Sunday, December 8, 2013

Menu: Bulk Chicken Make Ahead

Next week, I have a busy schedule and won't be home until later in the afternoon. With this in mind, I've planned ahead and decided to try batch cooking on Sunday. I'm transforming a few recipes into make-aheads, and will be utilizing the freezer to get things ready. Also, there's a lot of chicken happening here and everything is fairly low-carb. Briefly, here's what's going to happen for the Sunday prep:

  1. Put 1 cup chicken stock into bag labeled CBC #2 and freeze immediately.
  2. Cook 1 pound of bacon in the oven
  3. Chop all vegetables, herbs, 1 pound of chicken, and squeeze 1 cup of lemon juice and zest.
  4. Sear 1 lb chicken and prepare cream sauce for Chicken Bacon Chowder (CBC).
  5. Chop chicken and bacon, add to cream sauce. Put in CBC bag #1 and freeze.
  6. Mix and whisk marinade for Very Greek Grilled Chicken. Add to bag with chicken. Freeze.
  7. Prepare butter sauce for Carrabba's Chicken Bryan. Store in a ramekin in the fridge. Place two chicken breasts in small bag and keep in fridge.
  8. Mix curry sauce for Crock Pot Chicken Curry. Add to bag with chopped chicken. Put vegetables in a separate bag and keep in veg drawer in the fridge.
  9. In a CBC bag #2, add the CBC vegetables, and butter on top of frozen chicken stock. Freeze. Hopefully this will keep the vegetables a bit less mushy.
Click this text for a full size view.


  • from, Carrabba's Chicken Bryan
    • New! If you've never had this dish, it's definitely worth making a trip to Carrabba's
      Image Credit: member
      restaurant to try it out. Yes, it takes advantage of the goat cheese and sun-dried tomato craze that started about a decade ago, but wow, it's so delicious. Supposedly, this is original recipe the restaurant shared with a newspaper. I plan to make the butter sauce ahead of time, then grill the chicken fresh for dinner. 
    • How I'll cook it: Our mini indoor grill only takes about 2 minutes to heat up and 12 minutes to cook a full breast of chicken. While the chicken is grilling, all I'll need to do is gently warm the butter sauce and cut two medallions of the goat cheese. I'll easily have time for a side salad.
    • Verdict: This was a nice meal as a make ahead, but the sauce separated when I reheated, even though I was excessively gentle with it. Regardless, all the flavors were there and this was quite edible.
  • Peace +Love + Low Carb's Chicken Bacon Crock Pot Chowder
    • New! This is the most step-heavy recipe. Crock Pots are great because the idea that you
      Image Credit: Peace + Love + Low Carb
      can just toss everything in and walk off, then come back to delicious hot food is a wonderful fantasy. From my own experience, I've rarely been wowed by crock pot meals. Meat is often over cooked, seasoning is too bland. I'm not even sure what the advantage to a crock pot meal is when you have 5 steps before you get to leave it alone. I just might skip the crock pot and make this a normal stove top stew instead.
    • How I'll cook it: Because this requires two bags, one with frozen veggies, I want to make this pretty early in the week so the veggies don't get ruined. The day before I want to cook this, CBC bag #1 (the cream sauce) will go into the fridge to thaw. Once cooking, I'll start by adding CBC bag #2 (veggies, butter, broth) into the pot. When warmed and almost simmering, I'll add CBC bag #1 and cook till finished.
    • Verdict: This worked really well as a make ahead. The soup was super yummy and hearty and lasted for a few days. Would make it again fresh or as a make-ahead.
  • Kalyn's Kitchen Very Greek Grilled Chicken
    • New! I love a good marinade! I've never worked with "Greek Seasoning" before, so I
      Image Credit: Kalyn's Kitchen
      had to buy a bottle of it for this recipe. Scouting around online for the spice blend ingredients, I found a ton of variation. The primary player seems to be oregano which can be such a nice flavor. This marinade seems to play off the oregano with lemon and olive oil. So it should be lovely.
    • How I'll cook it: Whisk together all the marinade ingredients, slash chicken breasts, put together in bag and freeze. The day before I want to cook this, I'll pop it into the fridge. At dinner, I'll simply grill the chicken. Plenty of time again to make a side salad!
    • Verdict: I should have been more thoughtful. Letting chicken sit in that much acid for that long was bound to dry it out. The flavors were really nice, but the chicken was tough. Next time, make the marinade ahead, but don't put the chicken in. If possible, only marinate for 20-40 minutes before cooking.
  • Stupid Easy Paleo's Crock Pot Chicken Curry
    • New! I love Indian spice flavors. I've even started sneaking cardamom pods into my tea along with a bit of honey. Curries can be so lovely
      Image Credit: Easy Stupid Paleo
      and complex, but as much as I love eating Indian food, I'm not experienced cooking it. My best results have sadly come from a pouch for instant butter chicken. I have some amazing spice blends from The Spice House, which includes a hot curry blend. To speed things up with this bulk cooking experiment, I'm going to use the blend instead of the spices in the recipe.
    • How I'll cook it: Whisk together liquids (though I'm thinking of reducing the water to 1/2 cup due to comments left by other readers) and 3 tablespoons of curry blend. Add chopped chicken and freeze. In a separate bag, add veggies and store in the fridge till needed. Day before cooking, the freezer bag goes into the fridge to thaw. When I'm ready to cook, I'll dump both bags into the pot and walk away!
    • Never got to make it.

