Monday, October 31, 2011

Apple Crisp and Applesauce

Eating apple crisp is like tasting fall in a dish.  And as if it's not good enough on its own, this concoction melts over vanilla ice cream into a mound of deliciousness.  I don't remember where this recipe came from originally, but my parents used to make it every fall with the apples we picked together from a local orchard.  It works great with the windfalls that are donated to the co-op from local farms.

Apple Crisp
Serves 6

5-1/2 cups cooking apples, peeled and sliced (I like to cut the apple in half, remove the core, then slice into half-rings)
1/4 cup water
1/3 cup sugar
1/3 cup brown sugar, packed
1/2 tsp. nutmeg
1/2 tsp. cinnamon
1/4 tsp. salt
3/4 cup flour
1/2 cup butter
1/3 cup pecans, chopped (optional; you could also try using walnuts)

Preheat oven to 350 F.  Place apples in an 8- by 10-inch casserole dish; add water.  Combine next six ingredients (through flour).  Cut in butter with pastry blender.  Stir in nuts, if desired.  Spoon mixture evenly over apples.  Cover; bake 30 minutes.  Uncover; bake 30 minutes longer.  Serve warm alone or with vanilla ice cream.


If you still have apples left over, homemade applesauce is another delicious, easy way to use them up.  My friend Stephanie and I made some a couple weeks ago, and it turned out great!  I don't have exact measurements; just use as many apples as you want and season to taste.

Homemade Applesauce

Apples, peeled, cored, and cut into large chunks
1/2 to 3/4 cup water, apple juice, or cider

Place prepared apples in a large soup pot or dutch oven; add enough liquid so that the bottom of pot is covered.  Bring to a simmer over medium-high heat; reduce to low and simmer, covered, stirring occasionally.  Apples will slowly break down and release a delicious aroma! :)  Continue to cook until applesauce has reached the desired consistency--longer for smooth sauce, shorter if you like it chunky.  This takes about 45 minutes to an hour.  Add cinnamon to taste.  If you like your applesauce very smooth, you can use a potato masher, strainer, or food processor to remove any remaining lumps.  Serve warm or cold; freezes well.

Ground Beef Stroganoff

This is my mother-in-law's recipe, and I like how it makes use of ground beef and lots of dill.  I prefer to use fresh mushrooms; if you use canned ones, add them to the beef with the soup and dill.  For the sour cream, I have used both low fat and regular with success.

While it's a bit expensive ($3-$5 a bottle for the cheaper brands), I think the cooking sherry really makes this recipe stand out; red cooking wine works also (I have even used white in a pinch, but it's not as good).  Aldi carries Winking Owl wine for under $5; I usually keep a bottle each of red and white in the fridge to use for cooking (just don't try drinking it!).

Ground Beef Stroganoff
Serves 4-6

1 lb. ground beef
1 clove garlic, minced
1 medium onion, diced
8 oz. fresh mushrooms, halved then sliced (OR 1 can mushrooms stems and pieces)
1 can cream of mushroom soup
2 tsp. dill weed
1/4 cup cooking wine or sherry, optional
1 cup sour cream
wide egg noodles, cooked

In a large skillet, brown beef with garlic and onion; drain.  Transfer beef to a bowl; set aside.  Saute mushrooms in same skillet, stirring frequently, until tender.  Add beef, mushroom soup, dill, and wine or sherry, if desired.  Heat through.  Just before serving, add sour cream.  Keep on low heat until warmed through; do not allow to boil.  Serve over egg noodles.

Three Cheese Chicken Penne Bake

It might take a couple of weeks, but you should be able to get just about everything for this recipe from the co-op (except the parmesan and basil, which I always have on hand anyway).  The original recipe calls for fresh chicken breasts, but my co-op version uses the plain, non-breaded Brakebush chicken (either grilled or roasted).

Three Cheese Chicken Penne Bake
Total time:  45 minutes to 1 hour
Serves 4-6

1-1/2 cups multi-grain penne pasta, uncooked
1 pkg. (9-10 oz.) fresh spinach leaves
1 lb. non-breaded, plain Brakebush chicken, cut into bite-sized pieces
1 tsp. dried basil leaves
dash seasoned salt 
1 can (14-1/2 oz.) diced tomatoes, drained
1 jar (14 oz.) spaghetti sauce
2 oz. cream cheese or Neufchatel cheese, cubed
1 cup shredded mozzarella cheese, divided
2 Tbsp. grated Parmesan cheese (I use the dried kind from Aldi because I'm cheap, but go for the real stuff if you can afford it :)

1.  Preheat oven to 375ºF.
2.  Cook pasta in large saucepan as directed on package, omitting salt and adding spinach to the boiling water for the last minute.
3.  Meanwhile, combine chicken, basil, and seasoned salt in large nonstick skillet sprayed with cooking spray on medium-high heat. Stir in tomatoes and spaghetti sauce; bring to boil.  Reduce heat to low; stir in Neufchatel.
4.  Drain pasta and spinach mixture; return to pan. Stir in chicken mixture and 1/2 cup mozzarella; pour into 3-qt. casserole sprayed with cooking spray.  (For a half recipe, I use an 8-inch square dish).  Bake 20 min. or until heated through; top with remaining cheeses. Bake 3 min. or until mozzarella is melted.

