The Kitchen Sink

For the love of food, life and everything in between.

Month: September, 2012

Caramel Dipped Apples

Live in each season as it passes; breathe the air, drink the drink, taste the fruit,

and resign yourself to the influence of the earth.

Henry David Thoreau

I can clearly recall the day my fellow seven interns and I sat around the rectangular table at our meet and greet. Our director assured us we would grow very close by the time graduation day came in June. I had to wonder though, would someone like myself who has never been great at making new friends be a part of this close-knit group she was anticipating? Indeed, I surprised myself. Without the support of these girls, I would imagine that my year might have been more of a struggle and certainly not as fun.

This weekend I was fortunate enough to play host to several of these girls as part of a celebration on our new credential as registered dietitians. The days of studying under the July sun are now a distant memory and talks of new jobs and life without the internship fuel our conversation. I decided to share one of my new favorite places with them.

There is something to be said about being in an apple orchard. Red delicious apples contrast against dark green leaves. The pattern the tractor makes in the muddy path. The mysterious way the tree branches twist and turn making their way towards the sky. Why they call those apples on the ground wind falls. The air’s crispness that seems to find its way underneath woolen sweaters. It’s really a treat to visit such a place and have a bounty of Jonathan, Empire, Macoun, and Cortland varieties to bring home for baking and eating. I had to stop my mind from entertaining the apple recipes that were coming into my head, I reminded myself to be in the moment.

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Once home I surrendered to the ideas of apple crisp, apple pie, crumb cake and tarts. Instead, I decided to try my hand at something a bit more simple. Caramel dipped apples.

Be it a bit of a cliche, but caramel apples was something I had only experienced once before in life. I was never much of a fair goer and I never paid interest to the caramel apples that sat atop display cases along the New Jersey shore boardwalk.

I am the daughter of a candy shop queen, well okay, maybe I am exaggerating a bit. But my mother did spend several years of her youth working at the Berkeley Sweet Shop along the boardwalk. Nights were spent behind rows of chocolate candies, among the whirling and twirling of cotton candy, immersed in the oh-so-familiar scent of freshly made salt water taffy and of course, there were caramel dipped apples too, with peanuts she informed me.

I can’t help but think I inherited her skill when I spun the apples in the bath of warm caramel out of instinct. Okay so they didn’t come out picture perfect, or maybe they did but perfect wasn’t really what I was after, for once.

This was about a new tradition, this was about making candy, something I had never tried before. This was about enjoying the fruits of our labor. As we bid farewell to another September come and gone, I am thankful for friends and fresh apples.

Caramel Dipped Apples

Makes about 8

1 cup white sugar

1/2 cup packed brown sugar

1/2 cup dark corn syrup

1/2 cup evaporated milk

1 cup heavy whipping cream

1/2 cup butter

3/4 tsp vanilla extract

In a large pot, combine sugar, brown sugar, corn syrup, evaporated milk, whipping cream, and butter. Monitor the heat of the mixture with a candy thermometer while stirring. When the thermometer reaches 250 F remove pot from heat. Stir in vanilla.

Wash and dry your apples making sure they are very dry or the caramel will not stick. Insert popsicle sticks into apples. Twirl apples in caramel to evenly coat them. Roll in peanuts or topping of your choice, or leave them plain. Set on a wax paper lined baking sheet and place in refrigerator.

 

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Chocolate Oatmeal

I know what you’re probably thinking. What kind of a dietitian eats chocolate for breakfast?

This quirky combo warmed me right up as the raw air scattered leaves about the deck and the rain spat at the windows. And yes, chocolate was involved. About 8 dark chocolate chips to be exact. I think once in a while that’s perfectly okay.

Yesterday it occurred to me that I hadn’t posted about breakfast yet. While I do set an alarm if I need to be somewhere in the morning, it is usually the alarm clock called my appetite that wakes me up. I could not live without breakfast. Really and truly, I’d be a pretty unhappy camper without my morning meal. This morning’s breakfast was fairly simple to make and has kept me full and satisfied right up through the noon hour. I bet the fiber from the old fashioned oats, almonds and dried cranberries had something to do with that. Or perhaps it was the protein from the low fat milk and almonds. I am going to go ahead and say yes, they all had a role in what makes this sweet bowl of goodness good for your appetite too.

