Thursday, December 30, 2010

Butternut squash lasagne with bechamel sauce

I made these for a dinner party before the holidays and almost forgot to take a photo, thanks to our guests for reminding me!  In any case, this is the only one I took, hopefully you get the idea.  This lasagne has butternut squash with sage and walnuts, yummy cheeses and a bechamel (white) sauce inside, and is served over cooked Kale.  I really cannot say enough about how deliciously this turned out, the squash and nuts and cheese were a rich and well-matched flavor combination.  It took a while to prepare (partly because I was inefficient, and partly because it is just complicated), but it was well worth it.  This is a great dish to serve if you want a vegetarian-friendly main course for a nice dinner, or really anytime.  I served it with more homemade bread from artisan bread in 15 minutes a day (a half white half whole wheat ciabatta loaf), and with braised leeks. I will definitely be making this again.... Yum.

The recipe is adapted from Deborah Madison's Vegetarian Suppers.  I also have the companion book, Vegetable Soups and really like both of them.  I love her Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone, and use it as a reference but often find it daunting when I am just trying to come up with an idea for dinner starting from a blank slate.  These two books are much more accessible, with longer descriptions, serving suggestions (including wine pairings in the suppers book), lots of color photos, and a more curated selection of ideas, it feels like.  I have found all the recipes from both books that I have made so far to be really delicious - she does a great job combining flavors and the cooking techniques are thoughtful and well-matched to each dish, not cookie-cutter.  The suppers book presents itself as an everyday cookbook, but I have found so far that the dishes are more elaborate than I would normally make for an everyday meal - but knowing that, it has been a great resource for times when I want to make something more interesting and complex.  I would definitely recommend either or both books!

Butternut squash lasagne with Bechamel Sauce
Adapted from Deborah Madison's Vegetarian Suppers

For the Bechamel:
  • 3 1/2 cups milk (1% worked fine for me)
  • 1 garlic clove, peeled and cut in half
  • 1 slice or section of onion
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1-2 parsley sprigs
  • 3 1/2 teaspoons butter
  • 3 1/2 teaspoons flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt, pepper to taste
For the Lasagne Filling:
  • 1 large butternut squash (2 1/2 - 3 lbs)
  • 2-3 garlic cloves
  • 15-20 fresh sage leaves or 1 1/2 tablespoons dried
  • 1/3-1/2 cup parsley leaves
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 large onion, diced
  • 1 cup finely chopped lightly toasted walnuts (or hazelnuts)
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • package no-boil lasagne noodles
  • 1 cup grated gruyere cheese
  • 1 cup freshly grated parmesan or romano cheese
For the Kale:
  • 2-3 bunches kale, washed
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 garlic cloves, pressed/crushed or minced
  • pinch of red pepper flakes (I used Aleppo flakes but regular would be fine)
Start by heating the milk in a small pot with the garlic, onion, bay and parsley.  Slowly heat the milk until it is almost boiling, then turn off the heat and cover the pot and let stand.

While the milk is sitting, peel and chop the squash into a rough dice of about 1/2" cubes.  Chop the garlic together with the sage and parsley - it may be easier to chop the garlic and herbs separately first and then chop them together.  Heat olive oil in a wide skillet or dutch oven, then cook onion and squash over medium high heat for about 15 minutes, stirring occasionally.  You can preheat the oven to 375 F mid-way through cooking the squash.

While the squash is cooking, continue with the bechamel sauce - melt the butter in a saucepan and stir in the flour (it will be pretty dry); add the milk, pouring through a strainer and whisking as you add it.  Turn the heat to low and cook, stirring occasionally, until it thickens, then add salt and pepper.  I did this in a double-boiler and it took 25-30 minutes, but it may be quicker if you are cooking directly over the heat.

Meanwhile, after the 15 minutes, reduce the heat on the squash to medium-low and continue cooking, stirring occasionally, until the squash is pretty tender and starting to get brown in some places, another 5-10 minutes.  Add the garlic-herb mixture and the nuts and cook for another few minutes, then add salt and pepper and turn off heat.