Sweet Tooth

  • Autumn Makes & Does' Gingerbread Plum Clafouti
    • New! Both of us love clafoutis. They're notoriously easy to put together and yield a
      Image Credit: Autumn
      Makes & Does
      wonderful texture and flavor punch. The only substitution I'll be making is for the brown rice flour with all-purpose flour. Other than that, I look forward to a creamy, spicy fruit treat. This is not a part of my make-ahead menu. Clafoutis only take about 10 minutes to throw together, so whenever we feel like we want a dessert treat, that's the night I'll make it.
    • Verdict: We couldn't find plums anywhere! This will go back into the menu rotation in the future.


  • Back in Texas, a favorite holiday excursion was to visit Dickens on the Strand, in Galveston. Carolers, Christmas treats and baubles, silly events, and a fun, slightly chilly outing. This year I found out about the Distillery District's Christmas Market and can't wait to go. It will be a first for the husband! We're hoping to go with a group of friends. I'm looking forward to some lovely treats, hearing more obnoxious Christmas music, and maybe picking up one more ornament for our tiny tree!
  • This coming Friday is my birthday. For the previous years of my life, I have either been taking finals, writing finals, or proctoring finals. (Ah, the life of a teacher.) This year will be the first time none of the above finally applies to me. I don't want to throw a big party this year, so I've decided to have a tiny outing at the now famous Snakes and Lattes on Bloor. If you've never been, make sure you show up at least one hour before you think you might want to play. Because of their awesome pricing, people stay for a long time and it's hard to get a seat. They don't take reservations either. I'm hoping we can play a few different games, including Tsuro, Dominion, Betrayal at House on the Hill, and Dixit. I'll begrudgingly agree to play a round of Cards Against Humanity (but honestly, I just don't find it that funny.) Are you watching TableTop yet?

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Upcoming: Sweet Molasses Showdown

In preparation to create Pfeffernusse cookies, one unusual (i.e. not a kitchen staple) ingredient I needed was molasses. My mother always had a jar in the back of the baking cupboard, but it didn't come out much. My father will occasionally spread it straight on bread, but only on special occasions. After purchasing my molasses, a giant jar of it, and having been lured in by Starbuck's improved Gingerbread Latte with Molasses topping (o.m.g.) I decided I should use up the jar over the next two months. Tis the season for spicy goodies.