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In all reality the foundation for this breakfast isn’t anything new for me. In fact, I buy old fashioned oats in the largest canister available because I like to mix them with peanut butter and blueberries or ricotta cheese with some strawberry jam or even just milk and some nuts! These oats are pretty versatile.

Oats: A grain, which in England is generally given to horses, but in Scotland appears to support the people.

Samuel Johnson

This morning I was feeling like a little chocolate and by pairing it with some other good-for-you ingredients I wasn’t wishing I had another bowl to chow down because I was perfectly satisfied. I also wasn’t feeling like I had just eaten a candy bar for breakfast, which would have given me a stomach ache.

Chocolate Oatmeal

Serves 1

2/3 cup of old fashioned oats

1/3 cup skim milk

a small hand full of sliced almonds, dark chocolate chips and dried cranberries

Microwave the oats and milk on high for about 2 minutes. Mix in the almonds, chocolate chips and dried cranberries. That’s really all there is to it!

Savory Sweet Potato Fries

As I walked along the row of food vendors at the Life is Good Festival this past weekend  I was amazed at the snaking line coming from one vendor in particular. The line seem to go on forever creating a wall of humans nearly impossible to miss to those wandering the venue grounds. I couldn’t imagine what they were cooking up behind that counter. What could possibly be worth standing in that line for I wondered. Patience isn’t my strongest trait so I certainly couldn’t imagine why someone would waste their time in such a line. The sun was setting and the glare was making it so I couldn’t quite make out the sign. But then I caught it, they were selling french fries. All these people were waiting around for french fries? In defense, it was the only booth selling fries but really, that’s what everyone seemed to be after. Except for myself.

 

In addition to being a hummus snob, I am also a bit of a snob when it comes to french fries. Ever since I began making my own fries in the oven about four years ago I have set the bar quite high. Run of the mill, deep fat fried french fries no longer appeal to me. Or maybe, they never appealed to me and thats why I turned to my own oven in the first place.

 Once I had mastered the slicing and baking of a russet potato (which didn’t take all that long) I moved on to something sweeter, sort of. I’ve always had a bit of an issue with contradictory foods like sour cream and more importantly sweet potatoes. Cream is sweet so why the sour? Potatoes are savory so why the sweet? I didn’t like the mix, it just didn’t work for me. Thankfully I have since changed my attitude. I would also like to dismiss the notion that sweet potatoes only place is on the Thanksgiving table.

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I was going to turn up the savory factor on sweet potatoes once and for all. With pepper, paprika, and garlic powder. I suppose you could bring ketchup into the picture if you wanted to but I think these little guys are perfect all on their own. I keep the skins on for some added fiber and by baking I’ve eliminated the fat factor. Just some lightly seasoned baked fries packed full of vitamins included A and C and beta-carotene too. What’s not to love?

Sweet Potato Fries

Serves 3 to 4

2-3 large sweet potatoes

olive oil to coat

paprika

pepper

garlic powder

salt & ketchup optional

Preheat oven to 425 F. Slice sweet potatoes into thin strips and toss with just enough olive oil to lightly coat. Place fries on parchment lined baking sheets. Sprinkle with paprika, pepper and garlic powder. Bake for 20-30 minutes depending on the thickness of the strips, until crispy. Turning once about halfway through.

Beer and Pretzels

I’ve hit a block. A writer’s block that is. I’ve always enjoyed writing and though I never thought I was talented enough to make anything of it, I do cherish the pleasure I get from the act of writing. From list making to poems, from essays to blog posts. In notebooks and on computer screens, on scrap paper, and in the margins of a book.

 Today is one of those days where the pen hangs over paper, my fingers seem to sit idle on the key board. Therefore, I will keep this short and sweet, and I do mean sweet. Beer and pretzels to be precise.

 Lately I’ve been spending a great deal of time in the kitchen. Like writing, I cultivate happiness and satisfaction from creating a shopping list, going to the store, mixing, whisking and plating. It’s not such a surprise then that I would opt for a home cooked meal over eating out most of the time.

