Gourmet Veggie Mama

Weekend projects

I always feel like I fall a little behind on the weekends. With the hubby home, and between wanting to spend time with him and Nora, my “me” time at yoga on Saturdays and my long run on Sundays, I feel like I have very little time left to get stuff done. I usually compensate by going into cleaning overdrive when the hubby takes Nora to swim lessons for an hour on Sunday afternoon.

However, tomorrow we are going to meet friends in Tomales Bay for oysters, which is basically an all-day trip. (And yep, I’ll be indulging in oysters, based on my “occasional fish” policy and the fact that oysters are almost indistinguishable from plants.) In between baby wrangling and praying that Nora takes a halfway decent nap or two in the car, I won’t have time for anything more than ordering pizza and collapsing on the couch when we get home, so today was my only shot at getting something done this weekend.

In any case, I kicked it into high (or at least medium) gear today and got a couple of things done. First, I made crock pot applesauce with apples from our CSA that needed to be put to good use, plus a handful of cranberries thrown in for extra fall goodness (even though it was in the 80s today, hmpf). Second, I make a big batch of chocolate chip cookies, baked some to eat for dessert tonight and put some in the freezer for a rainy day, per one of my favorite lazy tricks.

I got the idea for crockpot applesauce from my lovely and talented friend Emma, who showed up at our Labor Day barbecue with a jar of homemade organic applesauce in hand. I fed some of it to Nora for dinner than evening, and she went wild for it — this from a girl who has never eaten store-bought applesauce by itself (although she is okay with it mixed into other things).

The applesauce smelled wonderful bubbling away in the crock pot all day, and it was super-duper easy to put together. In fact, I think I may try using the crock pot for some other “baked” fruits in the future, like pears, since it’s just way less hassle to throw everything in and forget about it for eight hours.

All Hail the Crock Pot!

Although it’s supposed to be for Nora, I snuck a taste before I stuck it in the freezer, and it’s great!

Crock Pot Applesauce with Cranberries

8 apples, peeled and cored
a good handful of cranberries*
1/2 cup water

Throw all the ingredients in the crock pot, cover and cook on low for 8 hours. Give it a good stir and you’re done. That’s it!

* I had some freeze-dried cranberries around, since Nora has been eating them lately (although the flavor is way too tart for me, she seems to like them), so I just rehydrated them for a couple of minutes in a little water and threw them in, but you could use fresh or regular dried cranberries just as easily.

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I also had a sweet tooth today, and the hubby has been nudging me to bake some chocolate chip cookies for a while, so I decided to give in to both of them and make a batch. I was going to make it a double and freeze tons of them for future use, but I didn’t have enough butter, boo!

In any case, they were fantastic, especially when served with a scoop of Blue Bell Homemade Vanilla ice cream (a couple of gallons of which were my birthday present from my awesome mom this year, shipped straight from the factory in Brenham, Texas).

A la mode? Yes, please.

I have experimented with quite a number of chocolate chip cookie recipes, and this is my favorite (aside, perhaps, from the more time-consuming New York Times recipe). My secret weapon is double-strength vanilla extract from Penzey’s.

Chocolate Chip Cookies 
Adapted from a Cook’s Illustrated recipe*

2 cups plus 2 Tbsp all-purpose flour
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp baking soda
12 Tbsp (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, melted and cooled slightly
1 cup brown sugar, packed
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1 egg, plus one egg yolk
2 tsp vanilla extract
1 1/2 cups semi-sweet chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 325°. Line baking sheets (or just one, if you are freezing some for later) with parchment paper.

Sift the flour, salt and baking soda together in a large bowl and set aside. Mix the butter and both sugars together in an electric mixer until well blended. Add the egg, yolk and vanilla and mix well. Gradually add the dry ingredients and mix until just combined. Stir in the chocolate chips.

Using an ice cream scoop or large spoon, scoop out large-ish sized dough balls and plop onto the baking sheets (the recipe makes 18 or so, if you sample a little dough here and there, like I tend to do!). Bake for 15-18 minutes. Remove from the oven, cool slightly, and enjoy warm!

* Kori had an excellent point the other day — Cook’s Illustrated recipes are often a little fussy. I tend to use them as a guideline and improvise some here and there. Case in point? The original recipe calls for scooping out the dough, pulling it in half and re-forming it into a perfectly jagged little dough ball that will bake up to be picture-perfect. Do I need that kind of perfection? Not as much as I need the extra few minutes it will save me to skip that step. And they still taste great!

The best part, though? Is this:

Plenty more for later!

Now if only I can just find time to bake and purée the Asian pears we just picked from our tree, finish reupholstering our dining chairs, finally get on top of Mt. Washmore and, oh yeah, sort through and put away, sell or donate all those outgrown baby and maternity clothes, I’ll be all caught up! Those will have to be projects for another weekend, though.

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4 Thoughts on “Weekend projects

  1. I love that your mom shipped Blue Bell to you!

  2. Pingback: Road trip! | Gourmet Veggie Mama

  3. Pingback: Best Ever Baked Ziti | Gourmet Veggie Mama

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