To assemble the lasagne, butter or oil a 9"x12" baking dish, then spread 1/2 cup of the sauce in the bottom of the baking dish and then lay down 3 noodles (or however many will fit).  Cover with half the cooked squash mixture, then 1 cup of the sauce, half the gruyere and one third of the parmesan/romano (I used a mix of the two).  Add another 3 noodles and then repeat the other layers and cover with a final 3 noodles.  Spread the remaining sauce on top and then the remaining parmesan/romano and then cover loosely with aluminum foil.  Bake for 30 minutes, then remove the foil and keep baking for another 20 minutes.  It will be bubbly and lightly brown at the edges.  Remove from the oven and let cool slightly.

While the lasagne is cooking, prepare the kale.  Remove the stems and chop the kale into 1/2" strips/chunks.  Heat the oil in a skillet or pot and add the garlic and cook for 1-2 minutes, then add the pepper flakes and kale.  Add a pinch or two of salt and stir the kale to coat with oil, then add 2 cups of water.  Lower the heat and cook, covered, for 15-20 minutes, until the kale is tender.  Drain the kale or remove with tongs to serve - let drip so that it is not too soggy on the plates.  Serve each plate with kale topped with a square of lasagne (or the kale could be served on the side if you prefer).

Serves 6-8.

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

New Fabric Stash Additions

I am super excited about all the new fabric that I have added to my fabric stash recently!  Some was a gift but I have to admit that a lot of it I just bought for myself...  

My mom very nicely got me this fat quarter bundle from Fabric Worm for Christmas - a great way to build my stash of yellow fabrics, I didn't have many before.  I love the way they build their bundles, with a really interesting mix of fabrics selected to go together.  I have definitely thought about buying some of their bundles before and just using them to make a quilt, but it feels like cheating to me somehow not to put in the work of selecting the fabrics yourself... definitely a good source of inspiration and a great way to build your stash in any case.  I think my favorites in this bundle are the polka dots, I am such a huge dot fan... also the two botanical prints on the far left above.  Not sure what I will do with the Heather Ross Far, Far Away... anyone have any suggestions?

I also treated myself to some great fabrics from Fabric Depot in Portland, OR while we were out for the holidays.  The three Robert Kaufman prints on the left are for baby girl presents (I love the butterflies, aren't they adorable?) and the Riley Blake cars/trucks are for baby boy presents.  I am planning to make some baby pants with Rae's free basic newborn pants pattern, and am thinking about modifying the pattern to make the pants reversible.  The red polka dots are just to round out my stash (I really didn't have any red prints and was stretching the ends of a red and white fabric that I had as far as I could whenever I needed something red... Also did I mention I like polka dots?)   The orange zen garden print and the "citrus scrub" print are both from the new Sanctuary collection by Patty Young and I just couldn't resist.  I may have to get more of the zen garden in other colors, I really love it.  I saw a really cute apron with ruffles down the front at Anthropologie and had been thinking of making one, I expect both of these fabrics will be involved.

I also got caught up in the Christmas spirit and ordered a bundle of Kate Spain's 12 Days of Christmas... I just love these fabrics (especially the fa la la las, but really all of them).  I spent a long time on Etsy looking at different fat quarter and half yard bundles and trying to decide which to get.  I really like the blue fabrics in this line too but finally I decided to go with more green and red ones.  I also augmented these with a couple Christmas fabrics that were on sale at Fabric Depot.  I am planning to make quilted placemats and possibly matching napkins (I got 2.5 yards of the red polka dots), but I am thinking at this point I may wait until next year, I am not feeling like Christmas crafts so much anymore.  Although I do love this fabric so I may get over that feeling!

Finally, I got a yard of this Robert Kaufman print ("Sparkle All the Way") - because Lawson liked it.  Maybe I will make him a stocking out of it next year.  Or boxers.  Or both!

I have so many sewing projects on my to do list, I am excited to get going!  I am planning some more tutorials and hope to post one later this week, so stay tuned!  I'd love to hear about other folks new fabric acquisitions and what projects you have planned, too.

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Merry Christmas

The tree is lit...

The table is set...

I'm wearing my Christmas socks...

It must be Christmas!  Happy Holidays and thanks for reading my blog!

[Updated 12/25 - I posted this by email from my phone and somehow the words didn't get included in the post].