 But this isn’t even really about dinner at my favorite restaurant. This is about a sweet little treat that I enjoy most in a wool sweater and my brown leather boots. When it’s forty degrees out I seem to have the perfect excuse to do so.

Shipyard Pumpkin Head beer on tap in a cinnamon sugar rimmed glass.

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With a freshly made cinnamon sugar pretzel and house made cream cheese frosting. No health benefits to be found in this pairing, only extreme sweetness. Everyone has their times of indulgence and this is one of mine. It’s fresh, it supports a local business and for me, it is just one of the many signs that it’s fall in New England.

Life is Good.

Do you feel that life is truly good?

These days I have been working extra hard to try and feel like life is really good. So I was very excited to find out that I would be going to the Life is Good Festival in Canton, MA! I am here to report that it was a great time! Really and truly a happiness festival powered by optimism, local food vendors and some awesome music. The best part was that 100% of the proceeds went to the Life is Good Playmakers foundation which helps kids in need. By Sunday night they had raised over 1 million dollars, how cool is that?

Here I am getting in touch with my creative youthful side with some spin art I made!

I was inspired to join in on the crafting after I saw this sign. I was also wondering what the orange thing behind the sign was. I just had to wait till it got dark to find out.

They were lights!

The crowds were great and all the volunteers were cheerful and helpful. You couldn’t have escaped the happiness if you tried. Oh, and the FAQ informed visitors that bad attitudes would not be admitted.

There was even a great view.

Some of the music guests included Sara Bareillis.

 

 Eric Hutchinson.

 Dave Matthews with Tim Reynolds.

If you know me at all you know I am a long standing Dave Matthews fan and I also love Sara Bareillis. But this event was about a whole lot more than just some good tunes. We also enjoyed locally raised beef burgers and freshly made crepes with Nutella and strawberries. I would have pictures except we devoured them too quickly!

I did manage to snap a photo of my Pina Colada, what a treat! I can’t even tell you the last time I had a fancy drink like this but I thought a fun drink was fitting for such a fun day.

 

There were even some chickens! I thought I’d pay them a visit in an attempt to continue to work on my relationship with chickens. (See previous posts for more of an explanation on that.)

 

In the spirit of the chickens I made some chicken pot pie last night! It was a busy day for me so I used pre-made Pillsbury Pie Crust. It was quick, easy, and with a few changes it wasn’t too unhealthy either!

Like I said, it was easy. Two pots and one pie dish.

 Here is the chicken and veggies. Normally I would object to boiling vegetables as some of the vitamins and minerals can leech out into the water. I also don’t like the sound of boiled chicken. I was in a bit of a hurry this time so I just did as the recipe said to do but next time I plan to steam the veggies and cook the chicken in a pan with just a little bit of olive oil.

Here’s the sauce which was made with unsalted butter, skim milk, low sodium chicken broth, onion and a little bit of flour.

Thanks to Pillsbury it looks pretty darn picture perfect don’t you think?

 This recipe said it served eight but I wouldn’t take that seriously, it was just that good.  Next time, when I have a bit more time, I plan to use my new friend the food processor to make my own crust!

Chicken Pot Pie

Serves 8 (not really)

 1 box Pillsbury Pie Crusts (set of 2)

1/2 cup chopped celery

1 cup frozen green peas

1 cup sliced carrots

About 1 pound boneless, skinless chicken breast – cubed

1/3 cup all-purpose flour

1/3 cup unsalted butter

1 3/4 cup low sodium chicken broth

1/3 cup chopped onion

2/3 cup skim milk

1/2 tsp salt

1/4 tsp pepper

1/4 tsp celery seed

Preheat oven to 425 F. In a saucepan, combine peas, celery, carrots and chicken. Add water to cover and boil for 15 minutes. Remove from heat.

In a saucepan over medium heat cook onions and butter until onions are soft. Stir in flour, salt, pepper and celery seed. Slowly pour in chicken broth and milk. Simmer over medium-low heat until thick.

Place chicken mixture in bottom pie crust lined pie dish. Pour cream sauce over mixture. Cover with top crust, seal edges, remove any excess crust. Make several slits in the top crust and bake for 25-30 minutes or until crust browns on top. Let cool 10 minutes before serving.

