Criss-Cross Applesauce

I love Fall, it’s absolutely my favorite season. I love the beautiful blanket of falling leaves (it drives me crazy that here in Northern NJ everyone sweeps up their leaves the minute they hit the ground); I love the chill in the air; I love the contrast between the bright blue sky and Mother Nature’s muted colors; I even love the cool, earthy and slightly damp way the season smells. And there is no food that says Fall to me more perfectly than apples.

It seems like this time of year everyone you talk to has either just gone apple picking or has plans to. (Although truth be told, the Greco family prefers to apple pick mid-August in Vermont. Sorry N.J., but you really can’t compete.) Anyway, back to those apples. If you in fact do go apple picking then you’re probably like me and end up bringing home way more than you and your family can possibly eat out of hand. And seriously how many pies does any one person feel compelled to make? So to use up all those lovely fresh picked apples I make applesauce. In the past I would make it on the stove top and just let it cook until it was mushy and “done”. Then I discovered a Martha Stewart recipe for roasted applesauce. Hello delicious!

This is honestly some of the best applesauce I’ve ever tasted. It’s loaded with wonderful spices, takes less than an hour to make and freezes beautifully. My family likes to eat it in the morning with toast, at dinner alongside chicken or pork chops and warmed up with a bit of vanilla ice cream for dessert. I promise that after making this roasted version you’ll never bother with the stove top kind again.

Roasted Applesauce
Roasting the apples rather than cooking them on the stove really gives this applesauce a much more complex flavor.

1/4 cup water
4 tbsp. packed brown sugar
3 tsp. fresh lemon juice
a big pinch of salt
3 tbsp. unsalted butter, melted
3 lbs. apples (about 10-12)
1 tsp. ground cinnamon
1/8 tsp. nutmeg
1/8 tsp. ground cloves

  1. Preheat oven to 400°F. Peel, core and cut apples into medium size chunks. Place in a large bowl and set aside.
  2. Combine water, sugar, lemon juice, melted butter and salt in a small bowl. Stir until blended and sugar has dissolved.
  3. Pour sugar mixture over the apples and toss to coat well. Place apples in a large baking dish, cover tightly with foil and roast 40 minutes.
  4. Let cool slightly then mash apples with a fork. Adjust spices (if needed) and serve warm over vanilla ice cream, at room temperature, or freeze for a later date.

*adapted from martha stewart

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Homemade Ice Cream Cookie Sandwiches— Oh Yeah.

I collect cookie jars. Vintage McCoy cookie jars to be precise. I’ve collected them for years, way before I had little people to make cookies with or for. You see I have a weakness for housewares. When I was a young girl I would go to the local department store with my mother and head straight for the fine china department. I would walk around and around the beautiful sets of dinnerware and crystal, dreaming of which patterns I choose one day when I was grown up. This would therefore explain why I own five sets of dishes (we had a yard sale and I sold two “extra” sets), enough serving pieces to easily set a buffet for a hundred, a ridiculous number of tiny antique aperitif glasses, a crazy collection of water pitchers and just about every size and shape cocktail glass you could ask for. Feel like margaritas? I’ve got the glasses… Red wine? But of course, balloon or bordeaux… Champagne? Got it… Dark and Stormy? Yup, swizzle sticks too! I could go on but you get the picture.

Okay, so back to cookie jars… I own many. And while most of them are currently in the attic I do have a few of my favorites in the kitchen. One holds loose change, one holds bric-a-brac that we may need to get our hands on one day and the remainder hold dust, the odd button and perhaps a few pebbles from the beach or an old parkway token. That is except one. If you’re a frequent guest at my house then you know exactly which cookie jar I’m speaking of. It’s the one that’s almost always filled with some homemade delight. Since family and friends have come to expect homemade cookies at our house I do my best to keep it full, but sometimes cookie making gets pushed to the back burner. I always know its time to refill the cookie jar when I hear the lid being lifted and replaced, followed immediately by a sad-faced individual wandering into the room.

It happened to be time for me to whip up another batch for my nearly empty jar, but with the arrival of warm weather the kids have been more inclined to ask for popsicles as a snack than cookies. So, I wondered to myself, how do you think they would feel about cookies turned into ice cream sandwiches?…

I’ll give you one guess as to how they felt about homemade ice cream cookie sandwiches. If these two little people could have hoisted me on their shoulders and marched me around the room I think they would have. Instead I got a “Mom you and these are THE BEST!”, which was even better.

Brown Sugar Double Chocolate Chip Cookies
The addition of a little bit of espresso powder really kicks the dark chocolate flavor up a notch. One batch of these cookies typically makes about two dozen cookies, certainly enough to make ice cream sandwiches and enjoy solo as well.

1 1/2 cups flour
2 tbsp. + 2 tsp. dark cocoa powder
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1 stick butter, melted
3/4 cup brown sugar, packed
1 egg
1/2 tsp. instant espresso powder, dissolved in 1 tsp. of water
1 tsp. vanilla
1 tbsp. milk
1 tbsp. plain yogurt
5 oz. dark chocolate morsels* (these are bigger than ordinary chips)

  1. Preheat oven to 350°F and line two cookies sheets with parchment paper.
  2. Mix the flour, cocoa powder and baking soda together in a medium bowl; set aside.
  3. Cream together the butter and brown sugar until thoroughly blended. Add the egg, espresso/water, vanilla, milk and yogurt and mix well. Add half of the flour mixture to the wet ingredients and mix, add the remaining flour and mix until completely blended. Gently fold in the chips.
  4. Using a cookie scoop or tablespoon place mounds of dough on the prepared cookie sheets.
  5. Bake for 12-15 minutes or until the cookies have spread a bit and the tops have begun to crack, but are still soft to the touch.
  6. Transfer cookies to racks to cool and enjoy with a loved one and an ice-cold glass of milk, or use to create ice cream sandwiches.

*In the past I have also made these with 3/4 cup peanut butter chips instead of the morsels. Holy cow they were good!

Ice Cream Sandwiches
Having all the ingredients cold when you assemble these seems to be the key to building a successful ice cream sandwich.

Ice cream in flavors of your choice
Homemade chocolate cookies

  1. Place pre-baked chocolate cookies in the freezer to chill for 15 minutes.
  2. Working quickly, one flavor at a time, place a generous scoop of ice cream in the center of each cookie and top with a second. Place the completed sandwich on a cookie sheet in the freezer and repeat with remaining cookies and ice cream flavors.
  3. Chill ice cream sandwiches for at least an hour before serving. Store in an air tight container in the freezer or gobble up immediately.