Curried Chicken & Cider Soup

Well, it happened - the inevitable stress cold/miserable case of seasonal allergies. Regardless of which it is, there are some crummy feelings circulating in my body, and while I'm not doing much cooking of my own as a result (in conjunction with the mountains of work a la the "stress" part of stress cold), I do have a soup recipe that is in my freezer waiting for my sniffly self to reheat. I wish I could tell you that I'm a little bit more excited about this fact, but I'm not such a fan of this recipe. It's missing something, and has a weird something else, and maybe lots of people out there would fall in love with it...but it has been very hit-or-miss each time I've taken some out of the freezer to eat.

Curried Chicken Cider Soup sounds exotic and complex enough for my fickle taste buds, but there's something in the flavor - it may be too sweet, or maybe it needs a base with more flavor than just water. Whatever the case, I'm sharing it with you not because I think it's an epic failure, but because I genuinely believe that there are people who would really enjoy it. It's very fall-like, and I have to admit that adding some sour cream to it and using it as a mix-in for pasta was much more palatable for me. So again, I'm thinking that it just needs a little creative adjustment.

As far as actually making it goes, it's involved. This is no crockpot recipe where you can throw a bunch of ingredients into your pot, turn it on and come back 10 hours later with dinner ready. There's chopping and blending and mixing, but I was still able to complete it in an afternoon. I paired it with some nice, crusty bread the first time around, and made the note that it was simple, but potentially underwhelming as a main course. So, take that as you wish. And if you like apple cider, ginger, chicken, and the like, give this a shot - it may be my quirky eating preferences just don't align with this recipe.

Curried Chicken & Cider Soup, courtesy of Rachael Ray's Everyday magazine
Yield: 4 servings, which sounds about right to me
The Ingredients
1 Tbsp. olive oil
1 onion, chopped
1 Tbsp. grated fresh ginger
salt and pepper (do it - add the salt; I didn't, but maybe that's my problem)
2 tsp. curry powder
1 tsp. ground cumin
1 C apple cider
1 large sweet potato, peeled and cut into 1-in. chunks
1/2 head of cauliflower, coarsely chopped - about 4C
1/2 rotisserie chicken, skin and bones discarded and meat shredded

The Method
1. Add the olive oil, onion, ginger and 1 tsp. salt to a large saucepan over medium heat. Stir occasionally and cook until softened, roughly 5 minutes.
2. Add the curry powder and cumin, stirring for another 3 minutes. Stir in the cider and scrape the bottom of the pan.
3. Add 4C water and the sweet potatoes, bringing to a boil before adding the cauliflower and lowering the heat to a simmer. Continue cooking until the vegetables are tender, about 10 minutes.
4. Using a blender, puree the soup in batches. When finished, return to the pot and stir in the chicken. Cook until warmed through, and season with salt and pepper to taste.

So you see, it's simple enough to make and it isn't that it tastes bad. There's just something that I can't quite put my finger on - it could be too much chicken (I used 3C of frozen cooked chicken from my roasted chicken earlier in the year), or not enough pureeing. It's more of a texture thing than a flavor thing, I think, though the flavor needs a little something, too. Again, maybe just add some salt or use a low-sodium broth instead of some or all of the water.

I'm sorry for the lackluster delivery! I feel like I usually come gushing to you guys about the most super awesome meal I just made and how you absolutely need to try it right. now. Hopefully this hasn't discouraged you, at least not too much. I promise I'll come back with something I can endorse more enthusiastically next time. I do have a cookie exchange for my dietetic association coming up, so that shouldn't be too hard - you know how I love cookies!

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Savory Squash and Black Bean Crepes

With The Big Day coming up so quickly, I felt a tinge of obligation to serve up some fabulously traditional roasted turkey, a big first in my book. I got my free turkey coupon (which, as it turns out, was actually my mom's), I cleared my schedule on Saturday, and I geared up for the epic tale of Floptimism's First Turkey Extravaganza. But then I got to thinking: the following day would be my apartment's Thanksgiving dinner before we all parted ways to see our families, and then there'd be tons of turkey on Turkey Day itself, and then, of course, are all of those leftovers. I am in the process of being up to my ears in turkey, and you know what?

