I realize that it's been a while since I've posted a recipe; I've been trying out some new things, and some of them were....well, not failures, but definitely in need of some tweaking. I want you to have access to my best recipes, so I'm making all efforts for the ones I post to be 100% tweak-free. What kind of sensei would I be if I didn't give my ninjas-in-training the best tools and information to work with?
Speaking of which, if there's an actual Japanese word for "ninja in training," and you know it, please let me know. Your prize for imparting this information will be my everlasting gratitude...and maybe some cookies. Bonus if you can teach me to say "fur ninja in training." That might garner you some brownies as well.
But anyway, I've definitely been working the kinks out of some recipes during the last few weeks; I did come up with a killer recipe for crunchy coconut french toast that was to DIE for, but my sister-in-law is refusing to send me the pictures of it (I made it for her and my brother one weekend at their house), and those little toasted, coconut-y pieces of deliciousness were so cute, I can't bear to post the recipe without photos. If you know Michelle, please feel free to harass her to send me the pictures, as my own personal harassment seems not to be doing much good.
I don't want to leave my little ninja trainees without a new recipe for too long though, so here's the recipe I use when I want to make applesauce. It actually surprises me how few people make their own applesauce, as it's actually ridiculously easy and MUCH cheaper than buying the stuff in a jar. It tastes a lot better too. This recipe can be doubled or tripled to your heart's content - your only limit is the size of your cooking pot. It keeps for a while in the fridge, and it you're one of those super-amazing people that knows how to can your own food, it would probably work wonders with this recipe. Homemade applesauce is endlessly versatile - pack it in lunches, eat it by itself, have it on oatmeal, granola, ice cream, pancakes, mix with (vegan) yogurt, etc. Everyone with little ninjas running around should especially try this recipe; it's a great healthy snack (I don't think I've ever met a kid who didn't like applesauce), you'll save tons of money on those stupidly expensive applesauce snack cups from the grocery store, and making your own leaves more of the vitamins and minerals of the fruit intact because they're not being processed into oblivion. So what makes it "Ninja" Applesauce? Nothing really, beyond the fact that I needed a snappy title and "applesauce" just sounded less-than-thrilling. I'd like to think that if someone was a ninja of the vegan cooking arts though, that he/she would make her own applesauce. Whipping up some hot, homemade apple-y goodness is so much cooler than opening a jar of Motts.
Oh, and apologies, but I don't have a picture to go with this recipe. The batch I made got eaten so fast that by the time it occurred to me that I hadn't taken one, it was almost gone. I'm not terribly worried about it though - let's be serious, it's applesauce - I think we all know what it's supposed to look like. On to the recipe!
2 1/2 lbs apples (about 7-8 apples)
1/4 cup orange juice (freshly squeezed is best)
1 Tablespoon non-dairy butter (optional, see below)
3 Tablespoons maple syrup
2 Tablespoons sugar
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
1/8 teaspoon allspice
pinch of nutmeg
1/8 teaspoon salt
Peeling your apples for this recipe is optional (I personally don't) but if you want to, do this first. Core your apples and chop them into 1/2" pieces. Heat a large saucepan over medium-low heat. Add the non-dairy butter (if using) and let it melt. Add the apples and stir them around to coat. Cook for 2-3 minutes until the apples are slightly softened. Add the rest of the ingredients to the pot, cover, and simmer for 30 minutes, stirring occasionally. The apples should break down slightly and release their juices, but won't be totally mushy. At this point, it's up to you what texture you'd like your applesauce to have. If you like it super-chunky, you're done. If you like semi-chunky applesauce (this is what I personally go for), take a potato masher to the pot and mush things around a bit. If you like your applesauce super-smooth (more along the lines of store-bought), you can puree it in the blender or food processor. I've never done it this way, but I'm not too sure how it would work if you left the skins on your apples in the first step. If you want super-smooth sauce, it's best to peel your apples.
