People often ask me how I do this whole make-it-at-home thing. Do I have time management tips? Do I cook all the time? (Well…okay, yes) Am I exquisitely organized? (No) and do I still buy food from the store (YES! For the last time, yes! If you see me at the supermarket, there is very likely a bag of potato chips in my shopping cart!) I know there are people out there who haven’t bought anything that wasn’t from the bulk section of the health food store in years, and I think that’s wonderful. But my first piece of advice to anyone wanting to lower the amount of processed and packaged food in their kitchen is always the same: do what works for you, and make the foods that inspire you. I try to follow my own advice, too.
In my kitchen, there are the foods that I always make every week. You’ll always find a gallon jar of granola on the shelf and homemade bread in the breadbox. In the fridge, there’s yogurt (started in the crock pot, these days), nut butter (usually peanut), creme fraiche, and a bunch of open jars of jams, chutneys, and whatever other condiments I’ve been working on. And sure, beyond that, there are often extras. A batch of ricotta, pizza dough, fresh pasta, or mayonnaise. It depends on the day or the week. Other times, their store-bought counterparts might make an appearance, too.
So how do I make the basics in the midst of everything else? To be entirely honest, it’s usually that I drop/forget/ignore what I’m supposed to be doing and instead, I make granola. But I do have a few tips I can share, and I’m guessing you might, too? Here’s a start from me:
1. Set aside one time of the week to make your basic staples. I find that I get into trouble when I try to fit these projects into tiny periods of time when I’m also doing a million other things (sound familiar?) So if it’s at all possible, set aside a couple of hours a week that are entirely devoted to making whatever staples you want for that week. Even if these hours are late at night, treat yourself to whatever you love during that time. Listen to a book on tape or podcast, kick everyone out of the kitchen–whatever you need. I give you permission.
2. Double (or triple) your recipes. For anything that can be stored or frozen, make lots of it. Label and date your containers, put them on where you can find them (here’s where an organized freezer or pantry comes in handy), and pull them out when your current supply is depleted.
3. This is the big one: choose projects that have a low active time. When I look at the list of foods I manage to make every week, they have one thing in common: they all require just a few minutes from me. Sometimes it’s hard to remember that you can whip up a batch of granola in the same amount of time it takes to fry an egg and make a piece of toast. It sits in the oven for much longer, but by then your work is done, and all you have to do is enjoy the smell in your house!
Here’s one more snack that fits in that category.
Let me first tell you what these are not. They are not dried apples. They are not a particularly good way to preserve apples, because no matter what you do, THEY WILL NOT LAST. Everyone will eat them far quicker than you thought they would. The second batch of these I made, I swore I would squirrel them away to be rediscovered at a later date when there was no fresh fruit around. But then, we had a bunch of friends over, and one, a particularly charming 3 year old, insisted on looking to see what was in my oven (cooled by that point). I couldn’t resist her, and so then she spent the rest of the night opening the oven, peeling chips off the parchment, and happily crunching them around the kitchen. She showed her treasure to the other kids, and then there was more crunching. I’m a sucker for a charming 3 year old. I can’t hold back. These are just meant to be eaten, and the sooner you accept that, the better.
In the magic that is Instagram, these chips came to me in a particularly impressionable and hungry moment from Aimee Wimbush-Bourque. They were just beautiful, all stacked and lovely, and I thought about them for a full day before I got out my apple corer. Aimee wrote about them here on Eating Rules (of October Unprocessed fame–yeah! I’m rooting for you all!). My recipe is slightly different, as I was just cooking from the beauty of her photograph, but follow whichever one you follow, you’ll get apple chips.
The trick is to have right tools, and then there is hardly any prep time. An apple corer is useful here (and a worthwhile investment if you ever make baked apples). As for the slicing, you have a few options. You can, of course, slice by hand. You can also use a mandoline set to 1/8 inch. But my favorite when it comes to low active time is the food processor. If you have the 4mm slicing disk that comes with most Cuisinarts, that will do the trick. It’s larger than 1/8 inch, but it’s still a decent thickness for these chips, and the added size just means they need a bit longer in the oven. If you’re using the food processor, choose small apples so they can fit easily.
Before we get to the recipe, I have a few announcements! Ready?
1. For you in the Berkshires or nearby, I’m teaching a cheese class at the Nutrition Center in Great Barrington in conjunction with the Berkshire Coop market next Thursday, November 1 at 7:00. We’ll be covering ricotta and mozzarella, as well as yogurt basics. Call the Coop to register.
2. For those of you in New York City, I’m coming to see you! On November 4 at 2:00, I’ll be at the Brooklyn Kitchen, signing, demonstrating (and feeding you) pop-tarts, and talking about fitting homemade snacks into a busy week. This is a family friendly event. Call them to register!
3. I have a few new features on the site I just wanted to tell you about. There are 4 years (!) of posts in here, and at this point, they’re really only searchable through the recipe list. So I wanted to create a few new tabs for posts that weren’t necessarily recipes, and now we have favorites and travels. They’re both pretty basic–no fancy pictures or special organization or anything–but I’m hoping it might get a little easier both to search for what you need and just to find a past post that might speak to you. Let me know what you think, or there’s anything else you’d like to see up there.
And now… maple apple chips.
Maple Apple Chips
adapted from Aimee Wimbush-Bourque (of Simple Bites, but writing on Eating Rules)
6 small crisp apples (I used Spencers, but any super crunchy apple will do)
2 tablespoons lemon juice (from 1 lemon)
1/4 cup maple syrup
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1. Preheat the oven to 200 degrees, or as low as your oven will go that’s close to 200. Line 3 baking sheets with parchment paper. (The parchment is important- don’t skip it!) If you only have a 2-tray capacity in your oven, you can cut the recipe in half if you like.
2. Core the apples. Do not peel them. Slice them to somewhere between 1/6 and 1/8 inch with the slicing blade of a food processor, a mandoline, or a knife.
3. In a large mixing bowl, combine the lemon juice, maple syrup, and cinnamon. Toss the apple slices in the mixture, and lay them out in a single layer on the prepared baking sheets. Pour any excess maple mixture over the apples.
4. Bake for 3 to 4 1/2 hours, or until the chips have just a touch of chew to them. The timing will vary depending on the thickness of the slice and the water content of the apple, so start checking after 2 hours or so. Leave the chips in the oven to cool, and they will continue to crisp up. Store in an airtight jar.