Apple Chips

This is one of those posts that’s for a recipe so simple I feel silly sharing it. But, then again, almost everyone I know loves apple chips and yet no one seems to make them so I thought that I would post in hopes of encouraging you to put aside whatever doubts you may have about the process and give it a try. They’re just THAT good. It’s true that this recipe should be saved for either a lazy day of lounging (in my case, always with a book) or a chore day where you will be about the place for a few hours. You’re not going to be baking the apple chips as much as dehydrating them – so yes, those of you with food dehydrators are welcome to feel smug here – and that takes time. Usually patience is something I struggle with in the kitchen, but I loved how the smell of sweet fruit and spice slowly filled every corner of my little apartment and it didn’t seem like much time at all until the chips were ready.

Pink Lady with cinnamon only.

While the weather here in VT has taken a turn for the better – we’ve almost made it a full week without any rain! – the month of July has so far been riddled with problems to the point where I feel nearly as stressed as I did while employed. Well, trouble always does seem to come in groups for me… and I have three cookbooks sprouting tagged recipes just begging to be made. I’m hoping to squeeze a few in before jetting off to the West Coast for a family reunion and escaping my most recent stresses for at least a week. I haven’t seen my dad’s side of the family in years and there’s nothing I want more right now than to chill in a folding chair in Halfway Oregon (called “Halfway” because it is literally halfway to nowhere) and drink Dr. Pepper with my country-clan. New England angst can get a bit too much sometimes, even for me.

Granny Smith with cinnamon and sugar.

 Although I don’t think I could ever go as far as to call myself a “country girl” – hippie, yes, but that’s different as I’m sure both sides would agree – I used to ride and jump horses for a good ten years and feel automatically at home around a farm. My uncle’s cattle ranch was always a fun place to visit and since my family could only afford to fly out every 5 to 8 years or so even being a small place it never lost its appeal. A great BBQ is a given at one of these gatherings and one year we ate giant elk steaks thanks to a relative’s successful hunting expedition. If we were lucky, my uncle would let us ride his grumpy horses. I remember my dad and I were the only ones brave enough to canter them around the large rocky field one year. My cousins also had a trampoline – something my parents insisted was too dangerous for me and my siblings back home (…so they let me jump a thousand-pound animal but I couldn’t bounce on a trampoline? I just realized how nutty that was, haha) – and even as teenagers we milked that rusty thing for all its worth, bouncing on it with the toddlers in the group.

Because of school and my trip to Japan, I haven’t been back West for almost 10 years now. I know the horses aren’t around anymore (bummer) and I hope the trampoline has long since been retired, but yes…a folding chair, ice cold Dr. Pepper, and a hot country breeze would be fantastic right about now. 🙂


Apple Chips

(makes 1 bowl of chips, good for 2 to share or one to scarf)

Ingredients:

2   apples of your choice

8   T   cinnamon

4   T   sugar, if desired

Procedure:

  1. Preheat oven to 225°F. Using a mandolin, if available, or a very sharp knife slice whole apples as thin as possible. I sliced them lengthwise and picked out the seeds and tougher bits of flesh as I went, but – I didn’t think of it til after – if you slice the apples from the bottom up you can get a lovely star shape in the centers of each slice. If you’re one for aesthetics give it a try and see how it goes. 
  2. Spread slices in a single layer on parchment paper-lined baking sheets and sprinkle the tops with cinnamon and sugar (if using). Place the chips in the oven and do some household chores for 1 hour. Here, if your oven’s like mine and has uneven zones, you might want to swap and rotate the baking sheets halfway through.
  3. After 1 hour, remove chips from the oven, flip them all, sprinkle on the remaining desired toppings, and return to the oven for an additional hour or until lightly browned, curled, and crisp.
  4. When ready, remove chips from the oven, and let cool for a few minutes before serving (or they all will seem chewy with the heat).


