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Monthly Archives: October 2019

Fall Fun Day

Two Saturdays ago, my family and I celebrated our 4th Annual Fall Fun Day. What is Fall Fun Day? It’s one of the best days of the year and basically a holiday. I pick a Saturday in mid-October when everyone is free and we pack in all the fall activities we can! This year included the farmer’s market, apple picking, baking, hiking, and had the weather cooperated, a corn maze.

Baking

For me, the festivities began Friday afternoon as soon as my I got done with my monogastric nutrition class. I stopped at the store for a few baking essentials and was soon scurrying around the kitchen making a Pumpkin Cheesecake for dinner on Saturday night.

Come Saturday morning, I was out of bed at 4 AM because there was still lots to be done in the kitchen. My first task was French pressing a piping hot mug full of Purity Coffee, so I’d have plenty of energy for a long day. I quickly whipped up a loaf of pumpkin bread to keep in the freezer for later in the week and then a batch of Pumpkin Scones with Maple Nutmeg Glaze for breakfast. By 7:30, Daniel and I were heading out the door to Dane County Farmer’s Market.

Farmer’s Market

There are quite a few farmer’s markets in the Madison area, but nothing compares to the Saturday market on the capital square. Vendors line the sidewalks, selling produce, meat, cheese, flowers, honey, maple syrup, herbs, and baked goods. The market opens at 6:15 am and the earlier you can arrive the better. The crowds are lighter and there’s just something about the downtown atmosphere with the crisp air on a misty fall morning as the sun is just coming up.

Daniel and I met up with his mom and my sister around 8 o’clock. We took a couple laps around the Square, stopping by our favorite vendors’ booths. After that, our next stop was Appleberry Farm.

Apple Picking

Even though it’s getting late in the season, we were still able to pick our own Empire and Ida Red Apples. Just a quick PSA for anyone planning to go apple picking: it doesn’t work that well to sit on someone’s shoulders to reach the high ones. Let someone tall grab them or just let them be. There are plenty more within arm’s reach. 🙂 We did actually find a lot of apples despite being told that the trees were pretty picked over. Last night, I decided to use them to make a cranberry apple crisp, so stay tuned for that recipe coming soon!

With our apples and fresh cider, we made a quick stop at my parent’s house. We dropped off our goods from the morning and then everyone plus Macy, the dog, piled in two cars for the short trip up to Devil’s Lake State Park.

Hiking

We first hiked up the East Bluff Trail. It’s a pretty strenuous climb with lots of uneven “stairs” in the rocks. Macy, of course, had absolutely no problem, scaling the rocks like a little mountain goat. I, on the other hand am much less nimble, but I’ve hiked the trail enough times to handle it well.

And even though it hike is difficult, when you see the view from the top, it’s completely worth it. From the colorful bluffs in the distance to the serene lake below, it’s really a breath-taking sight!

Instead of taking the trail down and all the way around the lake, everyone seemed about ready for lunch, so be opted for the direct route back to ground level. After a picnic, Lauren was cold and tired, so she went home with my parents and Macy. Meanwhile, the rest of us took a nice walk along the lake shore.

Dinner

When we arrived back at the house, Lauren and my mom were making a fall inspired charcuterie board. Basically, it’s a big platter of various cheeses, meats, fruits, crackers, and other little snacks. To learn how to make one yourself, check out Lauren’s blog here!

Everything was so delicious, but we had to save room for buffalo stew, homemade bread, and of course pumpkin cheesecake! The plan was to go to the Treinen Farm corn maze that night, but by this time it was cold and rainy. A little further north they were even getting some light snow! So after a long day outside, we decided to stay home, play some games, and just relax.

Overall, I’d have to say that the 4th Annual Fall Fun Day was a success! I hope you all decide to give it a try this year or next!

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Caramel Apple Cheesecake

This Caramel Apple Cheesecake is sure to be a crowd-pleaser this holiday season–it features a delicate graham cracker crust, a rich apple spice filling, and is topped with crunchy struesel and gooey, homemade caramel!

Delicate graham cracker crust with a rich apple spice filling, topped with crunchy struesel and gooey caramel!

