Tag Archives: apple

Apple and Fontina Monte Cristo

When my husband is traveling on business (which seems to be way too much lately), I usually keep the cooking to a minimum.  I hate having a big mess to clean up when I am the only one to clean it.  And combined with homework, baths, and bedtime routines, sometimes it just seems like more than I can handle — especially when he is on a long trip.  Single parents have my ultimate admiration.  If parenting with help is exhausting, parenting solo sucks your every will to live.

On those nights, we usually do some simple pasta or soup.  A big pot of soup made at the beginning of the week can feed you for many days.  I love making chicken noodle soup — by the end of the week, the noodles have soaked up so much of the delicious broth that they are a meal on their own.  But our other favorite thing in Daddy’s absence is breakfast for dinner — eggs, omelets, pancakes — you name it.  The kids are guaranteed to love it and the cooking/cleaning load is much easier.

Lately, the kids have fallen in love with Monte Cristo sandwiches — a great combination of a grilled cheese and french toast.  It’s just as easy as the two component dishes and can be mixed and matched with lots of different fillings and dips.  Today we made Apple and Fontina Monte Cristos, but you could easily add ham or turkey, use any kind of cheese, and dip in anything from maple syrup to grainy mustard to whipped cream.  Quite honestly, I think you could make a version of this for breakfast, brunch, lunch, dinner, or dessert.

You might even be able to get through a whole week of travel with nothing but Monte Cristos.  Next time he goes to California, I guess.

Apple and Fontina Monte Cristo

Makes 2-3 sandwiches

Note:  Simple dishes like this are best with simple, fresh ingredients.  In my case, I am extremely lucky to have the wonderful Gemelli Bakery as my challah source.  Use the best bread and cheese you can find.

Half loaf of Challah or Brioche Bread, sliced about 3/4 inches thick
6 ounces Fontina Cheese, thinly sliced
1 apple, thinly sliced
2 eggs
1/4 cup of milk
1/8 t cinnamon
Dash of salt and pepper
Butter
Maple Syrup
Grainy Mustard

1.  Whisk together eggs, milk, cinnamon, and salt/pepper in a wide pasta bowl or deep plate.

2.  Place one slice of bread on cutting board.  Make one layer of Fontina slices.  Follow with one layer of apple slices.  Top with another piece of bread.  Repeat with remaining sandwiches.  If you like, you can spread some grainy mustard right on the bread before cooking (my favorite, not the kids).

3.  Melt about a tablespoon of butter in a saute pan or griddle on medium low heat. Hold the sandwich together carefully and dip it into the egg batter on both sides.  Make sure it is coated nicely, but not too saturated.  Repeat with remaining sandwiches.

4.  Place sandwiches in saute pan or griddle and cook until golden brown.  Flip, press sandwich down a bit, and cook until golden brown on second side.  If your bread is extra thick, you may need to keep flipping for awhile in order to get the cheese to melt (the frequent flipping prevents the bread from becoming too brown).

5.  Remove from pan, cut in half, and serve with maple syrup or grainy mustard on the side.

6.  Pour yourself a tall glass of wine to get through the rest of the evening.

Almost Vegan Whole Grain Apple Dumplings

So, last week we were fortunate enough to be among the Pennsylvania residents who received the earliest October snowfall on record.  And not only did we end up with about 5 inches of snow (a day or so after our first frost of the season), we had major trees down and power outages because of the weight of the snow on the tree leaves.

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Luckily, we were only without power for about eight hours (many were without for three days or more).  By the evening, all we had to do was enjoy the fireplace and some impromptu company for a snow day dinner.  Did I forget to mention that school was even cancelled?  Nothing like recording your first snow day in mid October.

Because I am a lazy, lazy woman, I refused to go out of the house to pick up any ingredients to make dessert.  And I quickly realized that I was completely out of butter.  This does not generally make for a very good dessert.  I improvised with coconut oil and pretended it was because I was trying to be healthier.  The rest of the ingredients were luckily sitting around — apples, apple cider, and some basic staples.  I call these dumplings “almost vegan” because I made them with honey and cow’s milk — which are clearly not vegan (although some vegans debate the use of honey).  However, you could easily substitute those ingredients with agave nectar or sugar for the honey and soy milk or your choice of milk substitute.

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And if you are in no mood to be healthy, you could reverse engineer them with butter.  Especially if you don’t have to put boots on to go get it.  I would say that the one thing you wouldn’t want to change is the freshly ground cinnamon and nutmeg — you will not believe the difference.  I have a coffee grinder that I use exclusively for “sweet” spices and the end result is unlike anything you have ever tasted pre-ground.

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Almost Vegan Whole Grain Apple Dumplings

Serves 8-10

For the apple mixture:
4 apples (I used a softer baking apple, but any will do), peeled, cored, and chopped into 1/2 inch chunks
1/2 cup honey or agave nectar
3 T coconut oil, melted
1 cinnamon stick (or 1 t pre-ground), freshly ground in a spice grinder
1 small piece of whole nutmeg (or 1 t pre-ground), freshly ground in a spice grinder
1/2 cup panko breadcrumbs

For the pastry:
4 cups whole wheat pastry flour
4 t baking powder
3/4 t salt
3/4 cup coconut oil, at room temperature or chilled (in a hardened state)
1/3 cup honey or agave nectar
1 cup milk (can easily substitute with soy milk, etc.)

For the sauce:
1 3/4 cups apple cider
1 cup honey or agave nectar

Plus additional milk for brushing tops of dumplings

1.  Make the apple mixture by combining the 1/2 cup of honey and 3 T of melted coconut oil.  Toss with chopped apples and combine with cinnamon, nutmeg, and breadcrumbs.  Set aside.

2.  Make the pastry by placing pastry flour, baking powder, and salt in a a food processor.  Pulse a few times.  Add in 3/4 cup of coconut oil and process until it looks like a fine meal, with no large lumps of coconut oil remaining.  Add in honey and milk and pulse until just combined.  Turn out onto a piece of parchment paper and knead a few times until it comes together as dough.  (It will feel a bit like cookie dough — it is somewhat fragile.)

3.  Make sauce by combining apple cider and 1 cup of honey in a small saucepan.  Bring to a boil, reduce heat, and let cook for about 3-5 minutes until slightly thickened.

4.  Preheat oven to 425 F.  Flatten pastry dough into a square shape and gently roll out (leaving it on the parchment paper) into about a 12 inch by 12 inch square.  It should be about 1/2 inch thick.  Cut that square into 9 smaller squares (a 3×3 matrix).

5.  To assemble a dumpling:  take one pastry square, flatten it a bit more, and place about 1/3 cup of the apple mixture in the center of the square.  Bring each corner of the pastry square over top the apples to the center.  Place the dumpling into the palm of your hand to firm up any cracks on the bottom and seal the dough to the top of the apples.  Repeat with remaining dough and apples.

6.  Place dumplings into a greased baking pan (I used a 11×14 pyrex), leaving a little space between them.  Brush the tops of the dumplings with milk.  (Can refrigerate at this point until ready to bake and serve.)

7.  When ready to bake (you will want to serve them somewhat warm), pour apple cider sauce around the base of the dumplings.  Bake at 425 F for 20-25 minutes until golden and the sauce is bubbly and nicely absorbed into the dumplings.  Serve warm with vanilla ice cream.

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