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Tag Archives: caramel

Caramel Apple Tartlets

I had a little mommy meltdown yesterday. It was very unpretty…crying, rocking, gasping for the air which seemed to be sucked from the room. And over what? I don’t even know. Nothing even worth writing about. Stupid, every day, normal stuff…just too much of it. Fighting with an uncooperative vacuum while trying to banish the tumbleweeds of dog hair from our living room was the little thing that sent me over the edge. So silly. And yet in the moment it felt like the world was caving in on me. To an objective observer, I probably looked pretty ridiculous, throwing myself down onto the ground and mumbling under my breath as I cried, while my inner voice tried to coach myself to pull it together and act like a grown-up. But for me the feeling was crushing. Sometimes day-to-day life is just overwhelming.

Sadly, the kids witnessed my little meltdown, and I can only imagine how scary and unsettling that must have been for them. In the moment, rational mommy (as compared to crazy lump of tears mommy) told them I loved them and explained that I was just stressed and needed to cool down for a minute. Unfortunately, it’s almost impossible to get that minute of serenity in a house with three young boys. Eventually, I stopped fighting with the vacuum, collapsed against one of the toy boxes and closed my eyes for a second.

And then the most beautiful thing happened. I opened my eyes and my precious 17 month old was sitting in front of me, completely silent. He sat facing me, knees bent, feet together, so that his entire little body was nestled within my own bent legs. And he just smiled. Silently, calmly smiled. I kissed his forehead. He smiled and leaned forward to rest his head against my chest. He stayed like that for what felt like a perfect eternity. I inhaled his sweet baby hair as I felt my heart rate slowly returning to normal. Eventually he turned around so that he was leaning against me, holding my hand as it rested on his little belly. And he stayed like that until his daddy arrived home from work. He greeted his daddy, then returned to sit by my broken side, smushed up against me with a perfect grin on his face. He was like a tiny, precious bomb defuser.

Such perfect, simple love…and trust. He saw me torn apart and irrational. If it were me, I would have run from that crazy woman. But he came straight to me. As close as he could get to me. Confident that his presence would fix me. How in the world did I get so lucky??

These drool-worthy caramel apple tartlets are bursting with flavors as uncomplicated and confident as my sweet little man’s love. We baked them using fresh-picked apples from our favorite local orchard. Though the apple crops up here were hit hard by an early spring bloom followed by a bloom-killing frost, the kids got every bit of fun out of filling buckets of unusually small apples. I made these tartlets using store-bought puff pastry and caramel sauce for time-saving convenience. The end result is still dripping in homemade yumminess.

Focus on Technique – Puff Pastry

Puff pastry is a rich and flakey pastry made by repeatedly folding and rolling generous quantities of butter into the dough, resulting in puffy, delicate layers when baked. It’s a manageable and fun thing to make at home (and will totally wow your guests), but takes a few hours of repeatedly rolling and chilling to be made properly. When ease is the name of the game, store-bought puff pastry provides great results with great convenience. It can be used to make decadent savory appetizers, like warm pastry-wrapped brie or sweet treats like these caramel apple tartlets. Check your grocery store’s frozen section, near the frozen pie shells for boxes of puff pastry sheets. Always defrost the sheets according the package directions and lightly sprinkle your clean work surface with flour before rolling.

Easy Caramel Apple Tartlets

Ingredients

  • 1 sheet puff pastry, defrosted
  • 2 large apples (or 4 teeny-tiny ones), very thinly sliced
  • 4-5 tablespoons caramel sauce, store-bought or homemade
  • 1 egg white
  • 3 tablespoons sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon

Directions

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Spray a baking sheet with nonstick cooking spray. Lightly sprinkle a clean work surface with a bit of flour to prevent sticking, then roll the sheet of puff pastry into a square, about 12″ wide. Cut the square into four 6″ squares. Place the squares on the prepared baking sheet. Spread about 1 tablespoon of caramel sauce into the center of each pastry. Arrange a layer of thinly sliced apples on top of the caramel. Then, pull each of the four corners over the apples, slightly twisting each point so that the corners meet in a sort of pinwheel design revealing four pockets of the caramel and apples. Gently press the points together with your fingers to hold them together. Brush each pastry with some of the egg white. Combine the sugar and cinnamon and sprinkle over each pastry. Bake for about 20 minutes, until puffed and golden.

Enjoy hot out of the oven or at room temperature.

Makes 4 Individual Tartlets

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Roasted Pumpkin Caramel Bisque

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I have a gray hair. One gray strand, on my otherwise brown head of hair.

I must be getting old.