For as long as I can remember, one of the dessert options at Thanksgiving has been pumpkin cheesecake. Before I took to the kitchen, my mom always made a no-bake version and it was really good! Then a few years ago, I discovered the art of cheesecake-making from scratch and took charge of holiday desserts–Pumpkin with Chocolate Ganache for Thanksgiving and Chocolate Peppermint for Christmas.

The other thing is that fall and Christmas are my absolute jam and I’m very stringent about holding to all the family traditions. But then this Caramel Apple Cheesecake happened. And after some discussion and family taste-testing, we’ve concluded it needs to make an appearance at this Thanksgiving. Give the recipe a try and I bet you’ll be wanting to do the same! It’s pretty involved though, so read through the whole thing before getting started.

Other Cheesecake Recipes to Try:

Caramel Apple Cheesecake

This Caramel Apple Cheesecake is sure to be a crowd-pleaser this holiday season–it features a delicate graham cracker crust, a rich apple spice filling, and is topped with crunchy struesel and gooey, homemade caramel!
Course: Dessert
Cuisine: American
Keyword: apple, cake, caramel, cheesecake, fall dessert, streusel
Servings: 8 slices
Author: Rachel Alexandra

Ingredients

Crust

  • 1 ½ cups graham cracker crumbs
  • 1 tsp sugar
  • 1/4 cup melted butter

Filling

  • 2-3 Wealthy apples (or your favorite pie apple)
  • cinnamon and sugar to taste
  • 3-4 tbsp butter divided
  • 1 cup white chocolate chips
  • cup sugar
  • 2 tbsp dark maple syrup
  • 1 tsp Penzeys ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp Penzeys ground nutmeg
  • Pinch Penzeys ground cloves
  • ¼ tsp sea salt

Struesel Topping

  • ¼ cup cold butter
  • ½ cup flour
  • cup brown sugar
  • 1 ½ tsp white sugar

Caramel Sauce

  • ½ cup heavy whipping cream
  • 2 ½ tsp arrowroot starch
  • ¼ cup dark maple syrup
  • 2 tbsp sucanat
  • 2 tbsp white sugar
  • 1 tbsp butter
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • Pinch of salt

Instructions

Crust

  • First, grease the bottom and sides of an 8-inch spring from pan with canola spray or melted coconut oil/butter.
  • Then put the graham crackers in a food processor and grind until they are just small crumbs. Add the sugar and pulse a few more times.
  • In a small bowl, mix the graham cracker crumbs with the melted butter. Finally, press the mixture firmly into the bottom of the prepared pan. Set aside.

Struesel

  • Combine the flour and sugar. Then cut in the butter and using a pastry blender (or by hand) break up the butter into pea-size pieces. Set aside until the cheesecake is ready to bake.

Filling

  • In a frying pan, melt 1-2 Tbs. of butter. Add the apples with cinnamon and sugar to taste. Sauté until easily pierced with a fork. (They should be soft, but not applesauce.) Remove from heat and set aside.
  • Add approximately an inch of water to the bottom of a double boiler and melt 1 cup of white chocolate chips on medium heat. Stir every few minutes and be sure not to get any water in the chocolate. When the chips are melted, remove from heat and stir in 2 Tbs. of melted butter. Allow the mixture to cool for 10 minutes.
  • In a large, deep bowl, combine the somewhat-cooled white chocolate mixture, cream cheese, sugar, maple syrup, spices and salt. Use an stand or hand mixer to mix all the ingredients until smooth and creamy. Be sure to scrape down the sides of the bowl every so often to ensure that everything is well combined. Don't to use the slowest setting and do not over mix. Gently fold in the prepared apples.
  • Preheat the oven to 325°F. Scoop the filling in the spring form pan and using a small offset spatula, smooth it out until even. Sprinkle the struesel over the top.
  • Bake for 35 minutes, making sure to not open the oven! Any rapid change in temperature or humidity can lead to cracking and caving.
  • Turn the oven off and let the cheesecake rest in the oven for another 30 minutes, still not opening the door. When the time is up, remove from oven and let the cheesecake cool for approximately 30 more minutes before letting it chill and set up in the refrigerator for at least three hours.

