(10 seconds each to read and are almost that quick to prepare)
By Lisa Messinger
Food and Cooking at Creators Syndicate
If you think nothing beats hot or iced apple cider during early autumn months, try pairing the beverages with food. Since sweet, spicy, and savory all go equally as well, you are in for some fun menu planning.
Even before you get to the food, cider creativity can rule:
- Jazz up your ice cubes. Make a puree from a foundation, like the peeled, cored and sliced ripe pear in the autumn-spiced ice cubes recipe below, seasonal spices and a natural sugar substitute, like stevia, and freeze in an ice cube tray. Serve in iced cider.
- Get creative with your cider. Think of it as a brew in which to whisk everything from flavor fests (such as peppermint extract or vanilla beans) to nutrient-packed antioxidants (chunks of exotic fall fruits for a Sangria-like effect or fresh herbs, liked chopped basil or rosemary).
- Substitute or combine other fall fruits with apples in homemade cider, like pears or quinces. Or even add a sweet vegetable, like juiced carrots and a dash of juiced fresh ginger, both of which complement apples beautifully.
Eden Ice Cider is a sweet dessert wine made in Vermont from a mixture of local apples in which the pressed juice is frozen outdoors before the most intensely flavored part is extracted, a la icewines, where the grapes freeze on the vine. The company recruited a number of local chefs to create pairings, which would also go well with iced or hot apple cider.
Pastry Chef Lara Atkins, from The Kitchen Table Bistro in Richmond, Vt., noted that a Granny Apple cake with toffee sauce and served with caramelized apples goes well. Best-selling cookbook author Bob Blumer's spicy cheese-filled walnut shells below are an excellent accompaniment.
Following are some of award-winning Eden Ice Cider's ideas.
- Apple cake with caramel sauce
- Bread puddings
- Apple pie with a slice of cheddar
- Maple creme brule
- Sticky toffee pudding
- Or as a dessert itself, with a few butter cookies
Fun fare like the above also proves food preparation can be easy, nutritious, inexpensive, fun - and fast. The creative combinations are delicious proof that everyone has time for creating homemade specialties and, more importantly, the healthy family togetherness that goes along with it!
Another benefit: You effortlessly become a better cook, since these are virtually-can't-go-wrong combinations. They can't help but draw "wows" from family members and guests.
SPICY STUFFED WALNUTS
10 walnuts in the shell (nuts for eating; shells for serving only), see Note
1 teaspoon granulated sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper
6 ounces Gorgonzola cheese, at room temperature
1 tablespoon canola oil
3 tablespoons honey
Yields 6 servings of 2 pieces each.
Preheat oven to 350 F.
Insert a paring knife into the small opening at the top of each walnut shell and twist it to split the shell in half. (Some may break into several pieces in the wrong places. This is an inexact science and some walnuts are much more difficult to split evenly than others --- hence the spare shells in that you will need just 12 cosmetically perfect walnut halves culled from these 10 whole walnuts for the final recipe for serving only, not for eating.) Clean out the nut casings, reserve the shells and grind in a blender or food processor 1/8 of the nuts and save the rest for another use. Reserve the empty shells.
In a small bowl, combine well the granulated sugar, salt, cayenne, ground walnuts and cheese and set aside for no longer than the amount of time it takes to roast the walnut shells.In a medium bowl, toss walnut halves with oil. Transfer nuts to a baking sheet and roast for 10 minutes, or until toasted. Let cool to room temperature.
To assemble: Set cooled walnut shells on a tray. Fill walnut halves with 1 teaspoon of cheese mixture. Transfer to serving tray and drizzle with honey overtop just before serving. Discard nut shells after eating the filling.
Note: You will want to yield just 12 cosmetically perfect walnut halves from these 10 whole walnuts. Please see recipe instructions.
-Adapted from "Glutton for Pleasure
" by Bob Blumer.AUTUMN-SPICED ICE CUBES
1 cup water
1 ripe pear (peeled, cored and thinly sliced)
1 teaspoon total freshly ground cinnamon, nutmeg and cloves
1/2 teaspoon stevia or other sugar-free sweetener
Yields about 12 to 16 flavored ice cubes.
Combine water, pear, spices and stevia in a blender until it's pureed; freeze in an ice cube tray. Use as the ice for iced apple cider (either store-bought or homemade).
QUICK TIP OF THE WEEK:
Maria Speck, author of "Simply Ancient Grains
," encourages you to consider making your favorite paella recipe vegetarian. Keep the signature seasonings of such recipes as is (including saffron threads), but consider using choices like hers, such as wild rice, sweet potatoes, carrots, red onion, bell pepper, tomatoes, tart, dried cherries and crumbled gorgonzola.Lisa Messinger
is a first-place winner in food and nutrition writing from the Association of Food Journalists and the National Council Against Health Fraud and author of seven food books, including the best-selling The Tofu Book: The New American Cuisine with 150 Recipes
(Avery/Penguin Putnam) and Turn Your Supermarket into a Health Food Store: The Brand-Name Guide to Shopping for a Better Diet
(Pharos/Scripps Howard). She writes two nationally syndicated food and nutrition columns for Creators Syndicate and had been a longtime newspaper food and health section managing editor, as well as managing editor of Gayot/Gault Millau dining review company. Lisa traveled the globe writing about top chefs for Pulitzer Prize-winning Copley News Service and has written about health and nutrition for the Los Angeles Times Syndicate, Reader's Digest, Woman's World and Prevention Magazine Health Books. Permission granted for use on DrLaura.com.