Grilled Zucchini Hummus

Today is a very exciting day. Thanks to some serious handiwork (not my own) I got to use my food processor for the very first time! You see, a friend of mine was so very generous to give me his food processor that he seemingly had no use for. My excitement grew as I thought of the hundreds of recipes I could finally make with this new tool. I began to wonder why anyone would not appreciate the greatness of this food processor but it was okay by me because now it was mine all mine. Soon after I gathered all the ingredients to make some fresh pesto as the basil on our deck was taking over quickly. It had never occurred to me that this food processor might not work. So with basil and garlic and pine nuts and all the goodness ready to blend away I turned it on. Nothing happened. Panic set in. How would I have pasta with pesto for dinner with no pesto. I hauled out the blender and made do. It took a lot of spatula work and patience but I did successfully pull off the pesto. But today, the food processor is back in action!! Can you feel my excitement?

I have to admit, I am a bit of a hummus snob. I love hummus for many reasons including its ability to replace mayonnaise on sandwiches and how nicely it pairs with some fresh cut up veggies. The local makes some of the best garlic hummus I have ever had. There is also a great Lebanese restaurant called The Pita Spot that serves up some pretty heavenly hummus. But the day may come when I cannot be so fortunate to have these places at my fingertips and I wanted a back up plan. Do you remember the AP food critic from my zucchini muffin post? Although he discouraged me a bit he also shared a fantastic recipe that I could now try out my food processor on! Luckily enough, I had another zucchini in the chiller from earlier this week so when my dad had the grill going Friday night I brushed it with some olive oil snuck it on the grill.

I then wrapped it up and stuck in back into the fridge until I could find some tahini (sesame seed butter), a necessary ingredient in any hummus recipe. This morning I set out in search of the tahini.

I really shouldn’t make it sound like such an adventure as it only took five minutes at the grocery store to get the tahini into my basket.

 Here’s my food processor in action!

I chose to serve mine with blue corn chips and some veggies.

Now I recommend that you make like Simon and enjoy some of this beautiful fall weather we are having today!

Grilled Zucchini Hummus

Makes about 2 1/2 cups

1 large zucchini (about 1 pound)

1/4 cup tahini

3 to 4 cloves garlic

1 TBSP lemon juics

1 tsp cumin

1 tsp paprika

1/2 tsp salt

Trim the ends of the zucchini and slice it in half lengthwise and lightly brush with olive oil. Place on grill for 5 to 10 minutes or just until lightly browned. When zucchini has cooled enough to handle, place it in the food processor. Add the tahini, garlic, salt, cumin, lemon juice, and paprika. Process until very smooth, about 1 minute. The hummus can be served immediately, or chilled. The hummus will thicken slightly as it chills.

Twice Baked Butternut Squash

Back in June I read an article in Good Housekeeping magazine (my favorite beach read) about a woman who started a diary about her dinners. She would chronicle the inspiration for the dish, the ingredients, the preparation, maybe even a memory from that dinner. I loved this idea. Putting a home cooked meal on the table every night can be time consuming and tedious and when your family scarfs the whole thing down in ten minutes you barely feel like you’ve accomplished much. By making a memory book of dinners it allows you to reflect back on the process, and maybe even enjoy the process a little bit more because once the food is gone you still have something tangible from it. In case you haven’t noticed I’ve taken this article as an inspiration to create my own little dinner diary here.

I never used to put much effort into dinner. I felt that I lacked the time and the creativity to produce worthy meals. Time stopped being an issue a few months ago because I began a period in my life where I had a lot of time. Being unemployed, without any studying to do, and without any children I had a whole lot of time to do whatever I wanted in addition to looking for jobs. It took a few days of being bored to determine how I wanted to spend this time. I finally had a clear head and I used this opportunity to open myself up to inspiration.

Take this pile of freshly picked butternut squash for example. In the past I may not have even noticed it. Or maybe I would have stopped and thought gosh, that would make a nice ingredient in some recipe, some recipe that I wouldn’t cook because I didn’t know how or have the time for. But then I started following a rule that I have always liked but didn’t practice often enough. People will make time for the things that they feel are worth making time for. I decided to make the time to plan, cook and chronicle my adventures in the kitchen.