Caramel Sauce

  • While the cheesecake is cooling, whisk the arrowroot starch and 2 tbsp of cream in a small bowl. Set aside.
  • In a saucepan, heat the rest of the cream, maple syrup, sucanat, and sugar. Whisk often and bring to a boil. After 10 seconds of boiling, add the butter.
  • Decrease heat and simmer for 10 minutes, continuing to whisk. Add the slurry and gently boil another minute or two. Remove from heat and add the vanilla and salt.
  • After it is somewhat cooled, it can be drizzled over the entire cheesecake or added to individual slices. Enjoy!

Notes on Caramel Apple Cheesecake:

When selecting white chocolate, make sure it actually contains cocoa butter and is free from hydrogenated oils and artificial flavors. (I get mine at Trader Joe’s.)

It’s important to make sure the base of of the spring-form pan is right side up. However, even if it is, it’s still possible for butter to leak out the bottom. To prevent a major mess, line a baking sheet with foil and place it under the cake pan.

Allow the cream cheese to reach room temperature before use so that it mixes smoothly. It will also help prevent the need to over-mix which can cause the cheesecake to cave in.

Whatever you do, do not open the oven until it is time to take it out. I know it’s tempting, but you just have to trust me on this one! It is imperative that the pan is put together correctly and a baking sheet is below the pan. Otherwise you may have to open the oven to clean up burned butter as the house fills with haze…yes, I learned this the hard way.

Don’t cover the cheesecake until it is totally cool to prevent condensation from collecting on top and don’t release the sides until it has set up for 3 hours in the fridge.

Vegan Nut-Free Granola

For those of us with food allergies, it can be really hard to find a nut-free granola. And if you’re avoiding animal products too, a vegan nut-free granola can be even tougher! Most anything on the store shelves, aside from a few “allergen free” brands is full of all sorts of tree nuts. Then again, when I look at the ingredient lists, I can’t help but think that maybe I’m better off not being able to have it at all. Although marketed as “health food”, granola is often chock full of sweeteners that hide in the labels. Things like brown rice syrup, tapioca syrup, barley malt syrup, and agave are all refined sugars, not to mention straight up cane sugar, brown sugar, and molasses.

nut-free granola

When I set out to make this Vegan Nut-Free Granola, my top two criteria were no nuts and no refined sugar. Nuts are easily substituted with seeds and for sweeteners, I only use raw honey or pure maple syrup. (Of course if your goal is to avoid animal products, skip the honey and go with syrup instead.) Yes, these are still forms of sugar and should be used in moderation, but as far as sweeteners go, honey and maple syrup are natural and unrefined.

One of my favorite things about this recipe is that it is super adaptable! The ingredients I use are:

  • Rolled oats
  • Cinnamon
  • Nutmeg
  • Cloves
  • Pumpkin seeds
  • Sunflower seeds
  • Shredded coconut
  • Maple syrup
  • Coconut oil
  • Raisins

That being said, there are so many ways to mix it up based on what you have in the pantry. Other seed options would be flax or chia seeds. For dried fruit, you could substitute cherries or blueberries, or anything else without added sugar. (That’s why I don’t recommend dried cranberries, but if you don’t mind the sugar or have some without, they’d work great too.) Spices can be adjusted or swapped according to your flavor preferences and once the granola is cool, you could even add in a few mini dark chocolate chips. So go ahead, make it your own, and enjoy!

A perfect breakfast of nut-free granola with plain Greek yogurt

Similar Recipes You May Like:

No-Bake Energy Bites

Nut-Free Granola Bars

Vegan Nut-Free Granola

Prep Time10 mins
Cook Time30 mins
Course: Breakfast, Snack
Cuisine: American
Keyword: breakfast, granola, low sugar, nut free, vegan
Servings: 5 Cups
Author: Rachel Alexandra

Ingredients

  • 2 cups rolled oats
  • 1 tbsp Penzeys ground cinnamon
  • ¼ tsp Penzeys ground nutmeg
  • Pinch Penzeys ground cloves
  • ¼ tsp sea salt
  • ¾ cup raw pumpkin seeds
  • ¼ cup raw sunflower seeds
  • ¼ cup unsweetened, shredded coconut
  • cup raw honey or pure maple syrup
  • ¼ cup melted coconut oil
  • 1 cup unsweetened dried fruit

Instructions

  • Preheat the oven to 300°F and line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
  • In a large bowl mix the oats, spices, and salt. Then add the seeds and coconut. When the dry ingredients are well combined, add the honey or syrup and coconut oil.
  • Spread the granola evenly on the baking sheet and bake for 15 minutes. Take out the pan and gently turn over the granola with a wooden spoon. At this time, you can add the dried fruit.
  • Bake for another 15 minutes, then remove from oven allow it cool and harden. Break up any big pieces and store in an airtight container for up to two weeks. Enjoy!

