Monday, August 27, 2012

Compote de pommes (French Applesauce)

Kristine Woolf Portraits

With the abundance of apples hanging from our apple tree, our family has been anxiously harvesting and savoring this Eden fruit.  I wanted to share with you a delicious recipe we recently enjoyed: Compote de pommes (French Applesauce).

It's suprising how popular this is in France. It's one of the first foods babies get to eat, but it's also a household standby there; a small bowlful topped with a little creme fraiche or mixed with yogurt makes a dessert, as does a few spoonfuls savored with a couple of elegant cookies. 

Compote de pommes can be as simple as cooking cut-up apples with a little water (to keep them from scorching) until they're soft enough to mash with a spoon or as sophisticated as cooking them until they're dark and carmelish (halfway between applesauce & apple butter), then mixing them with salted butter, to make a treat that's a specialty of both Normandy (which is just about synonymous with apples) and Brittany (where salted butter reigns).

If you decide to make the darker compote, you can double the recipe- you'll be cooking the apples for a long time (getting the texture you want can take over 30 minutes), so you might want to maximize your effort by doubling.

2 pounds (6 medium) apples, preferably red apples like Empire, Cortland or McIntosh
About 1/4 cup water
1 Tablespoon brown sugar
1/4 Tablespoon organic sugar (optional)
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
2 Tablespoons salted butter, for thicker compote (optional)

Peel & core the apples.  Cut the fruit into chunks and toss them into a medium saucepan- one with a heavy bottom works best here.

Stir in 1/4 cup of water and brown sugar & put the pan over medium-low heat.  Cook, stirring frequently- stay close, because the juices can bubble up- until the apples are soft enough to be crushed with the back of a spoon.  If the pan looks too dry, add a little more water as you cook & stir.  Count on about 15-20 minutes to get to the mashable stage.

If you want regular compote de pommes, remove the pan from the heat and run the compote through a food mill.  If you're without a mill, push it through a strainer- or don't: chunky applesauce is great.  Should the applesauce seem too thin for you, pour it back into the pan and cook, stiring constantly, for a few minutes, until the sauce is thick enough to mound on a spoon.

Scoop applesauce into a bowl.  If you're making the regular compote, taste  it now and if you 'd like it sweeter, add some of the sugar.  Now is also the time to add the vanilla, if you want it.

If you want to cook the compote down so that it's thicker and jammier, it's best to strain it first- but don't add the sugar or vanilla (yet).  Return the compote to the saucepan, put the pan over the lowest possible heat, and cook, stiring and scraping the bottom of the pan often, until you have a thick, spreadable mixture. (This can take more than 30 minutes for a single recipe and more than an hour if you've doubled it, so be patient it's worth it!) Let cool slightly, taste for sweetness.  Usually cooked down like this, it will probably be sweet enough.  Add the vanilla, if you. like.  Stir in the butter if you are using it. Whichever compote you've made, press a piece of plastic wrap against the surface & chill.

               from:  "Around My French Table" by Dorie Greenspan

Bon appettit!  May you and your family slowly savor the delicious fragrance and flavors of Autumn.

In Wonder at His Beautiful World,

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Mountain Rose Herbs Giveaway!

From My Casa to Yours......

Earlier this summer, Mountain Rose Herbs were incredibly gracious in offering my family & I the opportunity to try some of their scrumptous products from their Epicurean Organics line and share our experience.

It has been an honor and lots of fun to gather my children in the kitchen to experiment with recipes including the seasonings & oils offered by Mountains Rose Herbs.  This week, I would like to share our experience with the Epicurean Organic's : Mexican Seasoning!

The Mexican Seasoning is a wonderful blend of organic Cilantro, Onion, Red Pepper & other organic herbs & spices.

Our family loves Mexican food and choosing a recipe (for we love so many) was a challenge but finally decided on the beloved, Tamale Pie.

