Sunday, October 6, 2013

Cranberry Apple Bread

I've been making cranberry apple bread every year since my first child was born.  It is delicious, but the original recipe really should have been called cranberry apple heart attack in loaf form.  I've been working on making it as delicious without so much of the heart attack, and I think I've succeeded.  So here is the much lighter (but still delicious) version!

Cranberry Apple Bread

4-5 apples
3 cups flour (you can use 1 cup wheat and 2 white if you'd like)
1 cup sugar
2/3 cup vegetable or canola oil
4 large eggs
1 Tbs vanilla
2 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp salt
2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp ground cloves
1/2 tsp baking powder
1 cup fresh cranberries
1 cup chopped walnuts (optional)

First we need to make some unsweetened applesauce.  Peel, core, and slice 2 of the apples.  Place in a small saucepan with about 2 Tbs water.  Cover and cook on medium heat until apples are soft and mash easily with a fork, about 15 minutes.  Remove from heat and mash by hand or in a blender or food processor.  Set aside.

Preheat oven to 325F.  Grease two large loaf pans (8-inch or 9-inch) and set aside.  Peel, core, and slice remaining apples into 1/4-inch-thick slices.  Set aside.

In a large bowl, whisk together flour, sugar, cinnamon, salt, baking soda, cloves, and baking powder.  Add oil, 2/3 cup apple sauce, eggs, and vanilla.  Mix well.  Stir in apples, cranberries, and nuts (if using).  Divide evenly among the two loaf pans.  Bake at 325F for 50-60 minutes, or until a knife inserted into center comes out clean.  Let cool in pan for 10 minutes, then remove from pan and cool on wire rack until cool.

Makes 2 loaves.

Homemade Apple Cider

We went apple picking at a local orchard last week, and my kids were so enthusiastic and had such a great time that we came home with way more apples than I knew what to do with.  I've spent all week using them in various ways, such as apple pie filling, apple sauce, cranberry apple bread, and just sliced and dipped in caramel.  And then on Friday my littlest one asked for some apple cider.  We frequently have apple cider around this time of year but didn't have any at that moment, and so we decided to see how hard it was to make some.  Answer: easy!  It does take a few hours, but was easy and turned out great!  So if you have a bunch of apples that you don't know what to do with, or just love apple cider, this recipe will save the day!

As a note, if you live outside the US you may think this is an alcoholic drink.  In the US, apple cider is a thicker, spiced version of apple juice, similar to Wassail.  It is definitely not alcoholic. 

Homemade Apple Cider
Recipe slightly adapted from

8-10 medium to large apples
4 cinnamon sticks (or 4 Tbs ground cinnamon)
4 Tbs ground allspice
6 whole cloves
3/4 cup sugar (1 cup if you're using very tart apples like Granny Smith)

Quarter apples (no need to peel or core) and toss into a very large stock pot.  Add water to cover.  Add sugar and stir.  Tie up the spices into a doubled-up cheesecloth or a single-layered thin kitchen towel.  Add the spice sachet to the pot as well. 

Turn the heat to high and bring to a boil.  Boil uncovered for 1 hour, watching and adjusting heat as needed so it doesn't boil over.  After one hour your apples will be soft and slightly mushy, like this:

Put the lid on and continue to simmer for 1-2 hours more, or until the apples begin to break up when you stir them.  Remove from heat.

You can let cool, or if you, like us, were feeling tortured smelling the deliciousness of the cider without being able to drink it for two hours, you can just work with it hot.

Place a large colander over a large bowl.  Remove the spice sachet from the pan.  Using a potato masher, mash the apples in the stock pot.  Once they're mashed, pour the whole thing into the colander.  Use a large spoon to gently push the apple mash to release all the juice.  Once it's mostly drained you can scoop the rest of the mash into another cheesecloth and squeeze it to get the rest of the juice out.  Discard the apple mash (or throw it in your compost heap!).  Pour the cider into a pitcher.  Place a fine-mesh sieve over the same bowl you were just using.  Pour the cider through the sieve to strain out the largish bits of apple mash.  Finally you have your completed apple cider!

You can serve this hot or refrigerate it and drink it cold.  It will keep in the fridge for a week, or you can bottle it or freeze it for later.

Makes about 1 gallon.

Slow Cooker Pulled Pork Sliders with Vietnamese Slaw

I love pulled pork.  It's so easy, and delicious.  Recently though I've been looking for a way to spice it up a bit.  And then a great thing happened.  I received some purple cabbage and some carrots in our CSA box. (For those of you who don't know, CSA stands for Community Supported Agriculture, and every week I pay some money to get food fresh from a variety of farms.  But you just get what is in season, so you don't know what you're getting.  It's like a fun surprise every week!)  Anyway, those ingredients reminded me of the delicious Vietnamese tacos recipe, and I thought, why not mix them together.  So I did.  And they were amazing.  The spicy-sweet-crunchy slaw adds a nice contrast to the smoky BBQ pork.  Try it out!

As a note, pork shoulder usually comes as a huge piece of meat.  I usually buy the whole thing and then cut it into 3 or 4 pieces.  I freeze whatever I don't use.

Slow Cooker Pulled Pork Sliders with Vietnamese Slaw

2-3 lb pork shoulder, trimmed of large bits of fat
1 packet dry onion soup mix
1/2 cup water
1/4 cup fish sauce
1/4 cup white vinegar
3 Tbs sugar
2 Tbs fresh lime juice
2 cloves garlic, mined
1 Serrano or Thai chili pepper, seeded and finely chopped
1/2 cup thinly sliced red cabbage
1/2 cup matchstick-sized or coarsely grated carrots
1/4 cup thinly sliced red onion
2 Tbs chopped fresh cilantro
2 Tbs chopped fresh mint
1 cup of your favorite BBQ sauce
Slider or sandwich buns

Place your pork shoulder into the slow cooker and sprinkle with the onion soup mix.  Cook on low for 7-8 hours or high for 4-5 hours.

In the meantime, in a medium bowl combine water, fish sauce, white vinegar, sugar, lime juice, garlic, and chili pepper.  Mix well, then toss in cabbage, carrots, red onion, cilantro, and mint.  Cover and refrigerate for at least 4 hours.  The longer it sits the better it will taste!

When the pork is done cooking, shred with two forks, removing and discarding fatty bits as you go.  Pour BBQ sauce over pork and stir to fully coat.

To assemble, place some pork on a bun, then top with the cabbage slaw.  Serve immediately.

Serves 6.