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Wrapping Paper Gift Bows

We are out staying with my inlaws for the holidays, and I was wrapping gifts up yesterday while everyone was out of the house.  As excited as I was about the green grocery bag challenge this year, I didn't have time to make reuseable bags for all my gifts, and I really do love wrapping gifts the traditional way.  My mom and I have always put a lot of effort into carefully wrapping gifts with coordinated ribbon and gift tags.  This year, I had fun playing around with making some gift bows out of strips of wrapping paper - a great way to use up those strangely shaped scraps!

Both of these bows are made with equal length strips of paper.  The bow on the left has 4 strips that are taped into loops around eachother and then taped together on the bottom; you could also secure this at the middle with a brad or by punching holes and it would make a nice shape - I was just keeping it simple.  The bow on the right has 6 strips that are each taped together at the end into a teardrop type shape and then all taped together.  I really like how both of these look with the double-sided wrapping paper.

For this bow, I made the central double-bow with one long strip of paper looped around over itself and secured with tape, and then I taped on the "tails".  You could also make the central bow as a triple (or more bow) and could just as easily make it with separate strips of paper of different lengths rather than with a single long strip.

What are your wrapping traditions or what fun wrapping ideas are you trying out this year?  Hopefully these instructions make sense, let me know if you have any questions.  This certainly isn't rocket science but I thought it was fun!

Friday, December 17, 2010

Giveaway winner!

Thanks again to everyone who entered my giveaway!  It was really fun getting to hear from all of you and definitely made me hungry for some holiday snacks... yum.  The random number generator picked #193 out of 271 comments, which was roseread, who said "Chocolate chip. The only kind of cookie worth making."
I left you a comment on your blog and will either ship the purses out tomorrow or Monday.

Yay!  This was fun.  I love a good giveaway.  Thanks again and happy holidays!

Gingerbread Cookies

Looking for the Giveaway Day Post?  Scroll down or click here to find it.  I realized I never posted a closing time - I will keep the giveaway open until 9 pm eastern time, so you still have time to enter if you haven't yet!

Thanks to everyone who has commented to enter the giveaway so far!  It has been a great response and I have loved reading all of your favorite cookies (and other kinds of desserts).  In light of the theme, I thought I would post a favorite cookie recipe of mine to share with all of you.  I have mentioned making gingerbread cookies a few times on the blog and was just making them last week, so I thought that would be a good one to share.

I love making gingerbread cookies because they are delicious and fun to decorate with simple piped white icing.  As you can tell from this picture and the one in my blog header, my favorite holiday cookie shape is the snowflake.  I have a great snowflake cookie cutter set that comes with smaller shapes to do cutouts - the package looks slightly different but I think it is basically the same as this one.  Now that I am looking on Amazon I see lots of other fun snowflake cookie cutter sets... I may have to get this one to add to my collection for next year!  I think one of the things I love about making snowflake cookies is that like snowflakes, there seem to be an infinite number of variations to how you can decorate them, making each one unique.

This year for the first time I have been baking cookies using these silpat baking mats and I have been so impressed by how they work!  (sorry, the pic above is from when I made our halloween cookies, I forgot to take one when I was making xmas cookies this year).  We got them as a wedding gift and they really work - you don't need to grease the cookie sheet at all, and when the cookies are done they slide right off the mat.  I have had so many fewer broken cookies this year, it really has been great.  Does anyone else have these, and if so have you used them for baking things other than cookies?  I am wondering if there are other things they work well for.

My mom and I seem to have a hard time remembering which gingerbread cookie recipe is the one we like to make.  I remembered having copied down one from one of her cookbooks a year or two ago but couldn't remember which one it was when I was up for thanksgiving... we made some from Craig Claiborne but they didn't taste quite like the ones I have been making lately.  When I got home I checked and realized I had actually been using a recipe from Rosie's Cookie book (a favorite local bakery) and made them again for Christmas.  They are crisp and rich but not too buttery, and taste to me like a traditional gingerbread cookie should.  Here's the recipe -