Beezer’s Notes:

This is my first time ever making apple chips, although I’ve always wanted to since inhaling an over-priced bag of them a few years back. I knew I’d need a mandolin, since my knife skills – and my knives, let’s face it – aren’t the best so I had to wait until I could get my hands on one. After the cooking time the chips were pleasantly curled and, despite my fear that they would still be chewy, all but the largest slices were as crunchy and yummy as the expensive store-bought chips – success! The largest slices could have gone another half hour in the oven, but that’s an easy fix for next time.

As for the winning apple? It’s a split: I was surprised I preferred the Pink Lady chips with just cinnamon, but Brad liked the Granny Smiths with both cinnamon and sugar. There are many more varieties easily available here and I’ll have to keep experimenting. Start with your favorite snack apple and topping and tell me what you think! Oh, and here’s a thought: for a real VT-flavor try dusting the chips with granulated maple sugar…mmmmm…

Overall Enjoyment:   ♥   ♥   ♥   ♥   ♥

Edamole!

I get inspiration for many of my snacks (and I do snack a lot) from our local Co-op. This grocery store/eatery/sushi spot has a very yummy – and usually quite healthy – hot and cold bar where you can find almost anything. Soups, salads, tempeh, delicious sausage breakfast sandwiches…this place turns out scratch food made from local ingredients like you would not believe. I first tried their “edamole” dip when a relative brought some over as a pre-dinner snack. I’ve been a fan of edamame even before I set foot in Japan, so the flavor was already tasty in my book. Add a strong kick of raw garlic and a zing of lemon and you’ve got yourself a winner.

Edamame are sort of the “beer nuts” of Japan. Served as an appetizer or as free munchies at pubs, these steamed and lightly salted pre-mature soybean pods are as common to the Japanese diet as popcorn is to the American. They even have edamame toys! Because I knew I was going to use them in this recipe, I opted for the pre-shelled kind but you can also find the whole pods fresh or frozen at many grocery stores.

While soy products are on the rise in the West, we could stand to eat more of them in my opinion – especially women. The humble soy bean is a powerful fighter against heart disease, high cholesterol, menopausal symptoms, and osteoporosis. According to the Doctor’s Book of Food Remedies, “In Asian countries, where women eat a lot of soy foods, only about 16 percent have a problem with menopausal discomfort. In fact, there isn’t even a word in Japanese for ‘hot flash’.” Much of the soy beans’ power comes from the phytoestrogens it contains (basically a plant version of estrogen), but this also means you shouldn’t eat more than two servings of soy products a day. Very few of us squeeze a single soy product in a week (think tofu, miso soup, soy milk) but for some vegans or soy-lovers: just remember all good things work best in moderation. 🙂

Edamole! (inspired from the Onion River Coop dish)

Ingredients:

1   C   steamed and shelled soy beans (buy them precooked to save time)

1 – 2  cloves of garlic*

1   t   lemon juice

pinch of salt

2   T   EVOO, plus more if needed

* Note: I prefer 2 cloves for this snack, but my family found that too overpowering. The next time I used 1 and everyone enjoyed it. Start with 1 clove (or perhaps even ½ a clove if you’re serving those with sensitive taste-buds) and add more as needed.

Procedure:

  1. Put all ingredients in a food processor and mix away! Add more EVOO if needed to produce a smooth, scoop-able blend. I like mine a bit on the drier side, but this recipe is all about personal preference.
  2. Give the edamole a taste and add more garlic, salt, juice, or oil as desired.
  3. Serve immediately with chips, on sandwiches, or with veggies. Will keep in the fridge for up to 3 days.

Beezer’s Notes:

I warn you: if you’re a garlic lover, this is one addicting snack! Good thing it is also healthy for you, haha. Edamole makes for an easy potluck addition and I guarantee it makes for an equally good conversation-starter. Most folks know about guacamole and nearly as many these days know about edamame, but edamole? You’ve got yourself a unique treat on your hands. I also whip this dish up for my friends who enjoy Mexican Night, but don’t like avocado. I’m sure those with avocado allergies could fully appreciate this alternative as well.

