lola rugula how to make easy pasta carbonara

easy apple pie tarts

Have you recovered from your Thanksgiving food overload yet? I hope you all had a great day. I’m blessed to be able to be the host for our families each year and this year was one of my best turkeys ever. I’ve played around with different recipes throughout the years and have finally settled on fresh Amish turkey with a dry salt brine being the best way to go for flavor and juiciness. I splayed my turkey this year, which is the “new” part and it definitely helped the turkey cook more quickly and evenly.

If you’re not familiar with splaying a whole turkey or chicken, it’s cutting the skin between the leg/thigh and breast and then pushing down on the thighs until they pop and lay flat in the pan. My dry salt brine is a tablespoon each of chopped rosemary, parsley and sage, a tablespoon of minced garlic, 3 tablespoons kosher salt (use 1 tablespoon for every 5 lbs. of turkey), and about a teaspoon of freshly ground black pepper. On Tuesday, 2 days before the holiday, I pat the turkey dry, rub it all over with the salt mixture, getting under the skin where I can and also in the cavity. Place in a bag (I use turkey roasting bags) and refrigerate. Wednesday morning, flip the bird over and leave refrigerated. Remove the turkey from the fridge and bag, pat dry and let it come to room temperature 40 minutes before roasting. Place bird directly in the pan (no rack), put into a preheated 450-degree oven for 10 minutes and then reduce heat to 350. Add 2 cups of broth (your choice) and 1 cup of wine to bottom of roasting pan and roast until the thigh temperature reaches 165. Remove from oven and let sit for at least 30 minutes before carving. Delicious!

Anyway, I’m not really here to talk best turkey recipe ever, so, let’s talk dessert.


I’m not much of a dessert eater, so my mom typically brings dessert for Thanksgiving. This year, however, I already had some apple pie filling that I made and froze just a month or two ago. I also have these adorable mini-tart pans, so I knew they’d be perfect for some individual apple pies. Since I needed something easy for a crust, I picked up some frozen puff pastry. Now, I didn’t write down exactly how I made these, but this will give you the general idea. These photos are actually from the test run I did of my tarts, the weekend before Thanksgiving. These are a little more rustic looking than the final tarts, on which I did a little fancier lattice work top.


Let the puff pastry come to room temperature but not completely warm – about 30 to 40 minutes. Carefully unfold each sheet. Divide each sheet into thirds, cutting at the fold line. On a lightly-floured surface, roll out each section a bit, until more than wide enough to cover the tart pan. Cut sheet in half, so that you basically have 2 squares of pastry. Each square will fit one mini tart pan. Repeat with remaining sections, leaving at least one section forslicing up for decorative lattice work, if desired.

Grease your tart pans with cold butter. Line each pan with a square of puffed pastry. Add a couple of big heaping tablespoons of apple pie filling. Fold overhanging edges in, adding some lattice work from a strip of pastry, if desired. Top with a sprinkle of sugar and cinnamon.

When all of the tarts are made, place the tart pans on a baking sheet and bake immediately or refrigerate until ready to bake. Bake in a preheated 350 degree oven for about 40 minutes.


Now, obviously you can make these with canned pie filling and any fruit should work here. I served these with vanilla bean ice cream and everyone really loved them. I threw them in the oven while we were all enjoying our dinner, so our house smelled super delicious and they were still warm to enjoy for dessert.

So, if you need an easy fruit and puff pastry dessert recipe, hopefully this helps you out. We’re all ready for the next round of holidays, right? Happy Thanksgiving weekend, everyone!

lola rugula how to make easy pasta carbonara

easy applesauce

When you have a whole bunch of apples staring you in the face, sometimes it’s difficult to know what to do with them all. This year, I decided to make a big batch of homemade apple pie filling and freeze it for the holidays. This was a perfect solution for using a good portion of them but I still had some apples leftover. What to do? My mom, of course, had the answer.  Applesauce.

Here’s a shot of the beautiful apples we were given:lola-rugula-homemade-microwave-applesauce-recipe

Now, I know you want to know what kind of apples these are, but I honestly don’t know. I can tell you that they’re really huge and a little tart and gifted to us from a friend who has a tree. That’s all I’ve got. Oh, wait…and they’re delicious.

Now, I know there are a lot of recipes out there for applesauce and almost as many ways to make it: canned applesauce, slow cooker applesauce, stovetop applesauce…but really, the fastest and easiest way to make applesauce is in your microwave. Like, literally less than 10 minutes.

There really isn’t a recipe for microwave applesauce. Well, not an exact recipe anyway. It’s really just a general’re going to have to play with your food and discover your perfect applesauce. Here’s a list of the ingredients you’ll need:

  • Apples

How are you doing so far?

Oh, sure, you can add some sugar and cinnamon and nutmeg and whatever else floats your applesauce boat but all you really need is apples.

Wash, peel, core,  and dice your apples and place them in a microwave-safe bowl. Cover and cook on high for 4 minutes. Stir apples, cover again and cook for 2 more minutes. Stir.