Slow Cooker Pork and Black Bean Soup

Finally, a recipe that uses those mysterious pork neck bones that always seem to be lurking in the co-op freezer!  The original recipe calls for boneless pork shoulder, but I tried it with pork neck bones and they worked fine.  Use a whole package, as only about half of it is actual meat.  Also, if you've never ventured into the world of pork neck bones, do beware that 1. it is a really gross looking cut of meat, and 2. the bones have a tendency to fall apart in the slow cooker, so you'll need to watch out for rogue shards in the soup.

Almost all of the other ingredients are often available at the co-op.  Chipotle peppers in adobo sauce are $1.67 at Kroger/Scott's (in the international/Mexican food section).  They add a flavor that is definitely worth the cost!

Top with a dollop of sour cream and a sprinkling of diced tomatoes and fresh cilantro ($.50 a bunch at Meijer or Kroger/Scott's) to complement the spicy flavors.  Serve with fresh-based cornbread or corn muffins for a hearty cold-weather meal.

Slow Cooker Pork and Black Bean Soup (based on the recipe here)
Active time:  30 minutes
Total time:  6-1/2 hours to 8-1/2 hours
Serves 6

6 cups low-sodium chicken broth (if you use a bouillon-based broth, just reduce the amount of salt)
1 T. chopped canned chipotle peppers in adobo, plus 2 T. adobo sauce
2 tsp. ground cumin
1 large red onion, chopped
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 pkg. pork neck bones, thawed and extra fat removed
3-4 cans black beans, drained and rinsed (use 4 cans for a thicker soup)
sour cream, diced tomatoes, and/or fresh chopped cilantro, for serving

1.  In a 5- to 6- quart slow cooker, whisk together chicken broth, chipotles and adobo sauce, and cumin; stir in the onion and garlic.
2.  Add the pork and cook, covered, until pork easily pulls apart, on low for 7 to 8 hours or on high for 5 to 6 hours.
3.  Transfer pork to a bowl or cutting board (use a slotted spoon to remove any loose bone pieces).  Use a spoon to skim extra fat off surface of broth (optional).  Add beans to broth mixture, cover, and continue to cook on high.
4.  Using a fork, break pork into large pieces; discard bones.  Using a handheld immersion blender or a standard blender, puree soup (I like it pretty creamy, but you can leave it more chunky if you wish).
5.  Stir the pork back into the soup and season with 1/2 tsp. salt (optional).  Serve with sour cream, tomatoes, and/or cilantro, if desired.

Tuscan Potato Soup (Zuppa Toscana)

Nothing is quite so warm and comforting as a big pot of soup in the fall and all through the winter.  This one is a copycat version of Olive Garden's Zuppa Toscana; it's based on this recipe from a friend of a friend.  Most of the ingredients, including bacon, Italian sausage, potatoes, onion, and garlic, are regularly available from the co-op.  You can sometimes get chicken broth there, too, but I usually just buy a container of bouillon, which is fairly inexpensive and keeps well.  Just reduce the amount of salt if you use bouillon or another high-sodium broth.  As for the other ingredients, kale is less than $1 a bunch, and you can chop the leftovers and freeze them in 2-cup amounts for use the next time you make this or a similar soup.  If you don't have half-and-half, you can also substitute 2% or whole milk plus an ounce or so of cream cheese.

Tuscan Potato Soup (Zuppa Toscana)
Prep time:  30 minutes
Total time:  1 to 1-1/4 hours
Serves:  8

5-1/4 cups chicken broth (or three 14-oz. cans)
9 cups water
3-5 pieces bacon
1 lb. bulk Italian sausage
4 large potatoes, skin on and cut into bite-sized chunks
1 large onion, finely chopped
3 garlic cloves, minced
1 T. olive oil
2/3 cup half-and-half (or 2/3 cup milk plus 1 oz. cream cheese)
1/2 to 1-1/2 tsp. salt (use the larger amount if using homemade broth or stock; otherwise 1/2 tsp. is plenty)
1 tsp. black pepper (or more, to taste)
1/4 tsp. ground cayenne pepper
1/2 tsp. mustard powder
2 cups kale leaves, chopped

1.  In a large stock pot combine water, broth, salt, and potatoes and set to a low boil.
2.  In a separate pan fry bacon until slightly crispy and set aside; discard bacon grease.
3.  In the same pan used to cook bacon, add Italian sausage, onion, and olive oil and simmer on low until sausage is browned and the consistency of hamburger.
4.  Chop bacon into small shreds (use food processor to save time) and add to the cooked sausage, then add entire mixture to the soup pot.
5.  Mix garlic, spices, and half-and-half (or milk/cream cheese) into the soup pot and simmer, covered, for 30 minutes.
6.  Five minutes before serving mix in the chopped kale leaves.


Welcome to Bringing Home the Brakebush! Here you will find recipes and tips for making the most of the Concordia Theological Seminary (Fort Wayne, IN) co-op, which provides pantry staples and fresh meat, dairy, and produce to seminary families, free of charge.

I'm a seminary wife who loves cooking and trying out new recipes, especially ones that use mostly co-op ingredients.  If you have a co-op worthy recipe that you'd like to share, I'd love to hear from you!  I also enjoy couponing and finding deals that keep my grocery budget down (not that I don't splurge sometimes!).  If a recipe calls for ingredients that aren't commonly available at the co-op, I try to include stores and prices as a point of comparison when you shop.

This blog started out as a series of Facebook notes with recipes for my friends to use.  I've included them as the first several posts here, which is why they don't have any photos and look pretty boring.  Don't let that fool you, though--they still taste delicious!

So take a look around, try a recipe or five, and discover how to transform even a frozen bag of Brakebush chicken into a mouth-watering meal.