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After a little more than three years, this is my last “Cook of the Week” column. I have enjoyed writing the column, meeting new people and sharing some very good recipes. With some new demands on my time, including a very cute 2-1/2-year old named Peyton, I have decided that it is time to turn the reins over to someone else. If you are interested in being a “Cook of the Week” or know of someone you think would make a good one, please contact the Independent office at 515-332-2514.
While pondering my last column, our daughter mentioned that it is apple cider time. It seems natural that this column should feature recipes that use apple cider.

Spiced Apple Cider Muffins
2 tablespoons packed light
brown sugar
4 teaspoons whole-wheat flour
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 tablespoon butter, cut into
small pieces
2 tablespoon finely chopped
walnuts (optional)
1 cup whole-wheat flour
1 cup all-purpose flour
1-1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1 large egg
1/3 cup packed light brown
1/2 cup apple butter
1/3 cup maple syrup
1/3 cup low-fat plain yogurt
1/4 cup canola oil
Preheat oven to 400°F. Coat 12 muffin cups with cooking spray.
To prepare streusel: Mix brown sugar, whole-wheat flour and cinnamon in a small bowl. Cut in butter with a pastry blender or your fingers until the mixture resembles coarse crumbs. Stir in walnuts, if using.
To prepare muffins: Whisk whole-wheat flour, all-purpose flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, cinnamon and nutmeg in a large bowl.
Whisk egg and brown sugar in a medium bowl until smooth. Whisk in apple butter, syrup, cider, yogurt and oil. Make a well in the dry ingredients; add the wet ingredients and stir with a rubber spatula until just combined. Scoop the batter into the prepared muffin cups (they'll be quite full). Sprinkle with the streusel.
Bake the muffins until the tops are golden brown and spring back when touched lightly, 15 to 25 minutes. Let cool in the pan for 5 minutes. Loosen edges and turn muffins out onto a wire rack to cool slightly before serving.

Cider-Glazed Roots with Cinnamon Walnut
3 pounds assorted root
vegetables, peeled and cut
into 1-inch pieces
1 cup apple cider
1/4 cup dark brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt, plus more to
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground
1/2 cup chopped walnuts
1 tablespoon butter
1/8 teaspoon ground cinnamon
Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
If using parsnips, quarter lengthwise and remove the woody core before cutting into 1-inch pieces. Whisk cider, brown sugar, 1/2 teaspoon salt and pepper in a 9-by-13-inch baking dish until the sugar is dissolved. Add root vegetables and toss to coat. Cover the baking dish with foil.
Bake for 20 minutes. Uncover and stir the vegetables. Continue cooking, uncovered, stirring every 20 minutes or so, until the vegetables are glazed and tender, about 1 hour more.
Meanwhile, place walnuts in a small skillet and cook over medium-low heat, stirring constantly, until fragrant and lightly browned, 2 to 6 minutes. Remove from the heat and add butter, cinnamon and a pinch of salt. Stir until the butter melts and the nuts are coated. Spread out on a plate to cool slightly.
Transfer the vegetables to a serving dish and sprinkle with the cinnamon walnuts.
**Tips and Techniques
Beets, carrots and parsnips are easily peeled with a vegetable peeler, but for tougher-skinned roots like celeriac, rutabaga and turnips, removing the peel with a knife can be easier. Cut off one end of the root to create a flat surface to keep it steady on the cutting board. Follow the contour of the vegetable with your knife. If you use a vegetable peeler on the tougher roots, peel around each vegetable at least three times to ensure all the fibrous skin has been removed.

Cider-Brined Pork Roast with Onions and Apples
5 cups apple cider
1/3 cup kosher salt
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1/3 cup packed dark-brown
2 large fresh bay leaves, torn
1 whole fresh bay leaf
5 whole cloves
1/2 teaspoon whole black
2-1/2 pounds center-cut boneless
pork loin roast
2 cloves garlic
2 sprigs fresh rosemary
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground
4 Gala apples, cored and
3 medium yellow onions,
2 tablespoon unsalted butter
2 tablespoon all-purpose flour
In a medium saucepan, bring 2 cups cider, 1/3 cup salt, brown sugar, torn bay leaves, cloves, and peppercorns to a boil. Remove from heat, stir in 2 cups each water and cider; cool to room temperature.
Place pork loin in a 2-gallon resealable plastic bag and pour in cooled cider solution. Allow meat to brine, refrigerated, for at least 8 hours or up to 1 day.
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Finely chop garlic, 1 sprig rosemary, and remaining bay leaf. Add remaining salt and ground pepper; mash into a paste with the flat side of a knife.
Remove pork loin from brine (discard liquid), pat dry, and rub with garlic-herb mixture. Place in large roasting pan and scatter apples and onions around it. Break remaining rosemary sprig into 4 pieces; scatter atop apples and onions. Transfer pan to oven and roast meat until internal temperature reaches 160 degrees F, about 1 hour, 15 minutes. Transfer pork loin to serving platter with all but 4 pieces each apple and onion. Allow meat to rest 15 minutes before slicing.
Meanwhile, place roasting pan with drippings and reserved apples and onions on stovetop over medium heat and add remaining 1 cup cider plus 1 cup water. Cook, scraping browned bits from bottom of pan, until liquid is hot, about 2 minutes. Strain mixture into bowl, pressing liquid from solids; set aside. Return roasting pan to stovetop and melt butter over medium-high heat. Sprinkle in flour and whisk until golden brown. Whisk in reserved cider mixture and continue to whisk until gravy is smooth. Serve hot alongside sliced pork, apples, and onions.