Now, the rest depends on how small you cut your apples and how strong your microwave is. It can also depend on the type of apple, simply because some have more water content and more sugar content than others.

I just continue to cook mine on high, pausing every 45-60 seconds to mash and stir. Once it begins to resemble applesauce, I (very carefully – this stuff is lava) taste test to see if any sugar, etc. is needed. If your applesauce is too chunky for your tastes, you may want to add a little water to help smooth out the consistency.

Cook until you’ve achieved applesauce…usually less than 10 minutes.

Ta da!


Nice work…you’ve achieved applesauce! (easy, quick, homemade, microwave applesauce)

You are now free to get on with the rest of your life.

lola rugula how to make easy pasta carbonara

apple pie filling for the freezer

Apple overload? If you live just about anywhere in the U.S. right now, you’re well aware that it’s apple season. We’ve been very blessed because, for the 2nd year in a row, a friend has gifted us with a huge bag of great, big, beautiful homegrown apples; no trip to the local orchard needed.

I honestly don’t even know what kind of apples they are (help me out here, friends) but I DO know they’re apples and I DO know they’re very delicious. Behold, a few of my apples:


Beautiful, right?

I’ve got a busy weekend ahead of me and I’m sure you can do without me waxing poetic about apples, so I’ll make this short and sweet. Last year I made apple butter with this gift o’ apples, but since we really don’t eat a lot of toast, no more apple butter. This year I decided, “You know what would be great? It’d be great to make a big batch of homemade apple pie filling and have it for the holidays”.

Boom. Done.


apple pie filling for the freezer

  • 4 tablespoons fresh lemon juice (2-3 lemons)
  • 6.5 – 7 lbs. apples (approximately 7 large apples)
  • 2 cups pure cane sugar
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/4 cup flour
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground nutmeg
  • 3 teaspoons cinnamon (preferably Ceylon)

Squeeze lemon juice into a large stockpot, Wash, peel, core and slice apples and place in stockpot, tossing with lemon juice as you go; this helps prevent the apples from discoloring.

Sprinkle apples with sugar, salt, flour and nutmeg and mix well. Let mixture sit for 30 minutes or so, until the apples start to sweat their juice out.

Place on medium heat, stirring often, just until mixture starts to thicken and apples start to soften slightly, about 8-10 minutes. You don’t need or want the apples to cook all the way – if they do, they’ll be mush by the time they make it to the “cooked apple pie” stage.

Remove from heat, stir in cinnamon (the best part!) and let cool. Divide into 2 1/2 cup portions and pack into freezer-safe containers or bags and freeze. This recipe makes about 4 portions.

This recipe makes about 4 portions.

You now have something delicious to do with a whole bunch of apples and you’re also one step closer to being a rock star at the holidays. Go you.

Of course, if you’re not an apple pie lover, this mixture also works great for apple crisp, apple crumble, apple tart… you get the idea.

Happy autumn, everyone!


lola rugula how to make easy pasta carbonara

homemade grape juice and jelly

homemade grape jelly recipe lola rugula

If you follow me on Facebook, you know that I was in jelly making mode a couple of weeks ago. Anyone who says that homemade grape jam or jelly is easy to make either A) has never actually had to harvest those grapes and then pick through all of them for just the beautiful, ripe ones or B) has actually done A, still thinks it’s easy and is just certifiably insane. If, however, someone has handed you or you have just purchased a bunch of beautiful, ripe concord grapes, this is pretty easy.

That being said, whether you have the fortitude (read: crazy) to start from harvest as I do, or have recently become the recipient of a ton of concord grapes, here’s how to make your own homemade grape juice and grape jelly. I’d  like to note: this is how to make grape juice and/or jelly without skinning the damned grapes beforehand.


Whoever is skinning all those grapes has either  A) has never actually had to harvest those grapes and then pick through all of them for just the beautiful, ripe ones or B) has done so and is certifiably insane, with a lot of free time on their hands at the asylum.

We only have 4 grape vines and I thank God for this. It took me over an hour to just to harvest all the grapes, thrashing through the grape vines and fighting off mosquitoes and such, in the early morning hours. Then it took me at least another hour to pick through my 6 bags of grapes to find only the healthiest and ripest ones. There’s over 2 hours of my life right there that I’ll never get back. My husband thinks I’m nuts. I just happen to really love homemade grape jelly. You decide. When all was picked and picked-through, I ended up with just over 20 pounds of grapes. Okay, maybe I’m a little nuts.

Let’s start with how to make homemade grape juice:

  • Fill a large stock pot about 1/2 way full with clean concord grapes. Using a potato masher, mash up the grapes a bit, to release their juice. Add some more grapes, if need be, and mash again. Don’t fill your pot more than 3/4 full, as it will just be cumbersome once you get to the “I have to drain these” point. Cover pan.
  • Turn on burner to medium and bring grapes to a boil
  • Reduce heat and simmer for about 30 minutes, mashing the grapes around every 10 minutes or so. Be sure to scrape the bottom of the pan when mashing, to make sure there aren’t grapes sticking to the bottom of the pan.