Eggless Bronco Bread

As I was making Eggless Bronco Bread this weekend, I was having a hard time trying to figure out what time of year it’s best suited for. After all, blueberries are a summer fruit and citrus is winter. But then I remembered that it’s Bronco bread, so clearly it’s appropriate right now! I’m not even a Bronco’s fan, but I am a fan of this bread and I think I just found a way to justify making it in the summer, fall, and winter.

Somehow, nothing seems to say “fall” quite like football season. Not that football is at all my favorite part about fall. But it’s one of those things I like to have on in the background even though I never actually pay attention or know what’s happening during the game. Mainly because on quiet, relaxing weekends when there’s enough downtime to have it on, chances are I’ll be busy baking in the kitchen!

The perfect quick bread for summer, fall, and winter!

Also, another reason this bread is perfect for fall is that it pairs wonderfully with a piping hot cup of Purity coffee on a crisp October morning. (Click the link to learn more about this amazing coffee!) Anyway, Eggless Bronco Bread is absolutely delicious and you won’t even miss the eggs. It’s sweet, moist, and bursting with flavor! Give it a try and let me know what you think in the comments below. I’d love to hear from you 🙂

Similar recipes you’ll enjoy:

Vegan Cranberry Orange Muffins

Orange-Raisin Irish Soda Bread

Cranberry Orange Scones

Eggless Bronco Bread

Bronco bread is absolutely delicious–it's sweet, moist, and bursting with flavor! Not only that, but this recipe is egg-free and can easily be made vegan!
Prep Time35 mins
Cook Time1 hr 10 mins
Course: Breakfast, Dessert, Snack
Cuisine: American
Keyword: blueberry, bread, easy, orange, pastry
Servings: 12
Author: Rachel Alexandra

Ingredients

  • 2 tbsp softened butter
  • ¼ cup hot water
  • ½ cup fresh orange juice
  • ½ tbsp orange zest

Flax Egg

  • 3 tbsp hot water
  • 1 tbsp ground flax seed

Dry Ingredients

  • 1 cup sugar
  • 2 cups whole wheat pastry flour
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • ½ tsp salt
  • ¼ tsp baking soda
  • 1 cup fresh or frozen blueberries

Instructions

  • Preheat oven to 325 degrees and grease a loaf pan or line with parchment paper.
  • Next, whisk the flax seed with hot water to make a flax egg and let stand 5-10 minutes.
  • Meanwhile, whisk butter, water, orange juice, and zest in a medium bowl. Add the “egg” and mix well.
  • Finally, add dry ingredients and once mixed, fold in blueberries.
  • Pour into
    prepared loaf pan and bake for about 70 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean. Enjoy!

Spinach and Mushroom Lasagna Rolls

Hi everyone! I hope you’re all enjoying fall so far now that we’re finally getting into it. It’s the best time of year for us foodies who love pumpkin, apple, cranberry, squash, and all that other deliciousness. Even though today’s recipe doesn’t shout fall, the weather is cooling off, so a good time for recipes requiring some oven time. Especially these vegetarian Spinach and Mushroom Lasagna Rolls!

There are three aspects to this recipe: homemade marinara sauce, the lasagna rolls themselves, and cheesy garlic bread. Of course if you’re really in a rush, you could skip the bread and use a store bought sauce. However, I think it’s a lot of fun to make the recipe in it’s entirety!

