Recipe: Caramelized Apple Dutch Baby

Carmelized Apple Dutch Baby on a plate.

Happy New Year! We’re living in the future! Well, actually the present. But that number — 2020. It seems like the future. Like when we were going from 1999 to 2000. It’s really just one day apart, but mentally it feels like a big jump. Going from one century to the next and one decade to the next. Also, now we’re really deep into the 21st century. It feels big.

So I decided to begin this first morning of the year and decade by doing something that I’ve been planning to do for quite some time. I made a Dutch baby for breakfast. These German pancakes were the darling of the food blogger world for many years. As I was reading yesterday, the main character in the novel just happened to make one. That sealed it for me.

A Dutch baby is similar to a popover, which I have made before. The dramatic thing about both is that they puff up without using any leavening. When I made popovers, they puffed up.

The Dutch baby did not puff. I have to admit that I was disappointed. Now I realize that the instructions in the recipe that I used didn’t stress using a blender or electric hand mixer to combine the ingredients. That vigorous mixing would have added more air prompting the puff. I forgot about this until looking at my popover recipe. Next time I’ll remember.

Also, just to let you know about the coloring. I keep a mixture of white flour combined with other healthier flours (ingredients) for better nutrition. The current combination is coffee flour and flaxseed meal. So the brown color of the Dutch baby might not be the same if you use plain white flour.

I’ve adapted this recipe from one on the blog Simply Scratch. Let me know if you try it and Happy New Year! 🎉

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Single Serving Caramelized Apple Dutch Baby

INGREDIENTS:

Caramelized Apples:

  • 1 apple cut up
  • 1 T butter
  • 2 T brown sugar

Dutch Baby:

  • 1/4 cup flour
  • 1/4 cup milk
  • 1 T sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 1/4 tsp. vanilla extract
  • pinch salt
  • 1 T butter (for the skillet)

INSTRUCTIONS:

Preheat oven to 400°F.

Put the butter in a small skillet on medium heat and coat the sides. Add the apples and brown sugar. Stir and cook the apples for about 10 minutes. They will become tender and caramelized.

While the apples are cooking, combine the ingredients for the Dutch baby in a blender or use an electric mixer in a small bowl. Stirring with a whisk or a spoon is fine, but unless you whisk for longer than I did, it won’t be enough to get a lot of air into the mixture so that it will puff up in the oven.

Put the butter in a medium cast iron skillet on medium heat and coat the sides. When the butter sizzles, pour the batter into the pan and place in oven for 15 minutes.

Remove from the pan with a spatula and place on a large plate. Pour the apples on the Dutch baby. Sprinkle cinnamon and powdered sugar over the top. Enjoy!

Holiday Dessert Roundup: Mincemeat Pie

Mince pie cut in half with background blur.
Photo Credit: By Jonathan Farber on Unsplash

From my last few posts, it’s clear that I love holiday sweets. Gingerbread is a holiday staple and eggnog might be my favorite holiday treat. But there’s another one that I haven’t written about — mincemeat pie.

First, let me clarify. Most mincemeat pies do NOT have meat in them. They are made with dried fruits and spices. While we call them mincemeat in New England, apparently in most other places, they’re called mince.

Personally, I’ve never made a mincemeat pie. One of my mom’s sisters, is the pie maker for our holiday meals and we are often blessed with one of her mincemeat pies. After a brief Twitter exchange with someone, I realized that not all families are so blessed! We had one for Thanksgiving and I’m hopeful for Christmas too! Served warm with vanilla ice cream, it’s a carousel of delicious flavors and textures.

I started wondering if enjoying mincemeat pies is more of a regional thing. The pie does have its roots in England. Growing up in New England may have skewed my views. Although for a period of time, Connecticut banned mincemeat pies. Those Puritans were no joke.

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Mincemeat pie is a holiday treat that has been enjoyed by many for a very long time, according to a recent article on Haiwatha World.

Mincemeat pie finds its roots in the 11th century — the Crusades, to be more precise. Returning crusaders brought back valuable spices — cinnamon, cloves and nutmeg — from the Holy Land, and these three spices were used to season a special “Christmas pie,” to represent the three gifts of the Magi to the infant Jesus Christ. Christmas pies were small, and could be eaten in a few bites. These pies were made in an oblong shape to resemble a cradle, and space was left for a Christ child figure to be placed on top. (The figure was removed before eating.) It was considered to be lucky to eat one Christmas pie for each of the twelve days of Christmas, between December 25 and Epiphany, January 6. The mincemeat filling of these pies was indeed almost entirely meat, but cooked with rum and spices, which acted as a preservative, as well as giving it its distinctive flavor.

With my increasing interest in all things mincemeat pie, I decided to do some additional research on the latest news and have assembled a roundup for your (and my) holiday reading pleasure. Enjoy!

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– Here’s a recipe for a boozy Baileys mince pie.

