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Thursday, January 10, 2013

spinach apple pie

Spinach Apple Pie

 You're thinking, "odd..." while wondering if this is a dessert or something else. Right?

Trust me. It's delicious.

First, you will need to follow my instructions for flaky pastry. Pastry will either make or break a pie. It almost doesn't matter what you do to the filling -- over-sweeten, under-spice, misgauge the thickness and it serves like pudding. If you get the pastry right, your pie dish will still be cleaned bare with almost all the appropriate yummy noises.

But, of course, I must not undersell this spinach apple filling. Apple pie is kind of my specialty. I learned from the best, my mother, and for years I couldn't get it right. A few months into my marriage to the sweetest man on the planet, who still eats my experiments and actually gives genuine feedback for improvement now, something just clicked and I made a pretty much perfect apple pie. I will boast shamelessly. It was gorgeous. I winced when I cut into it but couldn't bear to not eat it. Custard was not worthy of this pie. You can imagine my husband's response when I suggested ruining my trademark apple pie by adding spinach to the mix. One eyebrow required securing from a bandaid overnight to unstick it from his hairline.

I made it anyway. It really is delicious. The reason for adding the spinach is my son. Fifteen months of delicious cuddles, he is still a mama's milk boy and we have been working hard to get him to eat solids. He's finally taking to them! So when I wanted pie, of course all the cogs in my mama's mind started whirring furiously, thinking of more ways to get him to eat good, healthful foods, packed with as much nutrition as I could sneak into his little mouth.

In a pot with lid, steam until soft:
1 large cooking apple OR 2 granny smith apples, washed, cored and rough chopped
3 Tb water

3 packed cups raw, washed spinach leaves

Replace the lid, turn off the heat, and allow spinach to gently wilt cooked.
Once cooled enough, use an immersion wand blender to puree the apples and spinach into a thick sauce.

In a bowl, toss:
4 assorted apples, washed, cored and rough chopped
3 Tb cinnamon
1 tsp nutmeg
1/3 c brown sugar
3 Tb flour

Add the cooked mixture and gently toss together. Dump this all into your pie shell. Top with a lattice or whole crust with slits, and bake in a preheated oven at 375F for about 40 minutes, until the crust is golden brown.

As you can see, the finished pie is a little browner inside than most apple fillings. That's the spinach, of course. My son ate this with reduced sugar for two snacks and with dinner today. He LOVES it. Normally, I can't get him to eat apple, but something about this pie worked for him.

Monday, January 7, 2013

chicken gnocci soup

Jeanie's Chicken Gnocci Soup
(Level: really easy!)

2 c cooked diced or gently shredded chicken
2 shredded carrots
package of defrosted (from frozen) chopped spinach
package of gnocci
enough well-flavored chicken stock to cover it all -- about 6 cups

Add everything but gnocci together. If you need to cook raw chicken breast first, use a little butter and do it in the same pot you will add the rest of the soup into. Let all simmer until cooked.
Add gnocci and simmer until they all float to the top and are soft through.

Serve as is, or with a little sour cream or pouring cream laced on the top. Sides of tossed salad, warm garlic knots (make like cinnamon rolls but roll up savory herbs and crushed garlic instead of cinnamon and sugar).

If you want to make ahead and freeze, this soup does really well as leftovers from frozen. Just make sure you freeze without the cream added, or it will curdle a bit as it defrosts. This is one of our family staple soups that I like to keep available almost always. I make a double batch and freeze several quart jars that I can take out the night before a crazy day (such as that time of the month!), or grab a few to place in hot water in the sink in case of needing an extra course to stretch lunch for unexpected guests. It always goes down well, and since my slightly-picky husband gives this soup a rating of "twice a month" it's made it's way onto the Man Food list, too.