I have never had luck with twice baked potatoes. The recipe always sounds delicious and savory but I’d had bad luck and a lack of patience when it came to scooping out the insides to make the whipped filling to put back into the skins. I picked out three butternut squash and decided I would try to twice bake them instead of potatoes. Another bonus to butternut squash, their bright orange pulp just screams “I’m packed with vitamins and minerals!”

After halving the squash I laid them in a 1/4 inch bath of water to roast away for 45 minutes. The idea of twice baked should have given it away that this would be a bit of a time consuming project and I also failed to account for the time that the squash would have to cool enough to be handled. Dinner may have been pushed back by about a half hour but it was totally worth it.

After the squash spent some time on our deck cooling down I scooped out the inside leaving enough so that the shell didn’t lose its shape. Luckily you only use three of the six halves for the second baking so we had a little wiggle room when I forged a hole in one of the shells. Using a hand held mixer I whipped the squash, nonfat sour cream, chives, paprika, salt and pepper together to spoon it back into three of the shells. The addition of some whole wheat bread crumbs on top made for a bit of a crunch and they went back into the oven for 30 more minutes of baking.

 We paired our squash with some marinated, grilled steak and a salad.

So yes, this meal did take some time to prepare and cook but I enjoyed it the whole way through from inspiration at the farm to finishing every last bite on my plate. I look forward to the day when I am faced with the challenge of working full time and also placing healthy, delicious dinners on the table most nights of the week. I think this time that I have now to practice is certainly a blessing.

Twice Baked Butternut Squash

 Serves about 6

 3 butternut squash

1/4 cup plus 1/2 TBSP nonfat sour cream

6 chives, cut into 1/8 inch pieces

2 tsp paprika

2-3 TBSP whole wheat bread crumbs

salt and pepper to taste

Preheat oven to 450 F. Halve the squash and place in 1/4 inch of water in a roasting dish. Cover pan with aluminum foil and roast for 35-45 minutes until squash is easily pierced with a fork. Remove from oven and turn temperature down to 425 F. Allow squash to cool enough to be handled.

Scoop out pulp leaving about 1/4 inch in shell so it maintains its shape. Place in large bowl with sour cream, chives, paprika, salt and pepper and mix until smooth with a hand held mixer or potato masher. Spoon filling back into three of the six shell halves and sprinkle with whole wheat bread crumbs. Roast, uncovered, for another 20-30 minutes. Serve immediately.

Slow Cooker Pork and Applesauce

Every year the temperature would drop, the clang of my mom dragging the crock pot out from the closet would resonate through the house and I would cringe. I don’t know why I was so opposed to the crock pot, but I was. Lately I’ve been thinking about this piece of kitchen equipment and I decided this was the year I would try and make amends with it. It seems to be working for me and chicken so why not? Off the bat I could think of two reasons why this may be the start to a new friendship. I  liked the idea that I could start cooking in the morning and then go about my day without having to worry about it. This was not something I ever thought about as a kid and maybe this is why I could not appreciate the crock pot earlier in life. I also liked that I didn’t have to watch the meat cook. This means I could incorporate more chicken into my life (something I’ve been working on).

I wasn’t feeling chicken though so I decided on boneless pork chops. I usually plan the dinner menu in the morning and in this case it wasn’t really working to my advantage. Many slow cooker recipes are just that – slow to cook, go figure. It was 9 o’clock in the morning and I had to get the ball rolling. I used the time constraint of about 7 hours of cooking time and pork to fuel my recipe search. I found a simple enough recipe and gave it a try.

I sliced up some yellow onion and then 5 apples.

I then added a mixture of honey, dijon mustard, salt and pepper.

It was only 10:30 AM but we were on our way to some slow cooked goodness – or so I thought.

I knew we would need a starchy side so I opted for some wild rice.

There you have it! After digging in I realized it was missing something…

Dried cranberries brought some sweetness to the rice.