I don't even like it.

There, I said it. I'm one of those people. The ones who really couldn't give a hoot about the stuffing and the tryptophan and the jar of cranberry "sauce" that never unmolds from its container. Now the pies, those are a different story. But green bean casserole and a 16lb bird on my table just don't do it for me. So why would I go out of my way to add another day's worth of turkey to this week? Not to mention the days and days of ensuing turkey leftovers that a full sized turkey would yield, all for me. So, no Thanksgiving-themed post, but that's okay. This one is still fall-festive, which is even better, if you ask me.

Back in October when fall was just creeping up on us, I walked into my local Giant and found a big display of all these different types of squashes - all for just 79 cents! I couldn't resist myself. I've never really cooked squash before, just once for a cooking class. I didn't have a recipe in mind, I didn't have anything in mind. I just picked up a cute looking Carnival squash (which I had never heard of, by the way), added it to my cart, and marched out of that store quite happily (I paid for my food between those last 2 steps, fyi).

What I came up with was a crepe filled with pureed roasted squash and black beans, with some kale, maple syrup and cinnamon mixed in for good measure. It's not the fastest recipe out there: first, you roast and puree the squash; then you have to put the filling together and actually make the crepes. It's a process, but this is so worth it. It's light and makes you feel very sophisticated, and yet it is one of the cheapest meals I've thought up in this little head of mine. The only thing I'll say is that I tried a whole wheat crepe recipe, and I wasn't impressed. I know you might say duh when I tell you this next thing, but I was really crossing my fingers that it wouldn't be the case: they were heavy. And a whole lotta bit eh. Double dose of eh. They were little more than a vehicle to get the squash and beans in my mouth, and I was expecting much more. So, for this, I would advise you to search for your own crepe recipe until I can come back here with a more acceptable one.

Savory Squash and Black Bean Crepes
Yield: 1 serving (unfortunately)
The Ingredients
1/2 crepe recipe (you'll still have extras, but for dessert or breakfast throw some yogurt and fruit inside and you're as good as gold)
1 carnival squash
1/4 - 1/2C black beans (drained and rinsed if canned)
1/2C frozen kale (if you use fresh, I'd imagine that you'd just need to add a little extra to account for wilting)
black pepper, cinnamon, and maple syrup to taste

The Method
1. Roast the squash. I halved it first and stuck it in the microwave with a bit of water and some wax paper. You could also do it in the oven, just allow for the extra time that this requires.
2. Scrape out the insides of your squash as best you can, once cool enough to handle - one squash doesn't yield too much flesh, so you really want to be stingy here. I found the consistency to be a little bit rough and stringy, so I stuck it into my little food processor to try to smooth it out a little bit more. Adding some milk to this process might be nice.
3. Combine the squash, beans, kale, pepper, and cinnamon in a small sauce pot over low-medium heat. You just want to warm it and keep it warm while you make the crepes, so that they're ready as soon as the crepes finish up. Alternatively, you could keep the oven at a low temperature to hold the crepes (filled or not) at a nice temperature while you assemble everything. Honestly, I nuked mine in the microwave after pictures and before eating. Not the most glamorous technique, I admit.
4. Make the crepes. If you're planning to have extra, allow the first bunch to be the ones you save for later. Crepes lose their heat extremely quickly (hence the reasoning behind my blathering in #3), so you want to be pretty speedy in getting the crepes assembled and onto the table.
5. Drizzle 2 crepes with maple syrup, and then divide the squash mixture evenly between them. Roll according to your favorite crepe rolling school (I went with the school of thought of, "if it rolls and stays rolled, it's good!"), and serve! As you can see from the picture, I also had some extra filling (maybe enough for another small crepe) and so I used it as a bed for the crepes. If you're making this for more than just yourself, refer to #3 and seriously consider sticking them in the oven for a couple of minutes to heat up and give you a chance to regain your sanity (if you're anywhere near as frantic as I can get in the kitchen).