Pork, Cabbage and Apple Sauté
1 teaspoon olive oil
4 (about 6 ounces each)
3/4-inch-thick, bone-in pork
loin chops
3/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon ground black
1 large onion, thinly sliced
16 ounce package shredded
cabbage (mix for cole slaw)
2 large (about 8 ounces each)
Golden Delicious or Gala
apples, cored and cut into
1/2-inch-thick slices
12 ounces red potatoes, cut into
1-inch pieces
3/4 cup apple cider
1/4 teaspoon dried thyme
1 tablespoon cider vinegar
In a nonstick 12-inch skillet, heat oil over medium-high heat until very hot. Add pork chops; sprinkle with 1/4 teaspoon salt and 1/8 teaspoon pepper. Cook chops 8 minutes or until golden on the outside and still slightly pink on the inside, turning over once. Transfer chops to plate; keep warm.
Add onion to skillet and cook over medium heat, covered, 8 to 10 minutes or until tender and golden, stirring occasionally. Gradually stir in cabbage mix and cook 5 minutes or until wilted. Add apples, potatoes, apple cider, thyme, and remaining 1/2 teaspoon salt and 1/8 teaspoon pepper, and heat to boiling. Reduce heat to medium-low and simmer, covered, 15 minutes or until potatoes are tender.
Stir in vinegar. Tuck chops into cabbage mixture and heat through.

Chicken Stew with Cider and Parsnips
2 tablespoons cooking oil
4 chicken thighs
4 chicken drumsticks
3/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon fresh-ground black
1 tablespoon flour
1 cup apple cider
1-1/2 cups canned low-sodium
chicken broth or homemade
1 onion, cut into thin slices
1 pound parsnips cut into 1-inch
2 carrots cut into 1-inch pieces
1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
Heat the oven to 400°F. In a large pot or Dutch oven, heat the oil over moderately high heat. Season the chicken thighs and drumsticks with 1/4 teaspoon of the salt and the pepper. Cook the chicken until browned, turning, about 8 minutes in all. Remove. Pour off all but 1 tablespoon of the fat from the pot.
Reduce the heat to moderate and stir in the flour. Whisk in the cider and the broth and bring to a simmer, scraping the bottom of the pot to dislodge any brown bits. Add the onion, parsnips, carrots, thyme and the remaining 12 teaspoon of salt. Simmer, partially covered, for 10 minutes.
Return the chicken to the pot. Bring the stew back to a simmer, cover, and put in the preheated oven until the chicken is done and the vegetables are tender, about 15 minutes.

Apple Cider Sweet Potatoes
friday13th777, allrecipes.com
3 pounds sweet potatoes, peeled
and cubed
1 cup apple cider
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon butter
1 pinch ground black pepper
Combine the sweet potatoes, apple cider, and salt in a large pot over high heat. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat, cover and simmer until potatoes are tender, 20 to 30 minutes.
Mash potatoes together with the cider until smooth. Stir in the butter, and season with pepper.

Apple Cider Pancakes
MSREDKITTY, allrecipes.com
2 cups complete pancake mix
1-1/4 cups apple cider
1 tablespoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1 tablespoon brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/4 cup chopped walnuts
Butter flavored cooking spray
Place pancake mix into a medium bowl, and stir in apple cider. Apple cider may be adjusted to achieve the desired thickness. Stir in cinnamon, nutmeg, brown sugar and vanilla. Mix in walnuts if using.
Heat a large skillet over medium heat, and spray with cooking spray. Use about 1/4 cup of batter per pancake. Cook 3 to 4 pancakes at a time. Turn over when bubbles appear in the center, and cook until golden on the other side. Serve immediately with pats of butter and maple syrup.

Apple Cider Stew in
1-2 pounds beef or venison stew
8 carrots, sliced thin
6 potatoes, sliced thin
2 apples, chopped
2 teaspoons salt
12 teaspoon thyme
2 tablespoons minced onion
2 cups apple cider
Place carrots, potatoes, and apples in crockpot. Add meat and sprinkle with salt, thyme, and onion. Pour cider over meat and cover. Cook on low heat 10-12 hours. Thicken gravy.

Apple Cider Pie
1 cup apple cider or juice
2/3 cup sugar
6 to 8 apples, pared, cored and
sliced (6 cups)
2 tablespoons cornstarch
2 tablespoons water
1 teaspoon lemon juice
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 teaspoon butter
Pastry for 2 crust (9 inch pie)
In large saucepan, bring cider and sugar to boiling; add apples. Cook, uncovered, until apples are tender, about 8 minutes. Drain apples, reserving syrup; add more cider to syrup if necessary to equal 1-1/3 cups liquid. Combine cornstarch, water, lemon juice, and vanilla. Stir cornstarch mixture and butter into reserved syrup. Cook and stir until mixture thickens and bubbles; add apples.
Line a 9 inch pie plate with pastry; fill with apple mixture. Put on top of crust. Bake in 400 degree oven for 40 minutes or until lightly browned.

Soft Apple Cider Cookies
1 cup firmly packed brown
1/2 cup butter, softened
1/2 cup apple cider
1/2 cup Eggbeaters
2-1/4 cup all-purpose flour
1-1/2 teaspoons ground
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 medium apples, peeled and
3/4 cup almond or pecans
In a large bowl, with electric mixer at medium speed, beat sugar and butter until creamy. Add cider and Eggbeaters, beat until smooth. At low speed gradually blend flour, cinnamon, baking soda and salt. Stir in apples and nuts. Drop by spoonful 2 inches apart onto a greased bakery sheet.
Bake at 375 degrees for 10 to 12 minutes or until golden brown. Remove from sheet. Cool on wire rack.
The COOK OF THE WEEK 3rd Edition Cookbook is available. Cost per copy is $10.70, plus $4.80 shipping/handling. Order a copy today by sending a check or money order, along with name and shipping address, to: Humboldt Independent, 512 Sumner Ave., Humboldt, IA 50548.