Well, I have to be honest, this dish wasn’t my favorite. The apples were very soft which I suppose was the point because they tasted a whole lot like applesauce and the pork was tender which I would hope it would be sitting in all that apple cider goodness for most of the day. But then the rice was soft too. I was craving crunch but it just wasn’t there. Why do I share this with you even when I’m not too jazzed about it? Because it was a learning experience and it all got eaten – which means it couldn’t have been too terrible. This has also inspired me to make pork and apples at another time down the road and I will do at least three things differently. I will serve it with something other than rice. Don’t get me wrong, the rice was delicious especially with the dried cranberries but it didn’t really work in this dish. In my next try I will use Granny Smith apples which are sure to be more tart than the Courtlands I used here. Lastly, I will not use the crock pot.

I still like the idea of the crock pot and we will meet in the kitchen again sometime soon but I will do a bit more research on my recipe choice and hope it is a bit more worthy of sharing! That being said, tonight we are grilling and I’m pretty excited about it!

Zucchini Chocolate Chip Muffins

When I was younger and someone would ask me what my favorite season was I would answer summer, without even a second of doubt. I loved summer for so many reasons.

The first step over the dune.

The last glimpse of the sun setting over the bay.

Watching buoys bob in the waves.

The way the seagulls hunch in the wind.

How the air smells when you water the tomatoes.

The sound of the engine heading out.

Getting the best seat.

Lobster…everything!

Blueberries ready for the picking.

I could go on and on.Summer will always hold a special place in my heart but I have to admit I am a true four seasons girl now that I’ve grown up. I can’t imagine what I would do if I lived somewhere that I could not fully experience all four of the seasons. With each season’s end I feel this excitement for the change, kind of like a clean slate. New activities but also a chance once more to carry out old traditions. The autumnal equinox is on Saturday and I must bid farewell to summer. In honor of summer’s end I chose to make zucchini chocolate chip muffins, a favorite summer sweet treat of mine.

I read an article in our local paper last night. The author, an AP food critic, expressed his concerns about how the world does not need one more zucchini muffin recipe. Well AP food critic, I hate to tell you but the pile of zucchini from one of our local farms looked too darn good to pass up and I am going to have to have to subject the audience to one more zucchini muffin recipe.

Zucchini is one the the great produce of summertime. It has its place in summer salads, on steak kabobs and in my favorite muffin recipe. Another reason I really like zucchini? It matches my apron!

I chose to add some dark chocolate chips today but walnuts or raisins or just about any dried fruit or nut would probably make for a nice addition if chocolate isn’t your thing.

Just like summer, I think this recipe offers up some great colors.

Farewell summer! Hello autumn!

Please note my inspiration for a farewell to summer comes from my favorite coffee table book, Reasons to be Happy at the Beach by Sandy Gingras.

Zucchini Chocolate Chip Muffins

Makes about 12

1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour

3/4 cup sugar

1 tsp baking soda

1/2 tsp salt

1/2 cup vegetable or canola oil

1/4 cup skim milk

1 TBSP lemon juice

1 tsp vanilla extract

1 cup shredded zucchini

1/2 cup chocolate chips, dried fruit or nuts

Preheat oven to 350 F. Line muffin pan with papers liners. Combine flour, sugar, baking soda, cinnamon and salt in a bowl. Mix egg, oil, milk, lemon juice, and vanilla extract in another bowl; stir wet ingredients into dry ingredients until just moistened. Fold in zucchini and chocolate chips. Fill muffin liners about 2/3 full. Bake in oven until a toothpick inserted into the center of a muffin comes out clean about 20-25 minutes.

Toasted Ham, Brie, and Apple Sandwich

 Do you use reusable grocery bags?

 While you may be doing the planet a favor, if you’re not washing them in between uses you might be doing harm to your own health. Back in April I read an article published by the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics that changed the way I grocery shop. The article was about a study the Academy performed in conjunction with ConAgra Food’s Home Food Safety program that found that only 1 in 6 Americans frequently washes their reusable grocery bags. However, washing these bags is not enough. It is also recommended to use separate bags for ready-to-eat foods and raw meats. Another food safety best practice is to wrap those raw meats in plastic before placing them in your tote bags.