Gingerbread Cookies
Adapted from Rosie's Bakery Cookie Cookbook
  • 3 cups flour
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 2 teaspoons ground ginger
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon grated nutmeg
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 3/4 cup brown sugar
  • 12 tablespoons unsalted butter (1 1/2 sticks)
  • 1/2 cup molasses
  • 1 large egg
Sift together dry ingredients in a medium or large mixing bowl.  Cream the butter and sugar in a separate bowl either by hand or with a mixer.  Add the molasses and egg to the creamed butter/sugar and blend.  Add the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients and mix until combined.  Put the dough on a large piece of plastic wrap (or in a gallon sized zip-top bag) and press into a flat disc, the refrigerate for 2 hours or longer.  Dust your rolling surface and rolling pin and the top of the dough (it may be easier to roll out 1/3 or 1/2 at a time), then gently rollout to 1/8" thick (or slighty thicker if you prefer).  Back 8-12 minutes at 350 F until just beginning to color at the edges, then remove from the cookie sheet to cool either on racks or on a flat surface.  Ice to decorate (icing recipe below).

Icing for Cookies
  • 1-2 tablespoons of butter (room temp)
  • 1 cup powdered sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1-3 tablespoons of milk
Beat together the butter, sugar and vanilla and a small amount of the milk.  Gradually add milk until the icing reaches the desired consistency - you want it to still somewhat hold its shape for piping, otherwise it will be too runny.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Giveaway Day

Today is Sew Mama Sew's Giveaway Day!  I am very excited to be participating... I will be giving away a zippered pouch and a zippered coin purse.  I made the pouch with my pleated pouch tutorial, but I made it a bit bigger - it measures approximately 8"x7"- and the coin purse is about 4"x3.5".

Both the pouch and the coin purse have green fabrics on the inside as you can see below.

There are a lot of giveaways going on today so I am not going to ask you to jump through a lot of hoops - just leave a comment below and for fun, tell me what your favorite holiday cookie is (to make or to eat!).  No more than one comment per person, please; international entries are allowed.  Please be sure that I can contact you through your profile or your blog - or put your email address in your comment.  The giveaway will close on Friday 12/17.  While you are not required to become a follower or anything to enter, I hope you will look around the blog and come back if you like what you see!


Sunday, December 12, 2010

Mushroom Barley Risotto

A couple years ago, I went on a risotto-making kick.  I made risotto once and was so excited by how delicious it was that I made it again and again for a few months, despite all the stirring involved.  I wasn't thrilled about the fact that the main ingredient in traditional risotto, arborio rice, is basically glorified white rice and has about the same nutritional value.  Not to mention that risotto usually involves a healthy amount of butter, cream, and cheese.  For these reasons and also just because my interest faded over time (especially because of all the stirring), I stopped making so much risotto.  The favorite by far of all the risottos I made during that time was a mushroom risotto with homemade mushroom stock, it was really sublime.

So, flash forward to last winter when I saw this on smitten kitchen, which inspired me to think about barley risotto, and this at the New York Times, which got me started making risotto in the pressure cooker.  These two ideas pretty much addressed my main concerns with risotto, the time and effort it takes to prepare, and the refined white rice issue (not that barley makes it a health food, but its certainly better).  As a result, I made a variation of barley risotto quite a lot last winter, usually with mushrooms and either beans or greens added (or both).

Making risotto of any kind in a pressure cooker is great since it cooks twice as fast, or more, and you don't have to stand over it and stir it.  It can be a bit scary, though, since you can't see what is happening and I have more than once accidentally burned the risotto.  I find that the best approach is to err on the side of adding a bit more liquid to make sure it doesn't burn, since you can always cook it off after you depressurize.  If you don't own a pressure cooker, I highly recommend it, both for risotto and for making beans (you can cook a pot of beans in 30-40 minutes without any pre-soaking), but you can also make this recipe the traditional way (you should be able to basically follow smitten kitchen's directions).  I have a fagor pressure cooker similar to this one which I got as a college graduation present and it is still going strong.

I usually go whole hog and make this using homemade mushroom stock rather than storebought, it really tastes much, much better.  The recipe for stock is below the recipe for the risotto and you can make a big batch in advance and freeze it to have on hand - it's also delicious for mushroom sauces, soup broth and I am sure many other things!

