Autumn is in full swing, with crisper mornings, darker evenings, and the near-daily HELL I face while trying to match the perfect pair of skinny pants with coordinating ankle boots. (The WORST, amirite?) One of my favorite parts of fall? All of my local farmers’ markets are laden with apples! I feel that I am a traditionalist, with my favorite kind of apple being a Macintosh. However, I enjoy walking past barrels and crates overloaded with Mutsus, Jonagolds, Honey Crisps, and Paula Reds. I get damn near overwhelmed at my options, on occasion, and just grab four or five of the best looking ones of any type.

apple sauce

New York City farmers’ markets are full of virtually anything you can think of from the agricultural world. Besides apples, I see veggies, eggs, and meats of all sorts. (One day, I’ll buy that organic duck breast from western Pennsylvania, too!) This past Sunday, however, I had to do a double take after I walked past barrel of something that I can not recall ever seeing at a farmers’ market: cranberries! Beautiful, fresh, Massachusetts-bred cranberries! The heart of this native New Englander fluttered. I had a bag full of apples in my left hand, with full intentions of making some plain ol’ applesauce. Cranberry applesauce is a recipe I enjoy making around Thanksgiving. Still, why not now?! I excitedly shuffled over and ran my hands through these ruby-esque pearls of tart fruit. I looked at the prices…and, at $6 per pound, I quickly carted myself up to my local Fine Fine and bought a pound of Ocean Spray cranberries for $2.29.

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I strongly support small businesses and the agriculture industry. I just need to cook on the cheap sometimes, just like any other Millennial in NYC with an steep rent and massive student loan payments. Haaa. Next time. Next time…

cranberry apple sauce

Cranberry Apple Sauce is such a wonderful autumnal recipe. It makes a great side dish when eating pork, turkey, or chicken. It makes a great snack to keep in the fridge. Pro Tip: I love to eat it warm with a big scoop of vanilla ice cream. Try it. Thank me later.

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Cranberry Apple Sauce (As Featured on Brit + Co.)

(Serves 4)

Ingredients:
– 3 pounds cooking apples, peeled, cored, and cut into 1/2″ chunks
– 1 cup fresh cranberries
– 3 tablespoons sugar
– 1 cup water
– 1 cinnamon stick
– Juice of 1/2 lemon or two teaspoons orange juice

Before We Get Started…

– In lieu of a cinnamon stick, 1/2 to 1 teaspoon of dried cinnamon can be substituted, depending on how much of a prevalent cinnamon flavor you prefer.

– Frozen cranberries can be used in lieu of fresh ones, but I can not emphasize enough: do not use canned cranberry sauce as a substitute!

Directions:

1.) Place all ingredients into a large sauce pan; bring to a boil.

2.) Reduce to a simmer and cook until apples are tender and cranberries have burst, approximately 30 – 40 minutes. Use a fork to mash any larger chunks of fruit still remaining.

3.) Remove from heat; discard cinnamon stick.

4.) Serve immediately or cool to room temperature and store in refrigerator; this will stay fresh for about a week.

The summer solstice has occurred, and, with it, the start of chilled soup season. The dog days of summer are upon us, if I can be clichéd. As I sit here, typing out this prose, it’s 90 degrees with a line of severe thunderstorms looming to the west. The humidity is making both my body and brain listless. The last thing I want to do cook, bake, or put much heat-induced effort into meal creation. Over the years, I have adapted a pretty strict summer diet. On any given night, I’m usually eating some combination of an avocado, cucumbers dressed with plain Greek yogurt and garlic powder, cheddar cheese, pineapple, prosciutto on toast, and unsweetened iced tea. It may lack in nutritional balance, but…damn. It’s always satisfying. The stove glares at me from afar, and I tell it, “I’ll see you again at the end of September.”

cucumber
So hot, even my cucumber is sweating!

Over the years, I’ve toyed with various cold soups, and the results have never really pleased me. Gazpacho is easy, yet admittedly time-consuming. I always find an excuse to buy it from the store because Westside Market / Fairway / Whole Foods / Samad’s Gourmet / anyone else makes it better than I do! (Damn self-loathing.) As for vichyssoise, my paternal grandmother, Mamie, had that on lock. I have yet to create a batch as good as hers. Then comes the oft-consumed cucumber yogurt soup. It’s simple. It’s light. It’s relatively filling. I can make it with four ingredients. However, one misstep in the recipe, and I’ll end up with unpalatable pale green water. Needless to say, I’ve made a lot of unpalatable plate green water over the years. I’ve played with ratios for more times than I care to count: more cucumbers, fewer cucumbers, different kinds of cucumbers, Greek yogurt instead of plain yogurt, fresh dill versus dried dill, less olive oil, you name it. However, I must mark June 22nd, 2015, as the day I finally got my figurative shit together and had my true “Aha!” moment.