Here are some of my bags after going for a spin in the washing machine. Why go through all that hassle you might argue. Or isn’t it enough that I can remember to bring the bags with me to the store? No, it isn’t enough if you want to keep you and your family healthy while also helping out good ole Planet Earth. You can find the article here to read registered dietitian and academy spokesperson Ruth Frechman’s other tips on storing and washing your grocery bags.

Another personal reason I encourage my family to use reusable grocery totes – and why I try to use them for other shopping trips too – is that my parent’s kitty Paul has this obsession with plastic. Above you can see Paul reacting to a plastic bag. Any plastic bag is not safe in our household. I am beginning to believe he has Pica, an appetite for nonfood sources such as plastic. He even underwent emergency surgery once for eating a combination of dental floss and you guessed it, a plastic bag. So for me, I would rather worry about ridding my bags of the germs and helping out the environment than putting Paul’s well-being in jeopardy.

 Therefore, I have these reusable produce bags too.

On my last trip to target I also picked up these nifty little dishwasher safe sandwich and snack bags. I think I just have a thing for reusable bags come to think of it. I also think these would make a great gift idea – I can think of one my fellow interns in particular…Jamie :) In her attempts to be eco-friendly (I think) Jamie would reuse Ziploc baggies and oftentimes I would see her storing two snacks in the same bag. This is all fun and games until your wheat thins start to taste like carrots.

So what was in my reusable grocery bags this afternoon? Thickly sliced deli ham in its own juices, brie cheese and some ciabatta rolls.

This apple was in our produce drawer and it was bigger than my hand! This was part of the inspiration for my grocery purchases. Recently, I picked up the Cook Fresh edition of Fine Cooking magazine and found a recipe I just had to try. I’m not much of sandwich person, actually it’s more that I am not much of a homemade sandwich person. This probably stems from too many years of packed school lunches of plain turkey, cheese and mayonnaise sandwiches. However, I love to order an occasional sandwich from  the Mystic Market. Why was this? Because they are like fancy sandwiches, full of flavor. Well, today I felt like a sandwich so I decided to take a shot at getting fancy at home!

Here are the apples slices and ham browning up on the stovetop in just a wee little bit of unsalted butter. The recipe calls for a thinly slice ham steak, cut on the diagonal, that is in its own “natural juices.” For convenience, I stopped at the deli counter and asked for thickly sliced ham that was packed in its natural juices. I usually shy away from deli meat, with its funky shape and high sodium content. But like I said today I was taking risks, being fancy. The original recipe also suggests using a Granny Smith apple which I would be all for with its tart, robust flavor. But I wanted to use that massive apple that was taking up all the room in the chiller drawer!

After heating the ham through and browning the apple slices, I removed the pan from the heat and tossed the ham and apples with some fresh thyme, honey, and dijon mustard. Meanwhile my ciabatta roll was getting toasty in the oven with some brie. While this isn’t exactly a “bring to work” type of sandwich its it warm and delicious and can be pulled together on a weekend with fairly little effort. Another bonus, you can use up some of those apples that are ready for the picking at an orchard near you! The recipe serves 4, clearly I tweaked it to fit my lunch for 1. I will share the original recipe.

Toasted Ham, Brie, and Apple Sandwiches

Serves 4

1 large baguette cut into 4 pieces

7 oz. brie,  most of the rind trimmed off

2 TBSP unsalted butter

1 1/2 medium Granny Smith apples cut into 1/4 inch thick wedges

3/4 lb ham steak, thinly sliced on the diagonal

2 TBSP Dijon Mustard

1 TBSP honey

1 tsp. chopped fresh thyme

Position a rack in the center of the oven and heat oven to 425 F. Split the baguettes pieces lengthwise, open them up like a book and top one side with sliced brie. Set on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper and bake until cheese melts, about 5 minutes.

Meanwhile, melt the butter in a heave skillet over medium-high heat. Add the apples and cook, tossing every minute or so until they start to soften and brown in places, about 3 to 4 minutes. Add the ham and cook, tossing gently until heated through. Remove pan from heat and toss with mustard, honey, and thyme until apples and ham are evenly coated. Using tongs distribute the ham mixture into the warm pieces of baguette, secure with 2 toothpicks, cut in half, and serve.

As you can see, I tailored this recipe a bit for practicality reasons. I think this recipe would also be fun for a small luncheon.