Mushroom Barley Risotto with White Beans
  • Olive oil (and butter, optional)
  • 1-2 shallots, finely diced (or 1/2 white onion)
  • 2 cups uncooked pearled barley
  • 1/2 cup white wine (optional)
  • 6 cups mushroom stock, warm/hot if possible (see below for recipe)
  • 4-6 ounces cremini mushrooms, chopped
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried or fresh thyme (or more to taste)
  • 1 1/2 - 2 cups cooked white beans (from a can or previously cooked)
  • 1/2 cup heavy cream, half and half, or milk
  • 1/4 cup grated romano or parmesan cheese
  • Salt and pepper to taste
Heat 1-2 tablespoons olive oil in open pressure cooker pot, add shallots and saute for a few minutes over medium heat until tender.  Add dry barley and stir to coat with oil, cook while stirring frequently for 1-2 minutes.  Add white wine if using and stir until absorbed.  Add mushroom stock and cover the pressure cooker and bring to pressure.  Cook for 25-30 minutes then turn off heat and allow to depressurize.  While risotto is cooking, saute mushrooms and thyme in another 1 tablespoon of oil (or oil and butter if preferred).  Cook until mushrooms release their juices, then cook for a few minutes more and then turn off heat.  After risotto is depressurized, open pressure cooker and stir, adding warm water or more stock if it seems dry.  Check the barley to see if it needs to be cooked longer (it will stay a bit chewier than a traditional risotto), and continue to cook if needed, adding water or stock as needed.  When barley seems adequately cooked, stir in the mushrooms and white beans, and stir to combine.  Turn off the heat and stir in the cream, grated cheese, and salt and pepper to taste.  Serve warm.

Mushroom Stock
Adapted from Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone
  • 1/2 - 1 ounce dried porcini or other mushrooms (about 1/2 - 1 cup)
  • 1-2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 onion, diced
  • 2 carrots, diced
  • 2 celery stalks, diced
  • 2-3 cups chopped mushrooms (mushroom stalks are fine - I save mine in the freezer to use)
  • 1 cup chopped leek greens (again, I save these in the freezer)
  • 2 garlic cloves, roughly chopped
  • 4-6 thyme sprigs, or 1/4-1/2 teaspoon dried
  • 6-10 sage leaves or 1/2 teaspoon dried
  • 4-5 stalks of parsley
  • 2-3 bay leaves
  • 2-3 teaspoons salt
Cover the dried mushrooms with 1 1/2 cups hot water and let rehydrate.  In a large stockpot, saute the onions, carrots and celery over medium high heat for about 15 minutes, until the onion browns.  Add the dried mushrooms and their liquid, all the other ingredients, and 10-11 cups of water.  Bring to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer partially covered for 40-45 minutes.  Strain out the vegetables and herbs and keep the broth (you can discard the solids).  Use fresh or freezes well.

Wednesday, December 08, 2010

Christmas Decorations

As I mentioned yesterday, we decided not to get a Christmas tree this year, so I put extra effort into all the other holiday decorations.  In addition to the pillows that I showed you yesterday, I also sewed up a tree bunting garland using this tutorial.  

When I saw this tutorial, it immediately reminded me of a Christmas garland that we hang on the mantel at my mom's house every year - my grandmother made it using wallpaper samples cut out in stocking shapes, and it is a very special family heirloom.  So I was very excited about the prospect of making my own special garland, and I love how it turned out!  As I have mentioned, green is my favorite color, so I have quite the stash of green fabrics.  This was a great way to showcase some favorites... some are new favorites, and some are scraps from quilts that I made about ten years ago.  I look forward to using it for years to come.

I also have some pottery displayed on the mantel.  Lately I have had a group of celadon vases out on the mantel, but I switched them out for these copper red glazed vases for halloween and then realized they were also great for fall and Christmas!  My pottery studio had a new glaze this year which reliably gave this copper red color (which is often hard to acheive) so I was very excited about it and made several vases - although the second from the left was a gift which I did not make.

I also have some turquoise/green candlesticks out which I made, they seemed Christmas-y enough to keep so I left them out.

On our coffee table, I put out two of the items that I made in the warm glass class I took last year - the Christmas tree sculpture and the slumped green plate.  I also filled a bowl with decorated glass ornaments that I made a couple years ago.

These ornaments are a quick and fun holiday project - you just buy some colored glass ornaments and a metallic paint pen, then draw designs on the ornaments.  We made a bunch of these the first year we had a real tree to help fill it up a bit, since we didn't have a ton of ornaments yet.