For this showdown, I have two cookies, two desserts, and two bread-like items. Each pairing will face off against each other, and a total victor will be decided at the end. The "winner" is totally personally subjective, but is based upon overall flavor, ease of making, and desire to make again. Stay tuned for the final results! In the future, I may attempt a savory molasses showdown as well, because unf... Cajun Molasses Ribs? Molasses Grilled Pork? *drool*

Dishes for this showdown:

Kitchen Riff's Pfeffernusse Cookies
Image Credit: Kitchen Riff

Autumn Makes & Does' Gingerbread Plum Clafouti
Image Credit: Autumn Makes & Does

Cbsop's Brown Soda Bread with Molasses
Image Credit: Cbsop

Oxmoor House's Gingerbread Scones with Lemon Glaze
Image Credit: Oxmoor House

Grandma's Molasses' Hermit Cookies
Image Credit: Grandma's Molasses

The Kitchn's Dark Molasses Gingerbread Cake

Image Credit: The Kitchn

Sunday, December 1, 2013

Menu: December Chill

Being an American living in Canada, I've found myself in a surprising number of conversations with strangers in grocery stores about food items and holidays. In October, when I realized that Thanksgiving was coming up, I read about it and thought about planning a small Canadian Thanksgiving for our friends. While doing my weekly grocery shopping in the Maple Leaf Gardens Loblaw's, a woman came up to me and asked me when Thanksgiving would be this year. For the briefest of moments, I thought I was on some version of Leno's Tonight Show, where they seek out ignorant street people and ask them basic questions about life and government. I felt pretty proud when I answered the question!
So patriotic ...

Last month, while shopping about in Walmart, (something I plan to stop due to their atrocious attitude towards worker pay and rights) a woman came up to me and just started talking about lemon pie mix, talking rather conspiratorially about how the brand name was slightly different and how this was NOT the Canadian brand, but the American brand, which was just fine for Americans, but what an outrage to sell it to Canadians! Personally, I had no clue. My family has never been big on lemon pie, nor making pie from packages. Mom always cooked from scratch, so I tend to as well. When I confessed to the woman that I didn't know anything about this brand naming switch, she chatted a bit more then headed off. While I was picking up our weekly chocolate rations, the woman found me again, to let me know that she had spoken with a manager and confirmed that the pie mix was the inferior American brand.

I still knew nothing about the pie brands. But I nodded and smiled and after she left, wondered what it was about me that causes people to come up to me and talk specifically about very Canadian things. I've been told I have a non-Canadian accent. I guess my Texan comes through sometimes, which is a surprise to me since I'm not from East (redneck slur) or West (cowboy drawl) Texas. The husband decided it was just that I seemed like an approachable person. Still, I'm waiting for someone to pop out with a camera and announce that I've been on CTV's Quiz an American! or something.

Our first snow storm proper happened on the night of the 26th! And I had run out of cat food for the morning. Queue the clutzy Texan stumbling through morning icy sidewalks in heavy winter gear first thing in the morning, even before coffee. I think I slipped at least four times and realized I was terrified of barely sloping surfaces. On my way back, I realized that walking on the snow covered grass would speed things up. Texans love snow, but dread being outside in it for anything more than gleeful pointing. This will certainly be an interesting first winter.


