applesauce > apple cake!

I like to cook so it’s no surprise I’m writing another post about cooking. I have to squeal with joy about my new-t0-me kitchen tool, my food mill.

Have you used a food mill? It’s just about the most awesome thing ever, IMHO. I have relied upon a mini food processor for my food grinding needs (, but when it comes to making applesauce (which became apple cake) I have to admit…the food mill is superior!

I had an abundance of apples. My dear man is allergic to fresh apples so I wanted a way to cook them. Applesauce is nice, but I’m not one to sit and eat a bowl of it (presumably, neither is my dear man. Clearly, I was cooking for both of our tastes…!). However, applesauce as a base for apple cake is right up my alley. I began my research. My usual applesauce recipe is from the lovely and talented cookbook author/artist Susan Branch: which is a really wonderful recipe! But, I had a LOT apples…and I didn’t want to peel and core them ALL.

apples on cutting board

Hello, food mill!

food mill

I had never used a food mill, but since I’d been considering getting one I’d kept an eye out when browsing thrift stores. I found this one at the Goodwill–it was $5.00 but because it had a blue tag, it was 50% off! Mr. Armstead, a co-worker of mine, had memories of his father using a food mill, and taught me how to use my new-found tool. He explained the process; just put the cooked apples in the food mill, set the food mill over a bowl, turn the handle clockwise to smoosh the apple pulp from the apples, then turn the handle counter clockwise to gather up the skins, and what’s in the bowl is fresh applesauce. I was still skeptical. Really? That’s it?

I found a few recipes from a trusted source (Martha Stewart) and set about learning my new kitchen tool. I started by washing the apples and slicing them in half.

apples in pan

The apples were small! I had a lot of them to chop up. I took a picture of the apples next to a stick of butter. See? Small!

apples and butter

I followed the Martha Stewart recipe for basic applesauce: Once the apples were washed and halved, I chucked ’em in the pan–skins, seeds, stems, and all. I was ready to challenge the effectiveness of my food mill.  I added sugar and a cinnamon stick, plus about an inch of water:

apples in pan

I cut up a bunch of apples;  2/3 of the apples were granny smith, 1/3 were red delicious apples. I brought the water to a boil, then reduced the heat to medium-low and covered the pot with the lid askew. Once the apples cooked for approximately 20 minutes, they looked like this:

apples in pot

Try not to be put off by the color. I wanted to have a mostly tart applesauce, with a little bit of sweetness, hence the two kinds of apples. I think just about any combination of apples would work–I used granny smith & red delicious because that’s what I had on hand. My favorite apple to eat raw is braeburn–it’s tart, crisp, juicy. I’m going to try them in applesauce next time I have an abundance of braeburn’s.

Time to test out the food mill! 3 ladel-fuls of apples in the food mill, grind…grind…grind…clockwise, of course.

cooked apples in mill

Mr. Armstead was right. I could see the pulp give way from the apple skins. At first the pulp came out in small drips, but soon it was yielding to the force of the blade and the pulp was quickly extracted from the fibrous bits.

apples in mill

I cooked some granny smiths by themselves and added them to my bowl, then added some red delicious apples on top. Pretty contrast before mixing, see?

two-tone applesauce

The smell was heavenly. Apples, cinnamon, sugar. I added some fresh lemon juice a little more sugar to taste. I have to say I was very impressed with the food mill’s ease of use and effectiveness. I used the warm applesauce to make this applecake:

I made another batch of applesauce a few weeks later but this time the seeds broke down–and because apple seeds (a.k.a. pips) contain cyanide I had to throw the batch out. I’ve decided that I will pit the apples, but I won’t bother peeling them. This tool was a great find! I look forward to using it often; my mate enjoys apples and now can eat them without experiencing an allergic reaction. I would like to hear if you’ve used a food mill and I thank you for reading!

Published in: on March 21, 2011 at 2:52 pm  Leave a Comment  

fear not, I’ve eaten beans & garlic

But I’ve come prepared…air freshener

Man, I don’t care how much foulness escapes me (although I’m sure you do) I LOVE my bean dip. It’s made with white cannellini beans and copious amounts of garlic. I enjoy making the bean dip almost as much as I enjoy eating it. The fragrant smell of herbes de provence permeate my little apartment kitchen as the beans simmer away on the stove. I serve it with crackers and julienned vegetables and it makes a perfect light lunch or dinner.

garlic & spices

I should say upfront I’m a fussy eater–I don’t like condiments–no mayo, no mustard, no ranch. I’m not a fan of onions or peppers–so I’m not inclined to eat pre-made dips from the store, I have to make it myself. I love the flavors and foods of the Mediterranean. The color, scent, and flavor of olive oil is a beautiful culinary experience. White beans, also known as cannellini beans, cook up smooth and buttery. This dip is delicious.  It’s so simple, healthy, and frugal–all things that appeal to me of late.

olive oil

My method of cooking has gravitated from strictly following recipes to opening my cupboards and culling inspiration from on-hand ingredients. I created this dip in this informal method. I had a bag of white beans I’d purchased for use in a white chili I made. The beans cooked up so soft and rich, I thought they’d be perfect for a dip. My cooking style is fairly concentrated because I don’t like a lot of different flavors. But I’m fond of taking chances with flavors I do like, which means this dip changes depending upon the ingredients I have on-hand and how the food looks, smells, and tastes to me at the time I’m cooking.

bowl of dry beans

cannellini bean dip
makes about 3 cups

soak 1 lb. of dry cannellini beans in water overnight. make sure the water covers the beans by at least two inches, the beans will absorb some of the water so check it in the morning. I let the beans soak until I’m ready to cook them–which usually happens after noon.

Sort the beans–I remove the skins that have floated to the top as well as the beans that are old or discolored. Rinse the beans well in a colander. Put the beans in a stockpot and cover with water by 2-3 inches. Put the pot on the stove, setting the heat to high. Once the beans start boiling, turn the heat down to medium so the rolling boil calms down to a simmer. This is when I add most of the seasoning–which consists of:

2 Tablespoons of olive oil

1 teaspoon of freshly ground lemon pepper

1 teaspoon of herbes de provence

6-8 whole cloves of peeled garlic

I cook this without any salt; I read that salt can prevent beans from softening during the cooking process. I cook the beans 2 to 3 hours, keeping a close eye on the beans, stirring occasionally and making sure there’s enough water. As the beans cook they are absorbing the water-I do not cook the beans until dry, I like them to be enrobed in water (a phrase usually used for chocolate, I’ve ruined it…). Once the beans are fully cooked I take them off the heat and add about a Tablespoon of Lawry’s Garlic Salt–which is a beautiful and tasty product. You may need to add more or less depending on your taste. I set the pot on the windowsill and allow the beans to cool to room temperature.

Now it’s time to grind. That sounds dirty, and believe me, it is. You’re gonna get messy. I transfer the beans to my mini-food processor and add about a teaspoon of olive oil to approximately 1 to 1-1/2 cups of beans and process until they’re smooth. I continue repeating this process until all of the beans are ground into a creamy dip. Here’s a picture taken by my ex Joel, he eats this dip with vegan sour cream–he’s vegetarian, almost vegan.

bean dip

I prefer to serve this dip at room temperature, surrounded by veggies & crackers. It smells very good and because I like the slight burn garlic gives my tongue I would caution you prepare your loved ones for your serious garlic breath.

Here’s a printer-friendly (pdf) copy of the recipe: canellini bean dip. Thanks for reading!

Published in: on July 13, 2009 at 10:00 pm  Comments (2)