This year we actually have quite a few ornaments, especially with the new ones I made after I won Fa La La La Felt in the giveaway... so I was sad not to get to put them out on the tree.  We decided to hang a few favorites, both new and old, from the chandelier over our dining table.  It doesn't look entirely elegant but we like it!

Finally, we got a Pointsettia plant for our sideboard and we hung our fake evergreen bunting on the railing (we also have a lovely wreath on our front door which was a gift).  So now it certainly feels festive even without a tree!

Tuesday, December 07, 2010

Patchwork Holiday Tree Pillows

Lawson and I decided not to get a Christmas tree this year, since we are going to be away for more than a week for the holidays (and I may be gone even longer), and we didn't want to get a tree and then not water it and have it die.  So I have been thinking about what I could do to make our house still feel festive and decorated without a tree.  I keep coming up with ideas of projects to make (and Lawson has said several times, "You know, we can just get a tree if you want..." - but I have really enjoyed the projects I have done this year.  I will have a longer post tomorrow about the rest of our decorations (once I hopefully get some better pictures), but for now I wanted to share these holiday pillows that I made.

I made these entirely with fabric that I already had on hand, and the trees mostly from scraps from previous quilts and projects.  It's a good thing that green is my favorite color, I didn't have any problem finding a variety of good fabrics to use for the trees in my scrap pile!  I think that I like the pillow with the two trees better, both because I like the two trees pattern, and because I think the scale of the patchwork block to the border is better, but I am really happy with how both of them came out.

The four tree pillow is partially inspired by the little forest quilt from Purl Bee.  I had fun piecing the different trees and combining fabrics.

I didn't do a tutorial for these (especially since I wasn't sure how they would turn out) but I did take a few pics of the process:

I drew my tree design on muslin using a fabric pen, and then used the muslin to freehand foundation piece the designs.  Then, I used the borders that I had drawn for the tree as the sewing lines when I sewed on the muslin for the background and the piece with the trunk.  I used scraps and didn't worry about cutting them to size too much as you can see below... I cleaned up the messy edges after I sewed the background piece on.

I had some trouble sewing with the linen colored fabric that is the outer border of the two trees pillow... it has some stretch in it which was causing me trouble, and the bottom zipper area is not the most beautiful, but luckily you don't see it really when the pillow is in use.  I made both of these with zippers on the bottom edge, so the pillow covers will be easy to take off and store for next year after the holidays.  I didn't use any batting or do any quilting on the covers, partly out of laziness and partly because I liked the looks of them without it.  I'd be curious to hear if other folks decided to quilt or not to quilt patchwork pillow covers they've made!

Saturday, December 04, 2010

Festive Hanukah Meal - Sweet Potato Latkes and Baked Apples


Growing up, my family celebrated both Christmas and Hanukah, but I don't always celebrate Hanukah now, so I was excited to cook up a celebratory Hanukah meal when I had a good friend over for dinner last night.  We actually didn't light a menorah (we were going to jerry-rig one using birthday candles but I didn't have enough)... but the dinner still felt like Hanukah in any case.  I wanted to think of a menu that had some traditional elements but that took healthy, vegetarian and interesting approach.  I love sweet potatoes, so I thought it would be fun to try sweet potato latkes, and rather than making apple sauce I decided to make baked apples.  I also made rolls using 1/2 whole wheat, 1/2 white flour and the artisan bread in 15 minutes a day cookbook, and I made a lentil stew with potatoes and spinach.  I was very happy with how it turned out!  The baked apples were especially delicious, I want to make them again soon.

For the latkes, I used this recipe, although I had a lot of sweet potatoes so I added another egg.  I liked the spices but I think they might have actually been better without them.  Also, mine had slightly cooled before I ate them, which really isn't ideal.  They are definitely best when eaten piping hot!  I served them with sour cream.

For the baked apples, I modified this recipe (inspired by this recipe from Epicurious, but not having the necessary ingredients/time to do something that complicated).  Basically, in each apple I put a tablespoon or so of brown sugar, as many raisins as would fit, a sprinkle of cinnamon and then topped with a small pat of butter (definitely not as much as the recipe called for).  I baked them at 350 for about 45 minutes or maybe more (until they were tender).  They were tender but not disintegrating and the addition of cinnamon and raisins definitely made it a more interesting taste.

Happy Holidays!  I hope you are having good celebratory meals with friends and family!
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