– Selfridges was selling a mini mince pie advent calendar.

Mince pie filled cookies are a thing!

– A mince pie sandwich is also a thing.

– Is mince pie flavored popcorn going too far?!

– Caffè Nero is offering mince pies in the UK for the Christmas season, but not in the US.  Not even in New England.

– Here’s a recipe for mincemeat crumble cake.

– The Helen M. Kelly Memorial Mince Pie has been in this family’s fridge since 1988.

Mince pie bao buns are for sale on Amazon Fresh UK.

– Parenthood won the best Thanksgiving TV dinner and the mincemeat pie had a lot to do with it.

– Grocery story Lidl has mince pie ice cream!

– A Dublin restaurant took the meat part of mincemeat too literally for Professor Darryl Jones.

– An American website had a similar meat problem with its mincemeat pie recipe.

– Try Queen Elizabeth’s royal recipe for mince pie. No meat included!

– If you’re ready to go absolutely medieval, try this mincemeat pie recipe that includes pork shoulder roast and bacon.

– And guess who has never tried mincemeat pie? I apologize in advance.

Holiday Recipe: Gingerbread

Gingerbread in pan fresh from the oven.

If you know me in person and see me around the holidays, you’ve probably had my homemade gingerbread.

This past week, a recent work project ended. I baked a couple of loaves and brought it in to thank the firm for the warm welcome.

This morning, I baked another loaf to bring for Thanksgiving dinner later today. Gingerbread has been my signature holiday dessert for over 20 years. At this point, it’s part of my identity. I bake gingerbread.

I first found the recipe in a magazine that my maternal grandmother gave me. It’s called Mother’s Gingerbread and is from the book  Cleora’s Kitchen. Over the years, I’ve adapted it. So it is somewhat different from the original.

It’s one of my favorite things to eat and most other people love it too. So I often give it as a gift. It’s easy to make and maybe you might like to bake it too. Here’s the recipe below.

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Gingerbread (makes 1 loaf)

INGREDIENTS:
1/2 cup butter (softened)
1/2 cup sugar
1 cup molasses
2 eggs
1 tsp. cinnamon
1 tsp. ginger
1 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. baking soda
2 cups flour
1 cup hot/boiling water

INSTRUCTIONS:
Place parchment paper in loaf pan or grease pan with butter, then shake flour in pan until the pan is covered with flour. Dump out excess flour. Set oven to 350 degrees.

In large bowl, combine butter and sugar. Stir in molasses and eggs. Stir in cinnamon and ginger. Stir in baking powder and baking soda. Stir in flour. Stir in water. This should be a very liquid mixture.

Pour mixture into loaf pan. Depending upon your oven, and maybe the pan that you use, bake for 60 – 75 minutes. When the gingerbread is almost done, you should smell it. The scent is amazing! Sometimes I’ll bake it at night, so I can fall asleep to the wonderful aroma in the house.

Use a toothpick or fork, etc., to test it before removing from the oven. It should come out clean. If there is some liquid on it, then put back in the oven.

When it’s finally done, let cool for a few minutes. I usually wrap it in foil and store it in the fridge if I am keeping it. It’s great served warm with vanilla ice cream or whipped cream.

It can be frozen as well. Usually I make gingerbread to give away or bring someplace else, so I don’t refrigerate it. Just keep in foil and bring with you or package it well in order to mail. It will remain fresh and moist even in the mail for  2- 3 days. So choose your postage accordingly!

Happy Thanksgiving and all the best to you for this holiday season!

The Chowdah Project: Stockholders Steakhouse

The ChowdahProject is back! The last post was at the very beginning of the summer season.

I didn’t mean to skip the entire summer. But the days and weeks didn’t seem to hold space for much blogging, or chowder eating, and took me in other directions. But here we are at the other end!

This past week my mom had several appointments. Since I drive her, I schedule as many as we can on the same day, so I don’t miss as much work. What an exhausting day. We hadn’t stopped to eat and needed to take a moment and get some nourishment.

As my mom was scheduling the next set of appointments with the assistant, she asked about places to eat nearby. The woman mentioned Stockholders just down the street.

When we walked in, it was at the very beginning of the dinner shift. The space is wide and open, with beautiful tables and chairs. It felt elegant and comfortable and instantly shifted our energy to a more calm and happy place.

The service was excellent and the restaurant started to fill up quickly. People know about this place. And it seems like a regular spot for many, so we were given a good tip. As my mom and I were eating, she said that she wanted to come back soon. I agreed.

If you follow me on Instagram, you might have noticed all the pictures of outdoor restaurant seating. Beautifully set tables, flowers, plants and comfy chairs. It’s definitely become a thing for me — a mood. Maybe because these scenes represent a respite. A way to escape and treat ourselves in the midst of the ordinary and stressful parts of our lives. A bit of comfort.

