Caramelized Apple Grilled Cheese

Two slices of thick cheddar bread sandwiching cheddar cheese and caramelized apples. HELLO!

Unlike a lot of bloggers I follow, I tend to stick to the regular grilled cheese recipe. Bread+butter+cheddar=heaven. It’s a simple recipe. One we all know and love. But then my world changed. I added caramelized apples to the mix. Awesome.

I was recently bombarded with apples. My boyfriends parents invited us to come for the weekend and just as we were getting ready for bed we noticed our bed sheets were lumpy….we opened the covers and there they were!! About 70 apples on top of the sheets. Nice. So, needless to say I had a lot of apples to take home and use up in some way. And this is one of the ways those apples got made!

To begin, shred your cheddar cheese.

I used white and yellow cheddar because I’m a wild woman.

Slice your apple into thin slices.

Melt the butter in a non-stick pan. Add the sugar and cinnamon and cook until bubbly.

Add the apples and saute until tender, about 5 minutes. Transfer to a plate to wait for assembly.

Get out your awesome bread. That bread is looking mighty fine today if I do say so myself.

Assembly line time. Butter one side of each slice of bread.

Add some grated cheese to two slices of bread.

Add 1/2 of your apple mixture on top of that cheese. Add some more cheese on top of those pretty caramelized apples. Put a buttered slice of bread on top to make a sandwich (buttered side out of course).

Grill until golden brown on both sides, about 2-4 minutes per side.

Eat up! I ate this with some awesome potato salad. Mmmmm.

Caramelized Apple Grilled Cheese Sandwich
Recipe slightly adapted from Closet Cooking
Makes 2 sandwiches

Ingredients:
2 tablespoons butter
2 tablespoons brown sugar
1 dash of cinnamon
2 apples (peeled, cored and sliced)
1/2 cup shredded good cheddar cheese
4 slices of good bread (I used cheddar bread)
2 tablespoon butter

Directions:
Get four slices of bread ready by buttering one side of each slice. Shred your cheese.

Peel and core your apples. Slice them into relatively thin slices.

Melt the butter in a non-stick pan. Add the sugar and cinnamon and cook until bubbly. Add the apples and saute until tender, about 5 minutes.

Assemble sandwich by adding (to the non-buttered side of two slices of bread) cheese, apples, and a bit more cheese. Put the plain buttered bread on top of each cheese and apple mixture (buttered side out).

Grill until golden brown on both sides, about 2-4 minutes per side.

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Costa Rican Black Beans and Butter Honey Plantains

Anyone else ready for summer? Don’t get me wrong, I love a good winter ski, snowmobile ride, or outdoor hot tub party, but I am missing the beach!

I grew up in a little town in Ontario where beaches are everywhere. In fact, my Grandparents (where I spent most of my time) live on a beach, my cottage is on a beach, and my high school was in 5 minutes walking distance to a beach. Geeze…just writing that makes me homesick!

Luckily, my vacation in Costa Rica brought some darn great ocean views. Tropical wise, I’ve only ever been to Cuba (two times) and Mexico, but Costa Rica has by far the best beaches.

To make me feel sexy like a Costa Rican tropical again, I threw together this awesome Costa Rican meal! Saucy black beans, brown rice, and some scream worthy butter honey plantains. You need to make this. Like now.

To begin, get your brown rice cooking and get out your ingredients: black beans, onion, lime, tomato paste, oregano, cumin, veggie broth, chili and garlic (I guess it’s missing in this photo!)

After about 10 minutes, start cooking your black beans by first heating a medium skillet over medium heat and adding canola oil. Once shimmering, cook your onion until translucent.

Stir in the garlic, tomato paste, and bay leaf until the garlic is fragrant and the tomato paste has cooked off a bit, about 30-60 seconds.

Add the beans to the pan and using a wooden spatula, smash about half of the beans.

Stir in the veggie broth, chili powder, cumin, and oregano. Simmer over low heat, stirring occasionally, until flavours meld and most of the broth has been absorbed, about 10 minutes.

Stir in lime juice and season to taste with salt and pepper as needed.

The plantains only take about 10 minutes so these can be made right after you start your beans. First, melt butter and add plantains in a single layer.