Now, this entire recipe is under construction and subject to revision, since it was very much a throw-stuff-into-a-pot-and-see-what-happens kind of thing. First of all, I originally made it without the syrup, but I sat down to eat it and it was missing something; it was very nearly as eh as the crepe by itself: good, enjoyable, but just...not on the level that it should be. So I got up, grabbed my maple syrup (infused with cinnamon, mmm), and drizzled it over the top. That was it! That was all this squash and black bean crepe needed to take it to the next level. Of course, next time I'll try mixing this in, but if that diminishes the flavor I would advise just drizzling it over the crepe before spooning in the squash and bean mixture, as I've noted in the recipe. I can picture it being just as lovely with another variety of squash and, as I said earlier, certainly another variety of crepes.

You see, talking about this recipe - even in its tentative, not-yet-perfected state - makes me so much more excited than thinking about tomorrow's meal. Except for dessert. I made this upside down cranberry cake that I can't wait to cut into...

You'll be hearing from me again soon, I'm sure. Happy Thanksgiving, everyone!

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Chicken Chutney One Pot

After a week like the one I've had, and on a night when I'm finally beginning to feel the chill in a not-yet-heated apartment, I could think of no better recipe than this Chicken Chutney melange to warm my thoughts and soothe my entire body. There's a reason you haven't heard from me in so long, and believe me, it has nothing to do with a lack of recipes. My computer Note Pad is overflowing with my list of recipes to share with you, but I have been running nonstop and, unfortunately, am only beginning to see a slight decline in work load and responsabilities. But, c'est la vie of a college student come Thanksgiving. It's crunch time, folks, and I've got it coming at me from all fronts.

So no, I did not eat this belly-warming Chicken Chutney One Pot tonight, as it has been long gone from even my freezer for several weeks now (yes, I am that behind on posting, for shame), but I will hope that telling you about it will feel almost as comforting. You see, this is the epitome of a chilly fall meal, the kind that tastes, smells, and all-out exudes autumn-ness and warmth. There are parsnips and apples and cranberries, apple cider and allspice and cinnamon, and a whole lot of rib-sticking flavor sopped up beautifully by the right loaf of bread. It's spicy in that ginger-and-cinnamon kind of way, and sweet with the dried fruits and apples - but still savory with some chicken and butter and mustard. This one-pot meal has it all, except, I guess, a proper name, to my knowledge. One Pot? I like melange much better, though I guess uppity-French words don't necessarily describe a down-home almost-stew type of meal very accurately. Regardless of what you call it, it's good.

Chicken Chutney One Pot (actually, Chutney Chicken One Pot, but I liked the way it sounds the other way), courtesy of Rachael Ray's Everyday magazine
Yield: 4 servings
The Ingredients
2lb. boneless, skinless chicken thigh or breast, cut into large chunks - I'll give you 3 guesses which cut of meat I chose.
Salt and Pepper (salt optional, according to me)
2 Tbsp. olive oil
2 Tbsp. butter
2 parsnips, peeled and chopped
1 onion, chopped
1 tart apple, peeled and chopped (I believe I actually bought Granny Smith instead of just grabbing whatever I had lying around, which is inevitably never Granny Smith)
1/2C dried apricots, chopped
1/4C dried cranberries
1/4C dark or golden raisins (I used dark)
2 Tbsp. white balsamic vinegar or cider vinegar (I used apple cider - as in, not vinegar - and then cut back a little, but clearly not enough, on the preserves later on)
1-in. fresh ginger, grated or finely chopped
1 tsp. ground cumin
1 tsp. ground allspice (I used nutmeg)
1/4 tsp. cinnamon
1C chicken stock
1/3C apricot preserves (I'd go down to 1/4, I think)
2 Tbsp. grainy mustard
Crusty whole grain bread for mopping (seriously, even the recipe recommends whole grain bread - it's perfect for this kind of meal!)
Additions: 1 sweet potato (or, if you're concerned about sweetness, you could try 1 regular potato), chunked (no need to peel!)