This is just a base recipe, too. I’m sure it could be improved upon with ingredients one would add to traditional guacamole (tomato, peppers, cilantro, corn…) or you could do a fusion-thing and toss in more Asian flavors like wasabi, kimchi, peanuts, or even flakes of white fish! Oooo, yeah…

Overall Enjoyment: ♥   ♥   ♥   ♥

Pear, Bleu Cheese, and Watercress Toast

So here comes my second recipe in which I can’t for the life of me remember where I originally saw it. It was during one of those busy rush weeks where I was able to spare a few minutes flipping through a magazine at home… or maybe at a bookstore, or even possibly the library… and happened to see this combo of pear and bleu cheese on toast with a watercress garnish. The first few thoughts that flashed through my mind at the photograph were something like, “Yum: bleu cheese and pear!…on TOAST?!…eww…and – what the – watercress??” As you can see, while my palate has advanced significantly in the last few years it somehow had yet to realize such a combination of sweet fruit, salty cheese, crusty bread, and peppery greens could be absolutely FABULOUS!

(please excuse the scratches, the previous tenants had apparently never heard of a cutting board)

About a week or so after glancing at the mysterious recipe I still could not get the snack out of my mind and decided to ignore my reservations and give it a go. I went our local version of a Whole Foods store to find a good quality bleu cheese and was nearly overwhelmed with the options! An entire 5 foot-long shelf was dedicated to varieties of bleu cheese alone. Luckily, small notes accompanied most of the varieties explaining their flavor notes and serving suggestions. This small half-moon of Fourme D’Ambert was described as being soft, sweet and “good with pears”. For lack of any other knowledge I decided that was my cheese and took it home.

Once home I looked up a bit more about my cheese of choice and found out that Fourme D’Ambert is one of the oldest French cheeses, having been dated back to the Roman empire! Reportedly,a likeness of the cheese can be found sculpted above the entrance to a medieval chapel in Chaulme” and “legend has it that Fourme D’Ambert cheese was known to the Druids who worshiped in the Monts de Forez in the time of the Gauls“. Suddenly my humble snack had found itself sporting quite the pedigree. It’s always a privilege to try something into which generations of craftsmanship have gone and I thoroughly enjoyed eating my own little bite of history.

Pear, Bleu Cheese, and Watercress Toast

Ingredients:

4 slices of light, crusty bread such as sourdough

3  oz.  mild, soft bleu cheese like Fourme D’Ambert

2   red Anjou pears

fresh watercress

Procedure:

  1. Line thin slices of pear on bread, covering the surface but not overlapping the fruit. Crumble bleu cheese over the top and broil in the oven (or toaster oven) for a minute or two until cheese has melted and toast has turned lightly brown (watch it, it can burn quickly!)
  2. Place a few small sprigs of watercress on top and enjoy immediately.


Beezer’s Notes:

If you are like I was and are having any reservations on this flavor combo, please try it. It is really very tasty and the textures work great together as well: the warm, soft pear and cheese are balanced by the crunch of the toast and the cool fresh watercress. As a bonus, this is a pretty healthy snack, so no guilt trip here filling up on as many slices as you wish! 🙂 Also, if you are far more experienced than I and already know you’ll love this flavor combo, perhaps you’d like the challenge of Judy’s Caramelized Pear and Brie Crostini. As part of her return to the blogosphere, the mastermind behind Domestic Goddess Adventures came up with this beautiful spin on the cheese/pear/toast theme and – coincidentally – posted her invention shortly after I had made my snack. I was happy to see that someone else was inspired in a similar way and felt vindicated in loving my flavors as much as I do, haha. Give either recipe a shot and tell me what you think!

Overall Enjoyment: ♥   ♥   ♥   ♥   ♥



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