  • Betty Crocker's Sausage n' Apple Cheddar Biscuit Bake
  • Image credit: Betty Crocker
    • New! Apple season is past its prime, but we're still finding a few good snacking and baking apples up here. I really wanted something hearty, something one dish, something not dinnery for dinner. This kind of looks like baked dumplings casserole, and both of us love a good breakfast scramble. A somewhat carby treat, but hopefully satisfying for a cold night. No substitutions planned, although we'll probably half the recipe.
    • Final Verdict: I really liked that this was all came out of the oven in one dish, but to be fair, this was quite a mess to make. Saute pan, mixing bowl, cheese grater, casserole dish. The biscuit topping was nice, but the dish didn't really come together. Neither of us felt like it was a dish that made sense. The sausage didn't match with the apple (and there was just way too much apple, and I only used three instead of four!), the texture of the egg was almost hidden. I'd rather make a proper quiche next time.
  • Linda's Low Carb Spinach Lasagna
    • Spinach Lasagna with Sausage and Beef
    • No, this dish isn't fast to put together. Most lasagnas aren't. But it's not difficult either. Typically I make the alternate version which requires sausage, but this week we need to save a bit of coin, so I'll be making do with freezer deals (stocked up on spinach and cream cheese when it was on sale). However, this meal is super satisfying. Friends who have had it, who are not low-carb eaters, have always said they didn't miss the noodles at all. Personally, I find Linda's recipes to be under seasoned, so I always add in fresh ingredients (real onion and garlic) and use the best cheese I can afford. No green canned crap please. It really, truly makes a difference.
  • I Breathe I'm Hungry's Corned Beef and Cabbage Meatballs
    • New! For a while, after moving up here, meatballs were my go to dish. Especially when I had extras knocking around in the freezer. Throw stuff in a bowl, mash and roll? Yeah, I have time for that. I've tried a few other meatball recipes, including bacon and brie stuffed meatballs. Extravagant, but not excellent. My last foray into Cabbagetown* was a disappointing experience with Savoy cabbage rolls. The cabbage never cooked down properly. Hopefully this recipe will be different!
      *Yup, that's a pun for fellow Torontonians.
  • Food Wishes' Salad Lyonnaise
  • Image credit: Food Wishes
    • New! Salads like this often don't get the credit they deserve for being full meals. But how can it not be? A fully, properly emulsified dressing, a perfectly poached egg, thoughtfully balanced ingredients? After a week of meaty casseroles and meatballs, this will be a welcome lift. Plus, any excuse to eat good, freshly prepared French food is a plus in my book.

Sweet Tooth

Image credit: Pastry Affair
  • Pastry Affair's Black Tea and Honey Buttercream Cake
    • New! Oh, I have wanted to make this for so long. The husband loves tea more than coffee, and I have a secret love affair with honey. So much so, I want to care for a few hives in the future. I have trouble imagining the flavor this cake will produce, but I expect it to be softly-spicy. Gentle and satisfying.
    • Final Verdict: I didn't have cake flour, which I think affected the final texture a great deal. Although I accounted for this, the cake still didn't have the moistness I wanted using all-purpose. Regardless, the flavor of the tea really came through in the cake and as I predicted, resulted in a very gentle flavor. The honey buttercream was a smidge too sweet, so next time I would add a bit more salt. Overall, I really liked this.


  • Lunch at La Tortilleria in Kensington Market during Saturday errands. The last time we stopped at this restaurant, it was a late Saturday evening, and we were both starving. Faced with unpleasant fast food and food court options, we took up the recommendation of a friend and tried it out (different location). Husband got a mix of tacos, but because I read the menu carefully, I found Los Campechanos. Corn tortillas stuffed with steak, chorizo, cilantro and onion. Oh yes. Served with salsa verde and fresh guacamole, this plate is an absolute steal at $9. Looking at a long day ahead, after we finished gathering nuts and spices, we both ordered a plate of Los Campechanos and analysed an episode of The Simpsons.

Sunday, November 24, 2013

Menu: The First Snowfall

Random snow storm that can't make up its mind? Welcome to Toronto. With all that's going on, we can't always have dinner as a family. Well, couple. Things were so scattered last week that I never even got around to formalizing the dinner invitation I extended to a friend who "keeps hearing about all the wonderful meals". Sometimes this happens. I plan a week of meals, but only make a few, or end up modifying plans so much, that it's not really what I had intended.

The chili I intended never manifested. Started late and made with a packet of spices (always a mistake, even when bolstered with fresh), it was bland and uninteresting. It didn't follow the original recipe. It's the kind of thing that will fill you up, but not leave any wonderful memories.

Following our first snow, dinner was the Lazy Sunday Casserole from Kayotic Kitchen. Chop some veg, steam-roast, sear the sausage, add to oven and finish. It was simple and delicious. The husband really likes crisp roasted vegetables, but I thought the moist addition of the chicken broth was a pleasant change. Cooking time was a bit excessive and I lopped off at least 15 minutes near the end. Ultimately, it was a perfect dinner for a cold night and a silly movie.