The Method
1. Season the chicken with the salt and pepper.
2. In a large skillet, head the oil over medium-high heat and throw in the chicken. Turn once after 5 minutes, then cook about 5 minutes more...though I think that with the chunks I made, it didn't take quite this long. Transfer to a plate.
3. Add the butter to the empty pan and melt it before adding in the parsnips, onion and apple (add the potato here if using). Season again with salt and pepper. Cook approximately 5 minutes, until the vegetables soften up.
4. Stir in the dried fruit, vinegar/cider, ginger, cumin, allspice/nutmeg, and cinnamon. Scrape the pan to get all the good bits up.
5. Stir in the chicken stock, preserves, and mustard. Lower the heat.
6. Return the chicken to the pan and simmer until the dried fruit plumps up, approximately 5 minutes.
7. Serve with bread and, if you're me, some apple slices left over from cutting the recipe in half and only using half of an apple. As Rachael would say, dee-lish!

I made 2 servings and froze one, and enjoyed it immensely later on. I'm actually kind of craving it now, just telling you about it. It may have been sweet, but you can adjust that to your liking. It's just this perfectly wholesome meal for cooler weather, and what are you left with to clean up, really? Some cutting boards and a pot? A spoon? If you're me, you're left with a big mess, but you're not me, so you probably cook with a touch more grace and efficiency.

I would highly recommend this, and if you're really daring or if it's a snow day and you just have nothing else to do with your life, after you finish making me jealous you can whip up your very own homemade bread to pair with this. Because really, that trumps any crusty loaf a grocery store can offer about a dozen times over.

But as is the case with my life right now, there's no time for the luxury of homemade bread. Soon enough, though, in a few weeks - just you wait until the semester ends and time is all I have. Just you wait to see what I've got in store for you then.

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Pumpkin-Stuffed French Toast Indulgence

I have temporarily traded in my apple hat for a pumpkin hat, in order to share with you a healthy but decadent recipe appropriate, in my book, for breakfast, lunch, dinner, or even dessert. Here's what you do: you take yogurt, pumpkin, and some syrup and spices, and you slather them between two pieces of deliciously, perfectly cooked french toast, and you let the pumpkin filling melt and warm just a little bit before slicing the whole thing in half and enjoying it immensely. The inspiration for this little gem of a sandwich came in stages: first, I really wanted to make some brinner (breakfast for dinner), but omelets are an all-too-common lunch item for me and pancakes are a little labor intensive/difficult to cut into small servings; second, I wanted to do something fall-festive, as usual; third, I was shockingly interested in venturing away from the world of apples. And so, there you have it: pumpkin-stuffed french toast, one of the few things in this world that are both saintly and heavenly (re: indulgent) at the same time.

Now, of course, I'm not ready to write this down on a recipe card just yet and sticking it into my recipe box for good. It's rare that I'm satisfied with anything, even a recipe borrowed from an already-perfected-elsewhere, on the first go-around. I added too much cinnamon, though I combated that a little bit by upping some sweetness (maple syrup) and pumpkin puree. Also, if you want this to be for a dessert or you just like things really sweet, you might be disappointed in the sugar level of this. I found it to be excellent for dinner, but my sweet tooth was still yearning for a little bit more simple carbohydrates in that meal. As it was, it was mildly sweet and very pumpkiny, and extraordinarily creamy. Be sure not to overcook the french toast - for me, this is critical for anything french toast related, and especially so for something like this. I briefly considered added some apple to the sandwich (ha! You thought I was over that!) but had just eaten an apple earlier in the day and didn't really feel like another one. Plus, it was nice to have just the pumpkin in there. Something like raisins might be nice, though, even just as a topping.

Pumpkin-Stuffed French Toast
Yield: 1 Sandwich, plus extra filling (trust me, you'll be thankful for this)
The Ingredients - The French Toast
1/2 C egg whites
1/2 tsp. cinnamon
2 Tbsp. milk
1 tsp. maple syrup
1 Tbsp. pumpkin puree (not pie filling)
2 slices bread (I used whole grain oatmeal bread, and loved the delicateness - yes, I'm using the word delicate to describe a whole grain - of the oatmeal component; it was a very soft bread)
butter, for cooking (1/2 Tbsp. or less)
The Ingredients - The Filling
6oz. plain greek yogurt (you could also use vanilla, or even regular yogurt - though it might be less creamy with the latter)
3/4C pumpkin puree
1 tsp. cinnamon (1/2 - 3/4 tsp. might have been more appropriate)
1/4 tsp. nutmeg
1 tsp. apple cider
1 tsp. brown sugar

