought alone makes me tired.

If ever there was a year to make caramel apples, it’s this Halloween. I would only do it for the kids in my neighborhood that I know really well which has the added bonus of limiting the number I need to make. It would be like my version of the king sized candy bar. You could add marshmallows and chocolate chips or even some cute Halloween sprinkles. Wrap them up in Halloween cello bags and it’s a fun tasty treat. The bonus, of course, is that any extra caramel can be used to dip apple slices for a treat of your own….

Caramel Apples
Adapted from the Food Network
Yields 6 servings (6 apples)

You will need a candy thermometer to measure the temperature of the caramel. And, candy apple sticks are available in many supermarkets. Read more…

Amy’s Apple Crisp

Amy's Apple CrispAn Apple a Day
At the first sign of fall I get a yearning for something apple-y. If I lived back east I would be knee deep in apple cider donuts and spiced fresh cider. But alas, I am not. So when the first of the new apple crop hits the shelves (I’m looking at you Gravensteins) I make an apple crisp.

Usually when the new apple season is upon us, the temps outside are too hot to make turning your oven on seem like a good idea. But, I make an exception for apple crisp. Sometimes a little pain is worth the gain.

There are any number of ways you could make an apple crisp. Personally, I prefer to top mine with an oatmeal crumble. Of course, you can add other fruits besides apples in there too. The last of the summer stone fruits would work. I love adding a handful of raisins. Or, some of the new pears and later in the season, cranberries can add a bright pop of tartness. For the first crisp of the harvest season, I always keep it simple and go with only apples. I will make an exception for cinnamon or a little cardamom as a nice twist.

My recipe is pretty basic, though lately I have been adding some boiled cider to all of my apple recipe for a little added apple kick. This works great for your freshly-picked apples from the garden or market—but also with the ones that have been in your fruit bowls for a day or to longer than they should have.

This is dessert for the soul, especially when served with ice cream. But, the left overs make for a very satisfying breakfast the following morning…what? There’s oats in there. That counts!

Amy’s Apple Crisp
Yields 8 Servings Read more…

Nectarine, Tomato & Burrata Salad

Feelin’ Hot, Hot, Hot
What do you eat when it feels like you’re living on the face of the sun? I have lived in California my whole life and yes, in August and even into September, we typically will get days that are in the 100s. The lightning show we had over the weekend is definitely not typical nor is the humidity that went with it. I don’t know how people who live in hot and humid locations do it. Personally, I don’t handle it well.

My sister and her husband lived in Atlanta for a few years and I remember visiting them and felling like I was going to pass out—and it wasn’t even the height of the summer! You walk out the door freshly showered and you’re immediately sticky. I’ll take the dry heat, thank you. Even without the humidity just the thought of making something for dinner in the hot weather makes me sweat.

I am not a salad person per se. I like salads but they are not my go-to first choice for an actual meal. I usually have them with a meal so that I don’t go looking for a snack an hour later. The exception to that is when it’s hot outside. For the past week I have been enjoying a number of heartier salads including a couple of chef’s salads as well as various tomato salads. My tomatoes are loving the weather even if I am not. So, we have been trying to eat them as fast as we can.

Salads work for me in the heat for two reasons. First, not having to turn on a hot stove, oven or even the grill is an obvious benefit. Second, I tend to not eat as much in the heat so what would normally leave me hungry in an hour, actually fills me up just fine.

This recipe for Nectarine, Tomato & Burrata Salad is perfect for summer weather because it combines some of the best produce of the season with cheese. How could you possibly go wrong? The original recipe calls for peaches but I prefer nectarines. (Mainly because I’m not a fan of the fuzziness of the peach skin.) I have made this according to the original recipe many times, but I have also made it with the addition of fresh mango and/or cucumber to the mix. It’s tasty and cooling at the same time…

Nectarine, Tomato & Burrata Salad Recipe
Yields 4 Servings
Adapted from Bon Appetit Read more…

Independence Flag Cake

Independence Flag CakeJust like everything else this year, the 4th of July is going to be weird. There will be no fireworks shows—though if your neighborhood is anything like mine has been lately, you’ve had your fill of the sound of fireworks. There will be no neighborhood parade with Dads pushing their prized, decorated grills while performing dance routines. (Yep. This is a thing where I live.) But, I know one thing that will not change. We will eat flag cake.

Every year my sister makes a flag cake for 4th of July. It’s kind of become a running joke for my family. Don’t get me wrong, the cake is great but not having the cake would be a catastrophe of epic proportions. Maybe. Probably not. I just know there have been more than a few years when we had to scramble to find decent berries to top the cake. I sense that this year it will be just that much more important if only to provide a bit of normalcy.

We always use Ina Garten’s recipe for flag cake. But, as long as you have white frosting and red and blue fruit for the decorations, you can use any cake recipe you want. You can use your favorite boxed cake mix and make your life that much easier.

I did do a quick search online for flag cakes just to switch things up this year. I was amazed by what I found. If you are not a big fan of sweet stuff, rest assured that there are plenty of savory versions including a flag Caprese salad and a deviled egg flag which sort of scares me, frankly. Take a few minutes to do a search if only for the entertainment value.

How ever you decide to celebrate the 4th this year, be it with or without a flag cake, I wish you a safe, healthy and very happy 4th of July!

Independence Flag Cake
Adapted from the Food Network and Ina Garten
Yields about 20 servings Read more…