  • Smitten Kitchen's Buttermilk Chicken
    • Probably my absolute favorite savory recipe of all time. It takes about 5 minutes to assemble, another 5 to get it ready for the oven, and then you bake. Your reward for struggling through this impossible task of putting some stuff in a bag and letting it sit overnight (absolutely mandatory, do not go less than 24 hours!), is the most tender, mouthgasm inducing chicken on the planet. I've yet to have chicken from a restaurant that comes close to this recipe. Personally, I use smoked paprika and a bit of cayenne pepper. Drain the chicken a bit, letting it rest on a rack for a few minutes, while you preheat the oven will give you slightly crispier skin, but don't expect anything like fried chicken.
  • Kayotic Kitchen's Baked Cod with Crispy Herb Topping
    • New! Super pleased with the Lazy Sunday Casserole, I lurked around the blog a bit more and found a lovely, simple fish recipe. Both of us love fish, but rarely eat it. Every time I make it, we love it, but it's one of the few ingredients that give me a bit of anxiety. I know I just need to work with fish more to be more comfortable, and this recipe looks like an easy step in.
    • Final Verdict: So salty. Salt in the ranch marinade, salt on the shallot mix, salt in the crispy topping. Next time, I'd reduce the ranch marinade by at least half and leave the topping unsalted. The tomato side was really perfect though. Overall, an easy dish to make and worthy of making again with future tweaks.
  • Just the Tip's Spinach and Artichoke Tortellini Bake
    • New! We don't tend to eat pasta, *at all*. But we're also not psychos. Good food is good food, and if it's occasional and inexpensive, we don't let it bother us. There happened to be a good offer on tortellini at one of the stores this week, but I was disappointed with the selection when I got there. I found some tri-colored, three-cheese filled pasta near the same price instead and a surprising deal on Asiago. Since the weather is colder, a hearty meal like this is a nice addition to the week.
    • Final Verdict: Disappointing. The sauce, even though properly salted and seasoned, was bland causing the spinach to be under-flavored and the artichokes surprisingly boring. The dish didn't really come together and it felt like eating four different ingredients.
  • Canadian Living's Chicken Pot Pie
    • New! Never got around to making this last week! Although I finally decided this would be the recipe for us, we ended up with a week's worth of boring chili and no guests to have over. The only change I'll be making to this recipe is using chicken I precooked in the slow cooker (whole chicken, bay leaf, peppercorns, water to cover, high for 3 hours). It shouldn't make a difference. Hopefully, we'll finally have guests over to share in this tasty recipe.
    • Final Verdict: Split opinions. Personally, I thought the cream sauce came together with perfect texture and richness, but I agreed with my husband that the dish tasted average. I would recommend this recipe, but I think some heavy doses of salt, fresh herbs, a seasoned egg wash on the pastry, and a few different vegetables (maybe turnips, sweet potato, fennel) would give this that je ne sais quoi that perfect dishes have. For the wine, I used an unoaked Chardonnay which seemed to pair very well once chilled. As the recipe stands, it's an excellent basic chicken pot pie.

Sweet Tooth

  • Kitchen Riffs' Pfeffernüsse Cookies
    • Remember our random discovery of the Cheese Boutique last week? One of the last minute impulse items my husband found was a giant display of Pfeffernüsse cookies. The traditional Christmas cookies from my side of the family (my mom) include shortbread, sour cream tarts, and spiced pecans. My husband however has memories of these spicy, dense, dry things. I'm all for spicy and sweet, so when I had them for the first time, I fell in love. I'll be substituting the corn syrup for brown sugar, and then probably hiding these in a closet so the husband doesn't find them while they do their thing for two weeks.