The Method
1. Combine all of the filling ingredients in a small dish or bowl, and set aside.
2. Combine the egg whites, cinnamon, milk, syrup, and pumpkin puree in a shallow dish (like a pie plate), and set aside.
3. Melt the butter in a skillet, preferably big enough for two slices of bread to fit side by side. Keep the heat fairly low - no higher than medium.
4. Dip each piece of bread into the egg dip, letting both sides soak up the liquid, and place onto the skillet. Cook for around 2 minutes; the bottom should be a nice golden brown. Flip over, and place about 1/3 of the filling onto one half. Cook open-faced until the piece without the filling is cooked on both sides.
5. Place the "empty" piece of bread on top of the one with the filling, and cook for a little bit longer; this whole process from the time you flip the pieces of bread to the time it's all finished should only take another 2 minutes or so.
6. Plate, cut in half, and enjoy!

This is one sandwich you'll want to eat with a fork and a knife, and you can certainly enjoy it open-faced if you want a smaller meal.

As for all of that pumpkin-yogurt filling you'll have left-over...well, okay, you could keep the filling the same and make 2 more sandwiches, and then you wouldn't have any extras. However, I would highly recommend keeping some of this in the refrigerator - use it as a parfait with granola and dried fruit, add it to some oatmeal (more on that later!), use it as a dip for - you guessed it - apples, it really is versatile. Plus, it doesn't use the whole can of pumpkin puree, so you have extra of that to do with as you wish, too. If you're worried about not using it all at once, freeze it in 2 Tbsp. portions so that you can pull some out as you need/want it (ice cube trays are great for this).

So, you see, I am capable of making a fall dish without apple in it! I also have a lot of recipes saved to share that are not fall-themed, but since it's getting to be close to Thanksgiving and once that comes, it won't even be November anymore, I figured I should cram them in while I still can.

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The You'll-Forgive-Me-For-Posting-So-Many-Apple-Recipes-When-You-Taste-These Apple Cider Muffins (Donuts)

I'm very good at creating names for recipes, no? But really, the title of this post says it all: amidst all of the apple goodness I've been gabbing on about, these really do take the cake. Or top the cake, whatever that saying is. The point is, they're good. Really good. And they are so enormously bursting with fall that your belly will have its own private autumn party once it realizes what delights you have just fed it. What's more, I would actually be able to justify eating these muffins for breakfast, whereas I place most of the other muffin recipes I've seen in my cupcake folder. Seriously, take a look: whole wheat flour - check! olive/canola oil - check! actual fruit - check! low fat dairy - check! modest amounts of sugar (but in somewhat sneaky forms) - check! See, it's really not so bad. Definitely a breakfast "splurge" compared to my usual kashi + lowfat milk/yogurt + fruit, but it also won't be sending me running for the treadmill at record speed, or really any speed at all.

These apple cider muffins have gotten everyone's stamp of approval and L, in particular, enjoys them immensely. The recipe is actually supposed to make donuts, but as I've yet to get my hands on one of those cool donut pans, I decided to give it a shot in muffin-form, muffin tins being the closest contraption I had to a donut pan. I will, of course, try these out as they were meant to be when my restraint gives in and I buy myself more kitchen equipment (or the holiday gift gods endow me with wonderful goodies next month), but if you're like me and all you have are some muffin tins, do. not. wait. They are beyond moist, and rolling them in a cinnamon-sugar mixture - though a little weirder for a muffin than a doughnut - adds this slight crunch that really can't be beat. They aren't super sweet, in fact I'd call them pretty mild, but man could I eat a whole batch of them.