That feeling of comfort is part of what led me to start The Chowdah Project in the first place. Even though Stockholders is a steakhouse, they have a variety of other foods. Including chowder. So of course I got the clam chowder! It was perfect.

The only way I can see to improve it would be to give a bigger serving of it! But the serving size was perfectly reasonable. It had HUGE chunks of potatoes. Plenty of clams. The perfect flavor and consistency. My mom ordered some to go so she could have some at home. It was dreamy.

We were also offered bread as a starter. For me that’s huge. When I’m eating out, if there’s no bread with lunch or dinner, I am immediately disappointed. We had focaccia that came with flavored oil and a small black eyed peas salad.

I ordered jumbo chicken tenders with spiced honey sauce, to go with my chowder. The tenders were indeed gigantic, crisp, sweet and spicy. Delicious! I had plenty to take home and had them with my lunch for two days.

My mom loved her Cobb salad and had plenty to take home as well. She did say that she wants to try the steak next time. And there will definitely be a next time. This was comfort and food at its best.

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Stockholders Steakhouse ~ Clam Chowder
Location: 1073 Main Street (Route 18), Weymouth, MA

Eating Out Alone: Pity Party Or Joyful Escape?

Woman alone sitting in restaurant looking at a menu.

When you see this woman sitting at a restaurant alone, looking at a menu, what do you think of her?

Do you pity her and think she has no friends? Do you want to rescue her from solitude? Do you assume she’s waiting for someone‘s arrival? Does she look sad or content?

Do you envy her and think she was able to slip away for a slice of freedom from an otherwise very busy and full life?

Is she an introvert reveling in the pleasure of her own company? There’s a whole Reddit thread on introverts eating alone. And of course, it’s mostly positive. A downside mentioned is trying to spare others feelings when wanting to eat alone.

The one thing I hated about college was that many people would feel bad for me when I would eat alone in the dining hall. Sometimes, you just need some time to be alone with your thoughts. I silently cursed when somebody would say ‘Come sit with us. You don’t have to eat alone.’ Obviously, I appreciate the gesture, but it was always so uncomfortable for me.

Whether an introvert or not, maybe you might consider that à la writer Julie Cameron, she has taken herself out for a weekly Artist Date — where she is wooing her own consciousness to cultivate and sustain her creativity.

Maybe you assume nothing. But many Americans may feel sorry for her.

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When I started The Chowdah Project on this blog, I couldn’t find a free stock photo of chowder and didn’t have a picture of my own. I was on a self-imposed deadline and wanted to get started right away. I decided to go to a nearby restaurant, enjoy some chowder and take some photos.

Since I was going by myself, I brought a book. I was seated at a table next to a man about my age or a bit older, with two young women who appeared to be teenagers or maybe in their early 20s.

The chowder was good and I got the photos that I wanted. As the people at the table next to me were leaving, the man said to me that he hadn’t realized that I was there alone. If he had, he said that he would have asked me to join them. I was at a loss for words (which often happens to me when I’m caught off-guard), so I smiled, said that was okay, but thank you.

It was very kind of him, but like the Reddit thread, it made me wonder what he was thinking. Maybe he had assumed I was meeting someone.

A few weeks ago, a story went viral about three young men at a restaurant inviting an older women eating alone to sit with them. The takeaway from the story was always be kind to people, because you never know what they are going through. She was an elderly widow missing her husband on a day close to what would have been their 60th anniversary. It’s definitely a feel good story and with all the current news, something that we can all appreciate.

This story also reminded me of my solo chowder eating experience and made me want to explore the topic further.

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The circumstances of eating alone may play a part on how society generally sees it.

One article that I read about eating alone was written by a man named Justin who was eating with his girlfriend at a restaurant and saw a man dining on his own. Justin was intrigued and decided to try it himself. His reflections on the experience are quite interesting. One thing he noted was that people are curious and spoke about him.

There was actually one statement I overheard that really caught my attention however. ‘You know, I’d love to do that one day.’ A voice articulated from a few tables behind me. It was the very sentence I had uttered to my girlfriend the time I had seen the suave, champagne-drinking gentleman.

It seems to me that maybe there is a different perception of men eating alone than women. Also, maybe the age of the person matters. Society may view older people as lonely, especially women. Sometimes that may be true, but it seems to be just as likely that it’s not.

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An Eater article says that solo dining in New York City increased 80% between 2014 and 2018. So maybe more people are discovering the thrill of solo dining. It seems to be a taboo that people are shunning.

Writer Elizabeth Gilbert, of Eat Pray Love fame, is all for eating breakfast alone once a week.

One of the simplest acts of happiness you can experience in life is this: Once a week, take yourself out to breakfast, all alone, at a local diner or cafe. Bring a good book. Sit by a sunny window. Read. Marvel at how this changes everything.

Sounds perfect to me. What about you?