Good morning, readers. Today as usual there are challenges to weigh in on: how to doctor up canned soups to make them taste homemade, really good cornbread that has no flour in it, how to cook tri-tip steak (a repeat request) recipes for crackers that contain no wheat, a breakfast bar made with xylitol brown sugar substitute and a carrot cake muffin sampled from a local purveyor; "it was crunchy on top, dense whole-wheat and carrots."
We've come to apple season, and it seems there is a new variety to sample every trip to the store. Marilyn Bice Smith sent this easy pie with such a hearty recommendation; she noted that she used Granny Smith apples instead of a combination of Braeburns and Granny Smith, since she couldn't find the former. She added, "Top with a dollop of ice cream and a good cup of coffee. This recipe will replace all my others. I got it out of my most recent Southern Living magazine. This recipe comes from a lady right here in Chattanooga, Mrs. James Wright. My family thought it was the best they ever tasted."
Easy Skillet Apple Pie
2 pounds Granny Smith apples
2 pounds Braeburn apples
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
3/4 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup butter
1 cup firmly packed light brown sugar
1 (14-ounce) package refrigerated pie crusts
1 egg white
2 tablespoons granulated sugar
Butter pecan ice cream
Heat oven to 350 F. Peel apples and cut into 1/2-inch thick wedges. Toss apples with cinnamon and 3/4 cup granulated sugar.
Melt butter in a 10-inch cast-iron skillet over medium heat; add brown sugar and cook, stirring constantly, 1 or 2 minutes or until sugar is dissolved. Remove from heat. Place 1 pie crust in skillet over brown sugar mixture. Spoon apple mixture over pie crust, and top with remaining pie crust. Whisk egg white until foamy. Brush top of pie crust with egg white; sprinkle with 2 tablespoons granulated sugar. Cut 4 or 5 slits in top for steam to escape.
Bake at 350 F for 1 hour to 1 hour and 10 minutes or until golden brown and bubbly, shielding with foil during last 10 minutes, if necessary to prevent excess browning.
Cool on a wire rack for 30 minutes before serving. Serve with butter-pecan ice cream. Makes 8 to 10 servings.
Sherry Ward continues the soupy conversation with two unusual ones. The first came from Country Living magazine in May 2009.
Asparagus and Rice Soup
4 large garlic cloves, crushed and peeled
1/2 cup olive oil, plus 2 tablespoons
2 cups (1/2-inch-cubed) potatoes (about 2 russet potatoes)
3 cups chopped leeks, 1/4 inch of white and all the green parts
2 bay leaves
Salt, to taste
11/2 pounds fresh asparagus, cut into 1/2-inch chunks, plus more spears for garnish
1 cup Arborio rice
Freshly ground pepper, to taste
1/2 cup or more Parmesan cheese, to taste
Sauté garlic with 1/3 cup olive oil in a heavy-bottomed 6-quart pot over medium heat for 1 to 2 minutes. Add potatoes and cook, stirring occasionally, until crusty but not browned. Add leeks and cook until softened, 3 to 4 minutes. Add 5 quarts water, bay leaves and salt. Stir well, scraping potatoes from pot bottom.
Cover, bring to a boil and add cut asparagus. Lower heat to vigorous simmer and cook, uncovered, about 11/2 hours, stirring occasionally, until reduced by a third.
Add rice, bring to a boil and cook 10 minutes. Remove from heat and season with pepper and more salt to taste. Stir in remaining olive oil and 1/2 cup cheese. If desired, steam remaining asparagus and garnish. Serve hot. Makes 8 servings.
Ms. Ward got this one from Pat Bias and the show "Calling All Cooks." She noted that although the red wine is mentioned as optional, she thinks it makes the soup.
Chicken Cacciatore Soup
1 cup uncooked rotini pasta
3 cans vegetable broth
3 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
1 (30-ounce) jar extra-chunky spaghetti sauce with mushrooms and diced onions
1 medium onion, chopped
1/2 teaspoon garlic puree
1/3 teaspoon Italian seasoning
3 teaspoons red wine
1 (14.5-ounce) can stewed tomatoes, cut up in juice
2 medium zucchini, sliced
Cook rotini according to package directions, substituting 1 can vegetable broth for part of the water. Cook until done (about 10 minutes). Drain and set aside.
Cut chicken breasts into a 1-inch dice. In a large pan, combine spaghetti sauce, 2 cans of vegetable broth, onions, garlic puree, chicken, Italian seasoning, red wine, tomatoes and zucchini. Cook until vegetables are tender and chicken is cooked through (20 to 30 minutes). Add cooked rotini and cook until heated through.
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