My one and only complaint, okay well maybe the first of two complaints, is the salt. I know, I know, I really need to stop on my salt rampage at some point, and I've likely gone psychotic with how stubborn I am about limiting my intake (I promise you that I do consume a decent amount - well over the minimal amount required for your body to not go kaput on you). But I added half the amount of salt, since I wasn't using any salted butter or really any food sources of sodium at all...and I taste it. No one else has complained of it, so maybe you should make it the way the recipe intends, and leave me to my deranged salt-free existence, but I can taste it when I bite into the muffin. It's this very vague, subtle flavor - certainly an entirely different beast than taking a handful of potato chips or biting into a pickle; rather, it tastes a little bit like you've been inhaling ocean air for an afternoon and the taste just kind of...lingers. I've experienced this before with foods, so next time I will try eliminating the salt altogether and just see if it changes it.

The second complaint is that I baked them without cupcake liners, just greasing the pan with some olive oil because, as I've mentioned before, it's all I really keep on hand aside from butter. But you see, olive oil has a fairly low smoke point, and whether or not this is indeed the culprit, my muffin exterior that came in contact with the pan was just a teensy bit browner than I would like. This could also be a result of my having kinda dark muffin tins, though I think I baked these the second time entirely on lighter metal pans. So I'm going with the no liners thing. You don't really notice it when you bite into it, but you can see that the outside edges are darker. Like I said, the salt thing was my only real complaint. And even that might be a figment of my imagination.

Moral of the story? Bake these. They don't require much apple, though I have upped the amount and will either do so again next time or leave even more in larger chunks. I just can't get enough of that! You probably have all of the ingredients on hand except the apples (and maybe apple cider and maple syrup, and maybe yogurt, but I think those three are all pretty standard at this time of year - maybe?) and they're super easy to make. Anything that doesn't require me to whip out my hand mixer is a winner in my book. Although you probably could use a real mixer if it pleased you. But really, even with mixing it all by hand, the most labor intensive part is chopping the apples, and - sshh! - you can totally use a food processor for that.

Apple Cider Muffin-Donuts, courtesy of Squirrel Bakes
Yield: Almost 2 dozen muffins, closer to 18
The Ingredients

2C whole-wheat flour (the second time I made these I actually had mostly all purpose on hand and used that, without noticing much of a difference at all)
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
1 1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt*
2 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp nutmeg
1 egg
2/3 C packed brown sugar
1/3C apple, finely chopped** (I upped it to 2/3C and could see it potentially going as high as 3/4 successfully)
1/3C pure maple syrup (both times, I used cinnamon-infused syrup because it's all I had - I didn't decrease the cinnamon at all; I'm sure plain syrup would be good, too)
1/3 cup apple cider
1/3 cup plain yogurt (I used greek)
3 tbsp vegetable oil (though I used olive oil, I'm keeping canola in the recipe because I don't think that it really makes a difference; it's just what I had on hand)
cinnamon and sugar (I don't keep cinnamon-sugar in, so I just mixed the two together; this is nice to do anyway, as you can adjust how cinnamon-y or how sugary you like it)

The Method
1. Preheat the oven and grease 2 donut or muffin pans, and set aside.
2. Whisk the flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, and nutmeg together in a medium bowl.
3. In a large bowl, combine the egg, brown sugar, apple cider, maple syrup, yogurt, and oil. Mix a little bit, but mostly hold off on really blending for right now.
4. Chop the apples into desired pieces, using either a knife or a food processor; then, add the apple to the liquid mixture and this time, blend well. The recipe says to prepare the apples before mixing up the liquid ingredients, and simply add the apple in at the same time as all the others. I've switched it around because I didn't want the apples to sit there browning, as I tend to take a while getting my act together. I can't see why this should impact the recipe too much, since there isn't anything like a leavening agent that would be affected by sitting for longer than originally intended.
5. Add the flour to the apple mixture in batches, mixing enough to moisten the flour mixture before adding the next batch. It's okay to have some patches of flour here and there.
6. Spoon the mixture into muffin tins; with all of that baking powder and baking soda, they will rise a decent amount. I placed 2 average-slightly heaping spoonfuls in each, and they came out well, if not slightly higher than I intended.
7. Bake for 15-20 minutes or until lightly browned; if you're going the muffin route, you can do the toothpick test. I don't know if this works for donuts.
8. Meanwhile, prepare a pie plate or other shallow dish with the cinnamon and sugar, and as soon as the muffins are done, roll them in the dish to coat. The first time, I coated them completely; the second time was for a bake sale and wanted to give people a cleaner eating experience, so I only dipped the tops in; I prefer coating the entire thing but it's certainly not bad either way.
10. Either allow to cool completely or dig in while warm - I certainly wouldn't fault you for either decision! They do taste delicious at both temperatures.