Cook plantains on each side, for about 3 minutes, or until they reach a caramelized brown color. Drizzle with honey just before they are ready. Transfer to a plate covered with paper towel and allow to drain for a minute.

Now you can get to plating. Add a scoop of brown rice on your plate. Add half the black beans. Add half of the plantains and you’re done! If you want to be fancy (or awesome) you could add some chopped scallions or cilantro. My boy loooooves cilantro so of course he threw a giant handful on top and mixed it all around.

Costa Rican Black Beans
Recipe adapted from Smells Like Home
Makes 6 servings

Ingredients:
4 tsp canola oil
1/2 cup diced onion
2 fat cloves garlic, minced
1 tbsp tomato paste
2 bay leaf
2 cans (15 1/2 oz) of black beans, ( 1 can drained and rinsed, 1 whole can)
1 cup vegetable broth
1/2 tsp chili powder
1 tsp cumin
1/4 tsp oregano
Juice of 1 lime
Chopped cilantro (optional, for garnish)

Directions:
Heat a medium skillet over medium heat, and add the canola oil. Once shimmering, cook the onion until translucent. Stir in the garlic, tomato paste, and bay leaf until the garlic is fragrant and the tomato paste has cooked off a bit, about 30-60 seconds.

Add the beans to the pan. One can should be drained and rinsed and the other should be put in juice and all. Using a wooden spatula or potato masher, smash the beans until about half are mashed up. Stir in the veggie broth, chili powder, cumin, and oregano. Your beans should be “soupy” and that is a GOOD thing! Simmer over low heat, stirring occasionally, until flavours meld and most of the broth has been absorbed, about 10 minutes. Stir in lime juice and season to taste with salt and pepper as needed.

If desired, sprinkle cilantro.

Butter Honey Plantains
A Warm Vanilla Sugar Recipe

Ingredients:
1 ripe (almost black) plantain, peeled and sliced in 1 inch slices
2 tablespoons butter
Drizzle of honey

Directions:
In a non-stick skillet over medium heat, melt butter.

Add plantains, in a single layer. Cook plantains on each side, for about 3 minutes, or until they reach a caramelized brown color. Drizzle with honey just before they are ready.

Transfer to a plate covered with paper towel and allow to drain for a minute.

Cinnamon Sugar Apple Cake

After only 1 week back to school somehow I’m swimming in assignments already. But busy is a good thing, and with a to-do list ten pages long, things are getting done!

Besides organizing school and work, since being back from Costa Rica I’ve began marathon training, made my 2012 goals for baking (I’ll share these soon), and had to remember how to play the guitar for my guitar lessons. It’s surprising how easy it is to forget how to play! Especially since I’m a beginner. I blame all those cute monkeys outside my lodge!!

Even though I’m busy I can’t complain. In a way, it can keep you sain despite what many people say. I think as long as I’m organized, things will get done. And then I can enjoy the time I have doing things I really like! This cake made my extremely happy. It came together in no time, was delicious, and totally freezable! I made this as a dessert, and then ate this baby for breakfast for a few days after that. I think anything with warm apples is bound to make me swoon. It’s just how I am!

First, preheat your oven to 350 degrees F. To prepare the apples, peel them and slice them into about 1/4 inch thick slices and place them into a large bowl. Pour the sugar over the apples and give them a quick toss with your hands and then add the lemon juice. Let the apples and the sugar sit for about 30 minutes.

This process with soften the apples and the sugar will become liquid.

Add the vegetable oil, eggs and vanilla to the apple mixture and stir together with a spoon.

In another bowl add the flour, baking soda, cinnamon and cloves.

Mix together until the baking soda and spices are evenly distributed through the dry ingredients mixture.

Add the dry ingredients to the wet ingredients, and combine with a spoon carefully until the dry mixture is just incorporated.

Spray a 9×9 baking dish with baking spray. Transfer the batter into the baking dish.

Bake in a preheated oven for 50-55 minutes, or until a knife can be inserted in the center and comes out clean.

Cool cake on a wire rack to cool completely and then dig in! You can serve this with whipped cream, ice cream, or add some frosting. All are great choices!

Cinnamon Apple Cake
Adapted from Whats Gaby Cooking

Ingredients:
4 cups sliced and peeled apple (I used Honey Crisps, but you could easily use Granny Smith or Gala apples)
1 tbsp fresh lemon juice
2 cups sugar
3/4 cup vegetable oil
2 eggs
2 tsp vanilla
2 cups flour
1 1/2 tsp baking soda
1 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp cloves

Frosting recipe here!