  • Burnt Butter Biscuits from the Fat: An Appreciation of a Misunderstood Ingredient cookbook by Jennifer McLagan
    • More cookies, yes. Since the Pfeffernüsse cookies won't technically be ready to eat this week, and pretty much anything with browned butter is lovely, I can't wait to try this weeks edible dessert. If you're looking for a new cookbook, something different, informative, interesting, and yet utterly practical, Fat is for you. Beautifully photographed (though there could also be more, especially for some of the trickier recipes) and thoughtfully divided, this cookbook really does a great job explaining the benefits and versatility of various fats. Which you totally need to be healthy.
      No you totally don't need cookies to be healthy. 
    • Final Verdict: Husband really liked the crunchy texture when dunked into his evening tea. Personally, I loved the nuanced richness from the browned butter, but it takes a somewhat sensitive palate to pick up the flavor note as it seems to be most prominent at the end of the bite, just before you swallow. If you wolf down these lovely cookies, they'll just taste like sugar cookies for adults. But if you savor them, you're in for a treat. Total keeper.

Saturday, November 16, 2013

Menu: Santa Claus Parade Week

As the holiday season gears up and the weather winds down, it seems like a good time to revisit some favorite recipes. Tried and true, but not yet quite comfort food. This week's menu seems to be a balance between the newcomers on this list, the recipes I've found to be 100% guaranteed nomable. All of these recipes strike me as set and forget, chop and heat, prep and cook and not much in-between. I'd rather grin about the upcoming "Best of the Worst" Date Night plans with the husband than stress out over challenging recipes.


  • Smitten Kitchen's French Onion Tarts
    • Divine recipe. Relatively inexpensive and other than needing about 40 minutes to caramelize my onions, it's simple and quick; not a lot of hands on. Make dough, cook onions, shred cheese, blend custard, assemble, bake. The sweetness of the onions and the nuttiness from the Gruyere is wonderfully comforting. While I love full-blown quiche, this recipe makes a creamy, filling punch using only a single egg. I couldn't believe it the first time I tried, but it works perfectly. Personally, because I have such a great pan, I make individual tarts instead of a giant pie. Cooking is reduced by about 5 minutes. 
    • Food Wish's Buttercrust Dough: This recipe is so easy, I just use it for all savory tarts and pies right now. One batch is enough for two 8" pies, one double crust pie, or 6 mini tarts.
  • Chicken Pot Pie
    • What.. no link? At the moment, I'm undecided. Oxmoor House's Golden Pot Pie with Sweet Potato Crust sounds like a perfect fall treat, but David Hammond's Chicken Pot Pie, as published in Canadian Living sounds like true comfort food (though in need of mushrooms and rosemary.) Which one should I try first?
  • Easy Sausage Casserole
    • New! I recently found a nice deal on honey garlic sausages. I usually stick to hot Italian and make sausage and peppers or Spinach Lasagna Variation, but I'm itching to try something new that's not just a cooked pepper. I think the topping might compliment these sausages. I like the idea of baking the sausages too, since I normally saute them.
    • Final verdict: Keeper! Delicious and easy.
  • Brown Eyed Baker's All-American Chili
    • New! I already know I'll be making a few changes to this recipe, but not with any intent to wreck it. There was a good deal on green peppers this week, I'll be soaking my own beans instead of using canned (yes, it really does help with ~intestinal issues~). Oddly enough, tomato paste is kind of hard to find up here, so I may make my own.

Sweet Tooth

  • Smitten Kitchen's Intensely Chocolate Sables
    • New! I have not tried this recipe yet, but the husband and I are dark chocolate nommers. An intense chocolate crunch sounds very satisfying right now. 
    • Final verdict: Difficult dough, but nice chocolate flavor. Recommend adding extra butter and shaping into balls. Don't bother with refrigerating the dough. As soon as you smell chocolate, take them out. Mine only needed 7 minutes.
  • Family Spice's Lemon Blueberry Clafouti
    • I love clafoutis. They are so mindlessly simple to make and they are not overly sweet. This particular recipe does justice to the lemon. the kitchen smells absolutely heavenly while this is baking. As we don't keep powdered sugar in the home, I put a tiny sprinkle of plain sugar on the top after it finishes baking. Creamy, fruity, sweet but without inducing the heavy guilt you might get from a cake or pie. The last time I made this, I threw in frozen blueberries we had bought way back in August. It was delicious.