*see discussion above about salt
**I've found 1 regular sized apple to yield about 1C once chopped, though of course this depends on how fine you chop them. I prefer varying the size of the pieces so that some are nearly shredded and will melt into the muffin, and others are more like small chunks that will still be visible after baking. I should also note that it doesn't seem to matter much what type of apple you use - the original blogger said that she used JonaMac; I used a mixture of gala and macintosh.

I would definitely recommend heading over to Squirrel Bakes to see the beautiful pictures of the donuts, because if you do have a donut pan or your willpower is taking a vacation, you will want to make them. The muffins certainly look homemade, which I generally like in a - well - homemade baked good, but those donuts look spectacular. I'd choose them over Dunkin Donuts any day!

To sum it all up, yes I have been cooking and baking a lot with apples - some of it of my own volition, and some of it because the Student Dietetic Association needed something to do with 2 crates full of donated apples. This is not the last apple recipe you will see from me this season. This is not even the last apple recipe in my extensive backlog of recipes made eons ago that I still need to post about. So buckle on down, because I'm going to milk this fall fruit for all that it's worth!

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The Sweet Potato & Apple Gratin to end your fall side dish searches

If you're looking for a side dish that screams fall without you having to loosen the notch on your proverbial belt several times, look no further! Alright, there are healthier fall-inspired dishes than this sweet potato and apple gratin, but compared to the sweet potato casseroles topped with marshmallow and all of those darn pies, this really is pretty saintly. And if you're wondering what this mystery dish looks like, I apologize for the lack of eye candy - you can see a picture of it, though not at its most photogenic, right on over here.

I did doctor up the original recipe just a little bit to make it the teensiest bit healthier and, even more realistically, to suit the ingredients I mostly had on hand. Especially now that I'm stocking a kitchen just for myself, I'm not going to run out and buy an ingredient unless I'll use it more than just once (unless, of course, that one recipe calls for the whole thing). The gratin turned out really well, and I'm even considering making it a second time already - something that almost never happens in the Floptimism kitchen, considering the mountains of clipped recipes I have taking up residence in any spare corner I can find.

It's not an overly sweet casserole, despite the combination of apple + syrup, though I don't know that I'd pair it with a main dish smothered in any kind of saccharine glaze. As it was, paired with the savory mustard chicken and vaguely bitter kale, I found it to be perfect - but we all know by now how consistently obsessed I am with contrasting flavors/textures/you-name-it. The sweet potato and apple gratin on its own doesn't really offer this, though perhaps a little bit on the texture front with the soft apples and crunchier breading as a topping, so it's good to put it up against something on the more savory side of things.

Or, you know, eat it with whatever you please. Since when did I become the expert on food pairings?

Sweet Potato and Apple Gratin, courtesy of Cooking Light
Yield: 8 servings (I cut everything by 4 to give me just 2 servings)
The Ingredients
3C thinly sliced, peeled granny smith apple, approx. 1.25lb
1 tsp. lemon juice
4 small sweet potatoes, peeled and thinly sliced, approx. 2lb.
1/4C maple syrup (I used the cinnamon-infused bottle that I had on hand)
1 Tbsp. butter, melted
1/2 tsp. salt (c'mon, omitted)
1/4 tsp. black pepper (I don't measure this, since I almost exclusively use that McCormick 'fresh ground' container)
cooking spray (I only keep butter and olive oil in stock for greasing purposes, so I just used a little bit of oil and a paper towel to spread it around)
2 (1-oz) slices white bread (I used whole grain and don't see any reason why not - it turned out perfectly well)
2 tsp. olive oil
1/4tsp. ground nutmeg