You’ll start with a pretty clear juice in the pan but, as the grapes begin to simmer, pop and separate, you’ll see the juice start to darken and your kitchen will begin to smell like grape juice.

You are doing awesome! Reward yourself with a glass of red wine which is, poetically, also made from grapes.

Once 30 minutes is up, let the grapes cool for a bit and then strain the juice through a colander into another large pan or bowl. Discard grapes (I put ours in our compost pile). You’re now left with a murky, purple juice.

To achieve a beautiful, clear juice, I strain mine again through a fine-mesh colander. Then, using a cheesecloth-lined colander set atop a large pan, I strain it again overnight in the refrigerator. This takes a while, so just plan on letting it sit overnight. Pushing the juice through the cheesecloth won’t give you a clear juice, so just be patient and let it sit.

The next day, discard the sediment-filled cheesecloth and enjoy looking at your beautiful, homemade grape juice.

Congratulate yourself with a glass of wine.

If you’d like to make homemade grape jelly without pectin from your beautiful, homemade grape juice, here’s the recipe:

homemade grape jelly without pectin recipe lola rugula

homemade grape jelly without pectin recipe

*Before beginning, place a small freezer-safe plate in the freezer. You’ll use this plate to test whether your jelly will set up or not.

Have canner with water filled, hot and ready to go, with jars, lids and bands sterilized.

Makes 6 half-pint jars

  • 6 cups grape juice
  • 4 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
  • 4 cups sugar

Add grape juice and lemon juice to stock pot and heat to a simmer over medium heat. Add sugar, stirring well until completely dissolved, about 5 minutes.

Bring mixture to a rolling boil,, reduce back to a simmer and simmer for 30 minutes, stirring ever few minutes.

Bring back to a roiling boil, stirring constantly for 1 minute. Shut off heat, remove plate from freezer and place a good tablespoon or two of jelly on the plate. Place back in freezer for about 2 minutes.

Remove plate and test jelly. The jelly should have formed a bit of film on top. If you tip the plate sideways, the jelly should move slowly and appear gel-like, as opposed to runny. If jelly is still runny, wipe the plate and return it to the freezer. Bring jelly mixture back to a rolling boil, stirring constantly for another minute or two and repeat the freezer test until jelly sets.

Remove pan from heat and, using a ladle and jar filler, fill sterilized jelly jars to 1/4 inch below rim. Place lids and bands in place and process in canner for 10 minutes.

Remove from canner and let sit until all lids have sealed and jelly has cooled. Allow 12-24 hours for jelly to completely set. If, for some reason, jelly has not set, you can start over from the boiling jelly point or you can just say never mind and enjoy your grape juice.

Hopefully though, you’ve just made grape jelly! Have a glass of wine to celebrate.

homemade grape jelly recipe lola rugulaHopefully I didn’t miss any steps but feel free to let me know if I did. Sometimes, what seems clear to me is as clear as mud to someone else.

Next year, I’m finally going to try my hand at making homemade rhubarb preserves with the rhubarb plants my parents gave me.

lola rugula how to make easy pasta carbonara

smooth operator

If you’re looking for a quick antioxidant boost, a berry smoothie is a great way to go. To make a smoothie, all you need is a blender. Everyone has a blender, right? I feel like smoothies are one of those things that a lot of people talk about but not everybody gets.

Smoothies can be made from so many different ingredients that the possibilities are almost endless. Try soy milk with berries, almond milk with spinach, strawberries with bananas. You have to play around with your favorite foods to know what mash-ups you like. Make a green power drink: think cukes, spinach, kale, herbs, etc. Add just a few ingredients or you add as many as you like. Try not to drink the same one all the time though – you want to get a good mix of antioxidants, vitamins, minerals and phytonutrients.

Here are a couple of shots of a blackberry smoothie I made recently with what I happened to have on hand:

how to make a berry smoothie recipe how to make a smoothie recipeSmoothies don’t have to be complicated – you just need some fresh fruits and veggies on hand.

This is how I made this particular smoothie:

  • 1 ripe banana broken into chunks
  • 2 cups fresh (or you can use frozen!) blackberries
  • 1 cup pure pomegranate juice

Blend until well pureed. I usually need to shake the blender around once or twice during blending, to keep everything moving.

Add crushed ice to the blender too, if you like – especially nice In the summertime or after a workout,

I also add ground flax seed sometimes, which is a great natural source of omega-3’s. Know that eating whole flax seeds don’t offer nearly the benefits that ground ones do – your body doesn’t absorb the nutrients from whole ones, because they usually pass through you without breaking down. I grind a batch of my flax seeds in a small coffee grinder and keep them in my fridge, so they’re ready to use. They can go rancid quickly if not stored in the fridge, so consider yourself warned.

For my fellow gardening friends, here’s a shot of one of my flax plants, taken last summer:how to grow flax seed in illinois

How about you – are you a smoothie drinker?