  • Breakfast at Figs before the Santa Clause Parade. Excellent Eggs Benny and friendly service. The addition of genuinely interesting fruit salads on the side, figs, pomegranate seeds, strawberry, apple, and orange, makes you feel like you're dining at a foodie's dream diner.
  • Gourmet Platter collected from Cheese Boutique. We had no clue this place existed. Lost on our way to a smaller shop east of St. Joseph's Health center, we snuck down a side street and found a rather gigantic cheese shop. Compelled to stop in, we were constantly offered samples of cheese, freshly brewed tea served in glass glasses with two sugar lumps on the side, exquisite olive oils and so much more. Mustards, sweets, beautiful chilled meat and veg shop, lovely pantry items, impressive charcuterie selection, and of course cheese. Not just cheeses from elsewhere, but an entire cheese locker with massive cheese wheels and columns of cheese. Dinner will be Mediterranean beef sausage with black olives, red pepper, and Asiago; Guillaume Tell cheese and Ambrosia apples; and Green Peppercorn Mustard spread on homemade French baguettes.

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Apple Showdown

Over the past several weeks, post-apple picking, I had the great fortune to attempt several new recipes. What else was I going to do with 25 pounds of apples? Each recipe was followed with only modifications for apple-sweetness (cut back on sugar if appropriate). All recipes were consumed in full, with the husband, and requests for seconds were made. 

This Showdown edition consists of: Buttercrunch Apple Pie, Salted Caramel Apple Tart, Homemade Apple Cider, Apple Chips, and Apple Sharlotka. Recipes were ranked on requests for seconds (and/or speed of consumption), ease of prep and cooking, and overall deliciousness. Although there is a ranking here, I highly recommend trying all these recipes. I'm positive some people will disagree with my choices, so please, try these out for yourself. 

Let the rankings begin!

  • 1st Place: Smitten Kitchen's Apple Sharlotka, or "Apple Thing". Using sweet apples, like Honeycrisp or Ambrosia, you can cut the sugar in half. Ridiculously easy recipe, deceptively decadent treat. Texture is almost similar to a clafouti. Not so much cake or custard, definitely not like a pie, it's soft, fluffy, and creamy all at once. I highly recommend giving it a try!
  • 2nd Place: Baker Bettie's Homemade Apple Cider. Crockpot users ahoy! This was really simple and very tasty. Using sweet apples, it didn't need any extra sugar and the house smelled ah-maz-ing. Don't skimp on the spices! (But do try to use whole spices instead of ground. It makes the final result much more tasty and easy to drink.)
  • 3rd Place: Sally's Baking Addiction Apple Chips. A pretty basic, healthy snack. Chop and bake. Having a mandolin would make prep a breeze, but a steady hand got the job done. I don't like that they take 3 hours to make, but they're a nice change from chips and crackers. Sugar is totally optional in this recipe. (We made these three times!)
  • 4th Place: Smitten Kitchen's Salted Caramel Apple Tart. Don't get me wrong. This is delicious. But there is a level of prep and skill involved here the top three don't require. If you're an experienced cook, try this out. Your mouth will be very happy.
  • 5th Place: Sugar Pie Farmhouse's Buttercrunch Apple Pie - Waaaaaay too sweet. Unnecessary amount of sugar in the recipe. No need for it in the crust, total overkill in the crumble topping. It really was just like eating solid blocks of sugar. Sorry, Aunt Ruthie! However, the apple filling is solid, especially the advice to use different kinds of apples (I used Empire, Granny Smith, Ambrosia, and Honey Crisp) and I would make it again, just using different crust and different topping.

Speaking of toppings, one I'd like to try soon on some unsuspecting pastry is the craquelin recipe courtesy of David Lebovitz. I think a lightly sweet crackle atop some otherwise predictable pastries could make for an extra special holiday treat.