Tamale Pie

1 lb. ground beef
1 (4 oz.) can diced green chili's
1 (14 oz.) can diced tomatoes
1 cup chunky salsa
1/2 c. sliced black olives (drained)
2 teaspoons Mexican Seasoning
1 teaspoon salt
1 c. shredded Mexican cheese blend

Corn Bread batter:
1 c. flour
1 c. cornmeal
2-4 Tablespoons organic sugar or honey
1 Tablespoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 beaten eggs
1 C. milk
1/4 oil (we use coconut)

Preheat oven 350 degrees.

In a large pot, cook & stir ground beef  till done & drain off fat.  Stir in tomatoes, salsa, green chilies, salt, mexican seasoning & olives until thoroughly combined.  Spread mixture into dish (deep dish pie pan, cast-iron skillet or rectangular casserole glass dish.

Make corn bread batter and cover over top of meat mixture.

Bake for 40-45 minutes or until bubbly & corn bread is lightly golden.
Top with cheese & bake another 5 minutes or so (until cheese melts).

Delicioso!!  We really noticed the difference the seasoning added, as it seemed to create a depth & complete the mexican flavors in the pie that we had not previously experienced; when we used just a dash of chili pepper here and cumin there.

Mountain Rose Herbs Mexican Seasoning Giveaway!!

Now it's your turn to enter my giveaway for a free bottle of Mexican Seasoning from Mountain Rose Herb's Epicurean line.  All you have to do is leave a comment or e-mail me before Aug. 25th for your chance to win!

Blessings from my casa to yours,


Sunday, August 12, 2012


                            Ideas For A Warmhearted Welcome

*  What aspect of your home or apartment do you enjoy most: the view, the quiet, the yard?  Let that aspect be the focus of you hospitality.  Share the aspects of your life that bring you the most pleasure.

Have a little bit of fun with the idea of giving guests and family the royal treatment.  Make a little crown out of gold paper and carry it in along with a breakfast-in-bed tray, or use it to designate a guest of honor at a family meal.

Piles of pillows are a relatively inexpensive way to add a luxuriously hospitable touch to any room.  It's a good idea to provide several different kinds of pillows- firm, soft and at least one hypoallergenic-so that guests can sleep on one that feels familiar.  Big, square European pillows are nice for reading in bed.

*  One of the big hits in our guest bathroom is a big, fluffy terry robe hanging on the back of the bathroom door.  If you love that touch in fancy hotels, why not invest in it for your own home?

Save the complimentary bottles of shampoo and lotion, the little sewing kits, and shoeshine cloths you receive in nice hotels (or buy from the "travel-size" rack in a drugstore).  Include a toothbrush and toothpaste.  Tuck into a little basket and tie with a ribbon for you guest bathroom.

*  Other extras that will be appreciated: a travel iron and small ironing board, a hair dryer, a lint brush, notepaper and pens, literature on local attractions.  Why not treat you guests to a disposable camera, too?

*  Basics can make a big difference to the experience of hospitality.  Is there plenty of toilet paper in the bathroom your guests will use?  Are there extra towels?

*  Try putting an overnight guest in your child's room for the night and give your child the "privilege" of camping out in the living room.  The result: an adventure for your child and welcome privacy for your guest.

*  If your guest is an old friend, pull out a picture of the two of you together, tuck it into an antique frame, and place it on the bedside table.

*  Even if guests elect to stay in a nearby motel, you can extend hospitality with a few special touches.  Have a floral arrangement sent to their room.  Or leave a basket of homemade muffins at the desk for their arrival.

*  It's a thoughtful gesture to ask in advance about your guests' needs: allergies, physical limitations, or other special circumstances.  The most beautiful home can lose its welcoming ambience if vegetarians are served meat, allergic people are obligated to sleep with the cat, or guest with arthritic needs must climb stairs three times a day.

*  When other people extend hospitality to you, don't forget the thank them!  A heartfelt not or a little gift will let your hosts know how much you appreciate them.  And a return invitation should be not an obligation, but a joy.

                                    from Emilie Barnes' "Welcome Home"

                                     "But every house where Love abides
                                           And Friendship is a guest,
                                Is surely home, and home, sweet home;
                                              For there the heart can rest."
                                                                  ~ Henry Van Dyke