Vegetarian lasagna rolls full of spinach, mushrooms, and a variety of cheeses

I adapted the lasagna and sauce recipes from Skinny Taste and the garlic bread from Eazy Peazy Mealz. The Spinach and Mushroom Lasagna Rolls below are actually a combination of Skinny Taste’s Mushroom Kale Lasagna Rolls and Spinach Lasagna Roll Ups. I also made some other changes like substituting egg and swapping out ricotta for cottage cheese. Just one last thing before you start: when making the bread, see my note below on how to avoid “flame-broiling”! 😉

Other recipes you might like:

Spaghetti Pie

Margherita Pizza

Baked Asparagus Risotto

Artisan Bread

Spinach and Mushroom Lasagna Rolls

Course: Main Course
Cuisine: Italian
Keyword: cheesecake, garlic bread, lasagna, marinara, mushroom, spinach, vegetarian
Servings: 12
Author: Rachel Alexandra

Ingredients

Lasagna Rolls

  • 12 9 oz whole wheat lasagna noodles cooked
  • 2 ½ cups homemade marinara sauce recipe below
  • 5 cups fresh spinach
  • 8 oz mushrooms finely chopped
  • 1 tsp olive oil
  • 2 cloves garlic minced
  • 15 oz part skim cottage cheese
  • ½ cup freshly grated Parmesan
  • 1 tbsp ground flax seed
  • 3 tbsp hot water
  • Salt, pepper, and sage to taste
  • 8 oz fresh mozzarella cheese

Marinara Sauce

  • 1 tsp olive oil
  • 2 cloves garlic smashed
  • 28 oz San Marzano tomatoes crushed
  • Fresh basil, oregano, and thyme to taste
  • Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

Garlic Bread

  • ¾ cup butter softened
  • 1 tbsp garlic minced
  • 1 tsp garlic powder
  • 1 tbsp fresh parsley finely chopped
  • ½ cup freshly grated Parmesan
  • 1 loaf homemade french or artisan bread ½ inch slices
  • Fresh mozzarella cheese sliced

Instructions

Lasagna Rolls

  • Prepare the marinara sauce (below) and cook the lasagna noodles according to the package directions. In a small bowl, combine the ground flax with hot water. Whisk and let stand about 5-10 minutes. Preheat oven to 350°F.
  • Using a large saucepan, sauté the garlic in the olive oil for about one minute. Add spinach and cook until wilted (about 5 minutes). Add the chopped mushrooms, salt, pepper, and sage. Continue to cook another 5-6 minutes, until the mushrooms are tender.
  • In a large bowl, combine the spinach and mushrooms with the flax egg, cottage cheese, and Parmesan. Adjust salt and pepper as needed.
  • Scoop about one cup of marinara sauce in the bottom of a 9×13 pan and spread it around. Lay the lasagna noodles on a large cutting board or piece of freezer paper. Scoop about 1/3 cup of the filling onto each noodle and spread out. Roll each noodle and place in the pan (seam side down).
  • Scoop another cup of marinara sauce over the rolls and top each one with a slice of fresh mozzarella cheese.
  • Cover the pan with aluminum foil and bake for 40 minutes or until the cheese is melted. Let cool for a few minutes before topping with extra sauce and serving.

Marinara Sauce

  • In a saucepan on medium heat, add the olive oil and garlic. Saute for a few minutes, being sure to keep an eye on it so it doesn’t burn.
  • Add the tomatoes, herbs, salt and pepper. Mix all the ingredients and turn the heat to low.
  • Let the sauce simmer for 15-20 minutes, stirring occasionally. When it is thickened, remove from heat and set aside until needed for the lasagna.

Garlic Bread

  • Preheat oven to 400°F and line a baking sheet with foil.
  • In a small bowl, cream the softened butter with the garlic, garlic powder, parsley, and freshly grated Parmesan. Spread some of the mixture over each slice of bread and sprinkle with paprika.
  • Place on baking tray and bake for 10 minutes. The butter will be melted and the bread lightly toasted.
  • Remove from oven and place a thin slice of fresh mozzarella on each piece of bread.
  • Set the oven to broil and place the bread back inside for 1-2 minutes. Remove when the cheese is melted and the bread is golden on the edges.

Notes

Unless you want flame-broiled garlic bread, I advise against using parchment paper on the pan…yes, I know from experience. If your broiler is on the top of the oven like mine, the parchment can curl up and touch the heating element. Resulting in an oven fire. It this occurs, don’t be like me and panic and also keep the door shut. (Don’t worry, the garlic bread was miraculously still okay 🙂 ) Be safe and enjoy!