It grows in. I pull it out. It grows in again. I pull it out again.

I’m not trying to abolish the nasty offender. I just want to take a closer look. It intrigues me. It’s a shimmery white.

Perhaps I’ll feel differently when that lonely strand of hair starts gathering friends, but for now I’m content to let my hair turn whatever shade of gray, silver, or white it chooses to be.

I’m quite comfortable with my age. I’m as comfortable to be turning 35 as I would be to turn 25. In fact, I might even like 35 better.

I’m comfortable with that gray hair on my head.

I’m comfortable with me (though I’d be even more comfortable with twenty pounds less of me).

Comfort is good.  It’s like a warm, cashmere sweater; one that’s three sizes too big so you can snuggle up within its soft embrace. Comfort is molten dark chocolate. It’s a warm, crackling fire. Comfort is this creamy roasted pumpkin caramel bisque. It’s slightly sweet, warm, and smooth. It smells like autumn and feels like a hug. Seriously…a great, big, warm hug.

Roasted Pumpkin Caramel Bisque

Ingredients

  • 2 pie pumpkins (3-4 pounds each) or about 7-8 cups canned pumpkin puree
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 1 medium onion, finely diced
  • 4 cups vegetable stock
  • 2 cups half and half
  • 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
  • Dash of nutmeg
  • Salt (about 3 teaspoons)
  • 1/2 cup prepared caramel sauce/dip
  • A few dashes of cayenne pepper, to taste

Directions

To roast the pumpkins – Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Cut the pumpkins in half and scoop out all of the seeds and stringy pulp. Place the pumpkins cut side down on a baking sheet. Fill the baking sheet with about 1/4″ water. Bake for about 90 minutes, until tender. Allow to cool, then scoop out the tender insides. You should have about 8 cups of roasted pumpkin. Click HERE to see a photo guide on how to roast pumpkins.

To prepare the soup, heat butter over medium heat in a large saucepan. Add the onions and cook for about 10 minutes, until tender and golden. Add the roasted pumpkin (or pumpkin puree) and vegetable stock to the pan.

Use an immersion blender to blend the mixture until smooth or transfer the mixture in small batches to a blender or food processor to blend. Return the blended mixture to the saucepan and heat to a simmer. Stir in the half and half, cinnamon, nutmeg, and salt. Add the salt gradually, to taste. Gradually stir most of the caramel into the soup, reserving a spoonful or two for garnish. (Taste as you go. The soup should be savory and slightly sweet.) Season with a few dashes of cayenne pepper, as desired.

Garnish with a drizzle of caramel and pumpkin seeds or top with crunchy croutons.

Makes a huge batch of soup…plenty for freezing!

Wormy Apple Pops

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Here’s one for the kiddies…

My son’s nursery school has implemented a firm no-nut policy to protect the kiddos with nut allergies. A lot of schools have implemented similar rules, with good reason.

One of the implications of this rule is that any treats sent in for birthdays or other celebrations must be store-bought, to ensure that they are safe for every child. This means no baking of cute cupcakes or cake pops to send in to school. Even my grocery store’s bakery cupcakes are off-limits, since they include a possible nut contact warning on the package.

We could have sent a package of some other nut-free treat, but I came up with these tasty, seasonal treats instead. We created wormy apple pops by coating fresh, locally-picked apples with sticky caramel and chocolate cookie ‘dirt’. A gooey gummy worm provides the finishing touching. My son’s teachers were more than happy to make time for this fun fall activity.

These treats are completely nut-free and very kid-friendly. Even very young children can follow the recipe using the combination of step-by-step photos with written directions. They’ll build fine motor skills by spreading, crushing, and sprinkling, develop language skills as they process the directions, and enhance their sequencing skills as they follow the first through fifth step. It’s a learning activity with a fun and tasty reward at the end!

** If you’re preparing this activity for a class of youngsters, consider making simple direction cards by printing each photo, along with the step-by-step directions, onto pieces of cardstock. Your child’s teacher may also appreciate a pack of baby wipes to help clean up the class of sticky kids!

Step 1: Start with one ripe, fresh apple.

Step 2: Insert a lollipop stick into the apple. (You can find lollipop sticks at many craft stores.)

Step 3: Use a spoon to spread caramel onto the apple. (We used the individually portioned caramel dip cups, so that each child could have their own.)

Step 4: Crush one chocolate sandwich cookie and sprinkle it on the apple.

Step 5: Press a gummy worm into the caramel. (Some packages of gummy worms contain nut allergy warnings. Target’s Market Pantry brand gummy worms do not contain a nut warning.)

ENJOY!

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