Roasted Chicken with Apples, Leeks and Rosemary

How good can a recipe with 5 ingredients be? Turns out – very good. Our friend Debbie sent this one to us, declaring that it was awesome, and since I had all the ingredients in the house, including a half-chicken defrosting in the fridge, I gave it a whirl. The most challenging skill required for this one is mincing rosemary and coring a few apples – if you can handle that, you’re covered.

And as simple as this recipe is, it’s definitely ready for prime-time dinner with friends – the presentation is elegant, and the flavors are the best of fall – mellow, roasted leeks, herb scented chicken with perfectly crisp skin, and soft, sweet apples. Something magical happens to the apples in the roasting. I would never have thought to combine apples and rosemary before, but the combination of the two was incredible – the rosemary added a lovely savory note to the dish.

Apple Rosemary Chicken

from Real Simple
Serves 4

Half a chicken, separated into 2 pieces – breast & leg
4 small crisp apples (such as Empire or Braeburn), quartered
2 leeks, halved crosswise and lengthwise
6 small sprigs fresh rosemary
1 tablespoon olive oil
kosher salt and black pepper

  1. Heat oven to 400° F. On a large rimmed baking sheet (or in a large roasting pan), toss the apples, leeks, rosemary, oil, ½ teaspoon salt, and ¼ teaspoon pepper. Season the chicken with ½ teaspoon each salt and pepper and nestle, skin-side up, among the apples and leeks.
  2. Roast until the chicken is cooked through and the apples and leeks are tender, 40 minutes.

287 calories per serving; 110 cal/fat; 12.7g fat; 80mg cholesterol; 550mg sodium; 330mg potassium; 21g carb; 3g fiber; 12g sugar

Green Salad with Champagne Vinaigrette

I made this salad on Saturday evening to go with the cassoulet, and it was the perfect counterpoint to the comforting stew. When I was in college I worked at a small fancy-ish restaurant, and I learned a LOT about food while working there. The chef took me under his wing because he saw that I was really interested in food, and was always having me taste his new dishes, or would save a special dish or two once in awhile for my dinner after-shift. One of my favorite things to eat, though, was this salad. After running around the restaurant for 6 hours, a crisp salad always hit the spot (and was easier on the wallet, with the staff discount).

The salad combines a crisp vinaigrette on mixed greens, with granny smith apples, candied pecans, a sprinkling of dried cherries and bleu cheese. This salad was especially good because I had some special cheese on hand that I got through my meat CSA, Hook’s Tilston Point. The cheese is so good – it’s a little funkier than your average bleu, a little saltier, and a lot creamier. Seriously, I could eat this cheese with a spoon…and it is disappearing from the fridge all too fast.

The vinaigrette really brings the salad together. Champagne vinegar is my new favorite for salad dressings. It’s tart, light, and not too sour, and brightens any dressing. Making your own salad dressing is so simple – if you haven’t done it, give it a try – you won’t be sorry.

Champagne Vinaigrette
serves: 6
3 Weight Watchers points per serving (dressing only)

2 T champagne vinegar
3 T olive oil
1 1/2 tsp dijon mustard
1 tsp maple syrup
salt & fresh ground pepper to taste

Pour the vinegar, mustard and maple syrup in a small bowl. Whisk to combine. Drizzle olive oil in slowly, whisking constantly, until the dressing comes together and the oil and vinegar blend. Season with salt and ground pepper to taste.

Mixed greens, chopped into bite-size pieces
1 granny smith apple, cored, and sliced thinly
3 T dried cherries
2 oz bleu cheese, crumbled
3 T pecan pieces
1 tsp maple syrup, fresh ground pepper

To make candied pecans: Place pecans in a small, nonstick pan, and toast over medium heat for 3-4 minutes. Drizzle maple syrup over the pecans and stir quickly. Add pepper, stir, and then pour the pecans out onto a bit of parchment paper, and place in the fridge until you’re ready to serve.

Making the salad: Place greens in a large bowl, pour some of the dressing over the greens and toss with tongs. If needed, add more dressing, until the salad is perfectly dressed, but not drenched in dressing. Place greens in your serving bowl, then sprinkle the apples, cherries, bleu cheese and pecans over the top. Serve.

Roasted Cranberry Applesauce

You may begin to sense a theme here…I like nothing more than mixing up a bunch of ingredients and popping it in the oven to roast – that way you can just walk away for a bit, rather than standing at the stove stirring.

This one is a bit of a twist on the roasted applesauce posted over the weekend. I have always loved cranberry sauce at Thanksgiving – mom always makes a wonderfully tart raw cranberry-orange sauce that makes the back of my jaw twinge with tartness…and I still love it. But I also like cranberry sauce that is a bit easier on the palate. Most cranberry recipes have SO much sugar in them. I prefer to avoid the white stuff, so I wanted to make a sauce that was both healthier and tasty.

I used the natural sweetness of apples to take the edge off tart cranberries, a quarter cup of agave nectar for extra sweetness. Add a few spices, a splash of fresh squeezed orange juice, and pop it in the oven. The resulting sauce is a perfect balance of tart-sweet, with a spicy kick. This is the cranberry sauce that I’ll be bringing to Thanksgiving this year.