Serve the sauce hot or cold. It keeps for at least a week in the fridge in a tightly-covered container. Enjoy!
Tips and tricks:
1. To peel or not to peel? I avoid peeling my fruits and veggies in any recipe where I can avoid it. This is mostly due to laziness, but also because the majority of nutrients are found in the peels. I almost never peel apples, even for things like pies or fruit crisps where I'm told you should (Julia Child is rolling over in her grave!) and everything always comes out great. I almost never peel things like potatoes, summer squash, cucumbers, and eggplant for the same reason. My general rule of thumb is that if the skin is edible, and leaving it won't compromise the taste/texture of the end result too much, I leave it. Of course, it will affect the outcome of the recipe somewhat, so it's up to you what you'd like to do. Leaving the skins on the apples in this particular recipe will leave you skin pieces mixed in with your sauce, and depending on what type of apples you use, can lend a rosy color to the sauce that I actually find quite pleasing. Of course, some people might not like the looks of skin-pieces floating about in there, or might not like to have to chew them (I'd recommend against leaving the skin if this sauce is being fed to very small children), so it's all up to you.
2. What kind of apples? Most commonly-found apples will work for applesauce (and for that matter, most recipes involving apples) with one exception: Red Delicious apples. Those apples are really only good for eating (and personally, I think the vile, mealy-textured things aren't even decent for that) and shouldn't be used in applesauce, pies, muffins, or any other recipes where you have to cook them. Choose an apple that is firm, crisp, and not overly-sweet. My favorite apples for pretty much anything from eating to cooking to baking are McIntosh.
3. Butter? Wtf is up with that? Adding the non-dairy butter is completely optional. I read once this is how you make "French" applesauce, tried it out, liked it, and kept doing it. Of course, the recipe for "French Applesauce" that I originally tried called for a LOT more butter than mine does. I think it adds a nice flavor and body to the sauce, so I scaled back the amounts (for health's sake - non-animal fats won't clog your arteries but will definitely make your pants too tight if you eat too much!) but kept is as part of my usual recipe. If you want to make your sauce fat-free though, just ditch the non-dairy butter and add all the ingredients to your saucepan in one step.
4. A note on maple syrup - I think I've mentioned this in a previous blog, but I cannot stress it enough: USE ONLY 100% PURE MAPLE SYRUP. The stuff you buy in the plastic squeez-y bottles that we all dumped in copious amounts on our pancakes as children is NOT maple syrup. Seriously, read the ingredients. It's basically artificially flavored high fructose corn syrup and water. It's disgusting, terribly unhealthy, and won't work for recipes. If you really must have the stuff, save it for your pancakes/waffles (although try real maple syrup on those too - delish!) and buy the real, honest-to-goodness maple syrup for cooking and baking. Yes, it's MUCH more expensive, but worth it. The grade and type (A, B, dark, light, etc.) doesn't really matter, and you don't need to buy some hoity-toity $20.00 an ounce organic stuff from Vermont that comes in a tiny bottle shaped like a maple leaf. I buy the store-brand. The big bottles usually run me about 8 bucks and they last quite a while, especially since when you use it as a pancake/waffle/french toast topping a little goes a long way because the flavor is very strong. If you've got the artificial sugar-water in your pantry, throw it out. Do it. Seriously. HFCS is the second-worst food item you can put in your body (partially hydrogenated oils being the worst) and you're missing out on some AMAZING flavored food if you're not using the real stuff. Ok, ok, I've berated you with this enough, but just remember: real ninjas don't use fake maple syrup.
That's it for now, everyone. Please let me know what you think of this recipe and the blog so far! Remember to bother Michelle for the french toast pictures and I'll post that one, I'm working on recipes for spicy southwest "sausage" lasagne, pasta with creamy sun-dried tomato sauce, and apple-butter pie with gingerbread scone crust. I also need to figure out what I'm making for Christmas dinner. If anyone has suggestions for a recipe they'd like to see me veganize, please get in touch!
<3, The Fur Ninja