Avocados, is there anything you can’t do?

My past cucumber yogurt soup recipes (or abominations, if I may continue to self-loathe) achieved a creamy mouth feel once I made the transition from plain to Greek yogurt, but the avocado gives it full body. Dare I say, fresh out of the blender, it’s almost fluffy. In addition, I decided to add some lemon zest and juice, helping it achieve a wonderful brightness.

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Goodbye unpalatable pale green water, hello full-bodied and bright moss green soup!

(Okay, I’m still working on better descriptive terms. One thing at a time, eh?)

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Chilled Cucumber Avocado Soup

(Serves Four)

Ingredients:

– 2 large cucumbers, peeled, seeded, and chopped
– 1 avocado, cubed
– 6 ounces plain Greek yogurt (full-fat)
– 1 & 1/2 cups cold water
– 1 teaspoon dried dill
– 1 teaspoon garlic powder
– Zest of 1 lemon
– Juice of half a lemon
– Salt and pepper, to taste

Before We Get Started…

– If making en masse and saving servings for lunches / dinners for the week, be sure to give each batch a good stir or shake before eating, as there tends to be a slight separation of ingredients after it’s sat in the fridge.

– Depending on the size of the blender / food processor being used to blend the soup, combine ingredients in batches, if necessary.

– If I do say so myself, these are best served with some freshly toasted crusty white bread and a few slices of prosciutto.

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Directions:

1.) Place all ingredients into a blender or food processor, and blend until creamy.

2.) Serve immediately, or place in fridge until ready to serve.

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Prosciutto Toasts and Cucumber Dreams, until next time…!

There is little in this world that I find more comforting than a hot bowl of macaroni and cheese. Long gone are the days of neon-yellow Kraft Macaroni & Cheese Spirals, for I no longer have the “Blue Box Blues“. As much I love a box of Annie’s in a pinch, all of these boxed mac and cheeses are loaded with sodium, regardless. (How I’d come home from school in my teenage years and down an entire box without exploding is still beyond me…) Of course, like many, I love to experiment with different cheeses, noodles, vegetables, and methods when it comes to mac and cheese creation. Still, in my opinion, it’s the simplest method that works the best for me. In just an extra five minutes compared to ripping open a box of dried noodles and questionable powder in a packet, you can make a perfectly satisfying bowl of mac and cheese with the full knowledge of what ingredients you’ve put into it.

mac and cheese

Slate counter top and old metal measuring cups. Instagram ready! 

Classic Mac & Cheese

(Serves Two if you’re generous, Serves One if you’re selfish)

Ingredients:
– 1 cup dried pasta of choice (I prefer a whole-wheat elbow or rotini pasta)
– 1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
– 2 tablespoons salted butter
– 1/3 cup milk
– 4 ounces shredded cheese (I prefer 3 ounces of sharp cheddar with an ounce of Colby Jack; feel free to switch it up!)
-A few generous shakes of garlic powder (optional)

Before We Get Started…

This recipe involves making a roux, since you’ll essentially be making a Béchamel sauce. Some rouxs can be made darker than others, but we’re making a simple white roux in this case. Make it with a whisk, if possible, but I find it just as good to use a fork to mix a roux.

…and if you don’t have a clue what I’m talking about when I say “roux”, this is a pretty good introduction.

Directions:

1.) Fill saucepan with water and bring to boil; cook pasta according to directions on box. Drain when finished, rinse, and set aside.

2.) Place additional saucepan over medium heat; add butter and slowly melt. Once melted, add flour. Whisk for approximately 2 – 3 minutes to create a roux ; once flour and butter are combined, add milk and whisk. Bring mixture to a slow boil. Once bubbles begin to break the surface, add cheese and stir quickly to form cheese sauce. Remove from heat. Add garlic powder, if desired. Add pasta and stir.

cheese blind
My future, and I’m okay with this.