Directions:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

To prepare the apples, peel and core about 4 apples. Slice them into about 1/4 inch thick slices and place them into a large bowl. Pour the sugar over the apples and give them a quick toss with your hands and then add the lemon juice. Let the apples and the sugar hang out for about 30-45 minutes. This process with soften the apples and the sugar will become liquid.

Add the vegetable oil, eggs and vanilla to the apple mixture and stir together with a spoon.

In another bowl, combine the flour, baking soda, cinnamon and cloves. Mix together until the baking soda and spices are evenly distributed through the dry ingredients mixture. Add the dry ingredients to the wet ingredients, and combine with a spoon carefully until the dry mixture is just incorporated.

Spray a 9×9 baking dish with baking spray. Transfer the batter into the baking dish and bake in a preheated oven for 50-55 minutes, or until a knife can be inserted in the center and comes out clean.

Serve with freshly whipped cream, frosting or ice cream. Enjoy!

Curried Butternut Squash Soup

I’m baaaaack! From beautiful Costa Rica. Another world, really. Filled with various monkeys, butterflies, spiders, flowers, and sea creatures. Much different from the winter wonderland I’m experiencing here in Ottawa.

Although I had the time of my life, after a two week vacation it’s good to be home.

There’s nothing quite like coming back to your own space, your own cooking, and all the little familiar surroundings.

Like soup. Comforting, warm, and tasty. This soup in particular is thick with a hearty dose of curry that is all kinds of awesome.

To begin, preheat your oven and place squash halves, cut side up, onto a baking sheet and place one tablespoon of butter and sugar into the cavity of each.

Roast squash for about 1 hour or until the flesh has softened.

Allow the squash to cool for 15 minutes before scooping the flesh into a bowl. Discard the skin.

Heat oil in saucepan over medium-high heat. Add onions and sauté for 5 minutes.

Add thyme and chives and sauté for an additional 2 minutes. Season with salt and pepper. Add curry powder, cumin, cinnamon, and squash and stir until just combined.

Pour the broth over the mixture and stir. Simmer soup for 15 minutes. Season with salt and pepper.

Pour mixture into a blender (or use an immersion blender) and puree until smooth. Pour the soup back into the pan and adjust seasonings. Simmer for 5 minutes, remove from heat. Whisk cream into soup. Add desired amount of honey to taste.

To garnish I like to drizzle about 1/2 tsp of cream on top with some chopped chives. It really makes the bowl look pretty!

Curried Butternut Squash Soup
Recipe from Spoon Fork Bacon
Serves 4 to 6

Ingredients:
2 medium butternut squash, halved and seeded
1/4 cup (1/2 stick) salted butter, divided
4 tsp light brown sugar, divided
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 yellow onion, diced
1 tablespoon thyme, minced
2 teaspoons chives, thinly sliced
1 1/2 tablespoons curry powder
2 teaspoons cumin
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1 ¼ cups vegetable broth
2/3 cup heavy cream
salt and pepper to taste
honey to taste (I used about 1 tbsp)

Directions:
1. Preheat oven to 375°F.
2. Place squash halves, cut side up, onto a baking sheet and place one tablespoon of butter and sugar into the cavity of each.
3. Roast squash for about 1 hour or until the flesh has softened.
4. Allow the squash to cool for 15 minutes before scooping the flesh into a bowl. Discard the skin.
5. Heat oil in saucepan over medium-high heat. Add onions and sauté for 5 minutes.
6. Add thyme and chives and sauté for an additional 2 minutes. Season with salt and pepper.
7. Add curry powder, cumin, cinnamon, and squash and stir until just combined.
8. Pour the broth over the mixture and stir. Simmer soup for 15 minutes. Season with salt and pepper.
9. Pour mixture into a blender (or use an immersion blender) and puree until smooth.
10. Pour the soup back into the pan and adjust seasonings. Simmer for 5 minutes, remove from heat. Whisk cream into soup. Add desired amount of honey to taste.

To garnish I like to drizzle about 1/2 tsp of cream on top with some chopped chives. It looks really pretty!