Apple Cranberry Sauce
Servings 10 (yields 5.5 cups)

1 Weight Watchers Point per half cup

8 small-medium apples, peeled, cored, cubed
3 cups fresh cranberries
Zest from 2 navel oranges
Juice from 2 navel oranges, about 1/2 cup
1/4 cup agave nectar or honey
1 T cinnamon
1 T ground ginger
1/4 tsp allspice
2 cinnamon sticks

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Place cubed apples and cranberries in a 9×13 pan. Grate orange zest over fruit, sprinkle with the cinnamon, ginger and allspice. Drizzle the agave nectar (or honey) over the fruit, and stir it all together. Pour in the orange juice. Place the cinnamon sticks down amongst the apples and juice.
  2. Bake for 30 minutes, stir, bake for another 30 minutes then remove from oven and allow to cool.

Note about Agave Nectar: You should be able to find agave nectar at Whole Foods, right next to the honey. Agave is made from the magical cactus that brings us tequila, and has a consistency like a thin honey, with a lighter flavor. The advantage of using agave is that it has a lower glycemic index, so it won’t give you the blood sugar spike of processed white sugar. It is also 1.25 times sweeter than an equivalent amount of sugar.

Roasted Applesauce

Applesauce was a fixture of our childhood – and I’m not talking Motts. Each fall, mom would make applesauce from scratch, a labor of love that consumed a full day of cooking in the kitchen. I often kept mom company while she canned, though I’m not sure I helped all that much, as everything was boiling and bubbling, and that food mill was a little bit scary. Mom put up dozens of quarts of applesauce for the winter, which my brother and I gobbled up at every dinner through the winter. And I will admit that many a spoonful of applesauce was used as a carrier medium for lima beans, so that I might swallow them whole and not have to taste them.

I haven’t canned my own applesauce yet, but I have come to love my own roasted applesauce. Needing no sugar, and baked with apple cider, this sauce has a concentrated apple flavor that I love. Once you’ve cubed the apples, and pop it in the oven, it needs little attention, and after an hour, you’ve got a meltingly perfect sauce. I like mine chunky, but if you like a smoother sauce, just remove the cinnamon stick, and puree the sauce in the blender or food processor.

Roasted Applesauce
Makes 1 qt sauce

1 Weight Watchers Point per 1/2 cup

10-12 medium sized apples, peeled, cubed into 1″ pieces
1 1/2 cups apple cider
1 T cinnamon
1/2 tsp grated nutmeg
1 cinnamon stick
1 T vanilla (optional)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Peel, core and cube the apples, and put them in a 9×13 pan. Add cinnamon and nutmeg, toss to coat. Pour in apple cider, then add the cinnamon stick underneath the apples.

Bake for 60 minutes, stirring after 30 minutes. Let apples fully cool on the counter – they will reabsorb some of the liquid. Applesauce will keep in the fridge for a couple of weeks, and also freezes very well.

Apple Cinnamon Steel Cut Oats

When the weather turns cold, and I have to dig out the sweaters and scarves for the morning commute, I want something warm and comforting for breakfast when I get to work. Enter oatmeal. I used to eat oatmeal every morning for breakfast in my high school years, but like everyone else, it was out of the little Quaker packets. But now that I’m gluten-free, the packets are out – and I’m actually glad, otherwise I may not have ever discovered the magic of steel cut oats.

Steel-cut oats require some prep time, but they cook up so beautifully – toothy and creamy at the same time – almost risotto-like. Cook a pot of these, and you too, may forsake those little brown packets forever. And you can flavor the oats any way you like. I’ve been enjoying lots of apples and cinnamon in my oats, since the local apples are still around. I cook mine in my fancy rice maker that Gluten-Free Girl talked me into buying, which is now one of my very favorite things in my kitchen. It makes beautiful rice, porridge and slow-cooked meals.

Creamy Apple Cinnamon Steel Cut Oats

Serves 6 (1 serving – 1 1/4 cups)

273 cal per serving

1 1/3 cups steel cut oats
2 cups apple cider (or unsweetened apple juice, or water)
2 cups almond milk (cow, goat, rice, or almond milks all work fine too)
2 apples, peeled, cored and diced
1/2 cup dried fruit (raisins, cherries, currants, diced apricots, cherries)
1 T cinnamon (or pumpkin pie spice, or cake spice)
1 tsp kosher salt
1 T vanilla
2 T maple syrup

If you have a fancy rice maker:

  1. Combine all ingredients above in rice maker bowl. Stir. Set rice maker to the “porridge” setting, and walk away. Stir a couple of times in the 90 minute cook-time, to ensure oats don’t stick to the bowl. When the cycle is done, let the oats rest on the “keep warm cycle” for another 20 minutes, then ladle out into bowls and serve, or tuck away in tupperware containers to save for later.

Stovetop cooking:

  1. Combine all ingredients above in a medium, non-stick pot (minimum 2qt). Cover and bring to a simmer over medium heat. You want to simmer this at a bare simmer, with the oats offering up the occasional bubbly burble, but nowhere near a full boil. Stir every ten minutes or so, after 30 minutes, the oats should be very close, and you’ll need to taste them to see if they are done to your liking. You may need to add more water if they’re getting dried out. If they are just a bit toothy yet, and still a little saucy, turn off the burner, and let them sit for 20 minutes or so, before spooning out to serve or store.

Note: When re-heating in a microwave, you’ll need to add a bit of water to loosen the warmed oats.