The Method
1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees and coat a 9x13 dish with spray or oil (I used an 8x8 since I was making such a small batch).
2. Combine the apples and lemon juice in a bowl and toss to coat. Add in the next 5 ingredients (sweet potatoes through the pepper).
3. Place the mixture into the dish and bake for 25 minutes. Stir, then place back in the oven for another 15 minutes (40 minutes total).
4. While the casserole is baking, pulse the bread in a food processor approximately 10 times so that it measures around 1C.
5. Add the bread crumbs with the oil and nutmeg in a bowl and stir to mix well. Sprinkle over the casserole and bake for an additional 15 minutes, or until golden. Let stand 10 minutes to allow the juices to thicken (but let's face it - I probably only waited a grand total of 5).

The original website posted the nutrition information as well, so you can check that out if you're interested with the understanding that it can vary a great deal: the type and brand of bread, whether or not you use salt, pure maple syrup vs. aunt jemima's, they all impact it. And regardless of the calories that the website says, this is worth trying. Along with all of the other fall recipes my kitchen has been brimming with - so don't forget to keep coming back. If I don't overwhelm you with delicious recipe finds for this upcoming season, I will be impressed.

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Sauteed Chicken in a Subtle Mustard Marinade

Surely I have offended the gods of Academia, because I am in the midst of perpetual smighting on the workload front. This means that I am not only pillaging my refrigerator of all leftovers and barely cooking, trying to salvage as much possible study time as I can, but this blog and all of my recipe websites that I try to follow have been severely neglected. I am sorry for that. I will try to be a little bit better, but can't really make any promises with next week looming ahead of me. Graduating is tough work!

Eons ago, however, I created a chicken recipe that turned out exceptionally well! I even wrote down the measurements for you folks, so that I'm not standing here stammering about how I haphazardly threw 5 random ingredients into a bowl and came out with something that you absolutely have to try - if only you could figure out what my poor excuse for a recipe means. What I did not do, though, is write any description for how it tasted. I just remember that it tasted good, and the mustard wasn't too powerful, and I liked it paired with some microwave-zapped kale and this other very delicious but completely unoriginal recipe for sweet potato-apple casserole/gratin-without-cheese/baked dish type of thing. Which I will post about later, but you can ogle at it in the stunning picture above.

Mustard Chicken
Yield: 2 servings
The Ingredients
1 chicken breast, approx. 1/2lb.
1/4 tsp. garlic powder
1/4 tsp. minced garlic
1/2 tsp. coarse mustard
coarse ground pepper
2 tsp. olive oil, for sauteeing
The Method
1. Combine garlic (minced and powder) and mustard in a small bowl and set aside.
2. Season the chicken with some pepper, and then pour the mustard mixture over it on both sides to coat. You can halve/butterfly the chicken before this so that it cooks faster and looks prettier as 2 servings, but I just did it whole and then butterflied it partway through the cooking process.
3. Allow to marinate for at least 10 minutes.
4. Place the chicken and the oil in a medium saute pan over medium heat, and cook each side until done. Very technical, right? I only wrote down the ingredients, not any notes on actually cooking the chicken, so I can only guesstimate this one. If I'm not mistaken, a general rule of thumb for chicken cooking is 8-10 minutes per side, less if it's been butterflied. I got nervous so I took my whole chicken breast and butterflied it so that I could make sure the center got cooked after I flipped it. This means that one side of each breast won't have the marinade on it, but I didn't have a problem with that. You could also use a meat thermometer like a more sophisticated cook, but if you're like me and you're convinced that your meat thermometer has a mind of its own, this trick comes in handy.

The chicken was a very good, basic recipe for chicken. The mustard flavor is there but it's more of a, "hmm, this is a very nice that a hint of mustard I detect?" rather than a knock-your-socks-off deal. This means that it can pair well with many different dishes. I will definitely make this again (and come back with a less pathetic description of how to saute the chicken). It's been one of my more successful "original" recipes so far.

The star of the meal, however, was that apple-sweet potato gratin up there. But I'm long winded enough when I put one recipe in an entry. I'll spare you, and tease you with a promise to bring you that gratin recipe real soon...assuming the aforementioned gods of Academia spare me and let me see another semester.

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