Wednesday, October 29, 2014

apple butter.

If you are anything like me, apple picking means returning home with more apples then one could possibly eat in a reasonable amount of time.  This is not necessarily a bad problem to have especially when there is a slew of apple items you can make (pie! crisp! pork chops with apples!).

But sometimes you long for something else and that is where apple butter comes into play.

Apple butter is not pretty.  It looks like brown mush (no point in stating anything but the obvious) . It's nothing like the beautiful peach jam of summer or strawberry jam of spring.  But! What it lacks for in looks it more then makes up for in flavor.

Apple butter is dreamy.  It's the definition of fall and its everything I want slathered on my peanut butter sandwiches this time of year (best sandwich ever involves chunky peanut butter, apple butter, chia seeds and a sprinkle of sea salt - DYNAMITE).  Cubes of apple are cooked with apple cider and spices. As the apples cook, they begin to thicken to create a cross between apple sauce and jam that may in fact be the greatest condiment ever.  EVER.

Fall, I love you.

Apple Butter 
Recipe from Apt 2B. Baking

Yield - about 2 pints of finished butter

2 pounds good eating apples, peeled, cored and cut into bite sized pieces (but really any apples work)
½ - 2 cups apple cider
¾ cups sugar
1 teaspoon cinnamon
¼ teaspoon cloves
¼ teaspoon fresh nutmeg
Juice of half a lemon

In your biggest, heaviest pot combine the apples and enough cider to cover them. Bring to a simmer and cook the apples until tender. A bit of foam will form on the surface that should be skimmed off, it's okay if you can't get it all.

When the apples are tender, remove the pot from the heat and puree the mixture until it is smooth (an immersion blender is the best tool for this). Stir in sugar, spices and lemon juice.

Simmer the mixture, stirring occasionally, until it darkens in color and begins to pop and bubble, about 1-1 1/2 hours. Make sure to watch the pot carefully and stir often in the last 1/2 hour to prevent scorching. I would usually tell you here to cook the butter until it reaches 220º, but I couldn't get mine above 210º and the set turned out perfect. Ladle the hot apple butter into your prepared jars.  

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

what happiness (and love) looks like.

Photo courtesy of the wonderful Daniel and Sarah at Chellise Michael.  

a touch of green.

Green and gold are the colors I keep coming back to.  Wedding colors, life colors.  

It feels earthy yet glamorous.  Which is what I wish my life was like.  

(Pendant bulbs are my latest and greatest obsessions.)


Image via Pinterest.  

Sunday, October 26, 2014

brown butter apple crunch crumble.

I know nothing is more American (and more fall) than apple pie but I am here to present my case for the apple crumble (or apple crisp if you are so inclined to call it that).  

Apple pie is great.  But pie is a pain in the butt to make.  Make the crust, chill the crust, roll the crust, chill the crust again, par-bake the get the point, it's exhausting. (Though sometimes its therapeutic and other times it's a wonderfully necessary evil.)  

But! If you get rid of the crust you get rid of 90% of the work! This is why when it's a lazy rainy Sunday and I want apple deliciousness without all the work I turn to the wonders of the apple crisp to fulfill all my cravings. 

This is the apple crisp of my dreams. Layers of thinly sliced apples tossed in cinnamon and ginger (and a splash of bourbon for good measure because why not?) are nestled under a generous layer of crisp topping (without the crust you want a nice thick layer of crumble).  The crumble is dreamy - oats, walnuts, spices galore, and a little bit of maple syrup (because a little bit of maple syrup belongs in every fall dessert) are tossed with brown butter to make the most heavenly topping for that spiced sea of apples (I went crazy and incorporated 4 different varieties).  It's epic, it's fall, and it's insanely easy. What's not to love?  

Bronwn Butter Apple Crunch Crumble
Recipe adopted from the NYTimes

For the filling

2 pounds apples, peeled and thinly sliced 
3 tablespoons sugar
1 teaspoon cinnamon 
1 tablespoon bourbon 

For the crumble topping

1 stick of butter 
1/2 cup oats
1/2 cup whole wheat flour
3/4 cup all-purpose flour
1/3 cup + 3 tablespoons granulated sugar
3 tablespoons maple syrup
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ginger
1/4 teaspoon salt.  
½ cup finely chopped walnuts (or the nuts of your choice!)

Preheat over to 350 degrees.  

Brown your butter: Melt butter in a small/medium saucepan over medium-low heat. It will melt, then foam, then turn clear golden and finally start to turn brown and smell nutty. Stir frequently, scraping up any bits from the bottom as you do. Keep your eyes on it; it burns very quickly after it browns and the very second that you turn around to do something else.  Remove from heat and set aside

To prepare filling, toss apple with sugar, cinnamon, and bourbon.  Set aside.

To make the topping, in a large bowl, whisk together the oats, flours, sugar, maple syrup, spices and salt.  Stir in butter and nuts.  Coarse crumbs will form. 

Pour filling into a 9 inch square or round pan.  Using your fingers form mixture into ¼ inch to ½ inch crumbs and spread over fruit.  Bake until filling bubbles and topping is light golden, about 55 minutes.  Let cool slightly. 

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

kabocha squash toasts with miso jam.

In my humble opinion, the best way to get food into one’s mouth is not via a fork but via a slice of bread. 

I am very adept at using bread as a utensil and doing so allows you to explore so many toppings.  Avocado and feta! Peanut butter, apple butter, and chia seeds (a personal favorite at the moment)! Roasted tomatoes and burrata!  Do you see how many possibilities exist? SO MANY.  It’s kind of exhausting but it also ensures you will never ever be bored.  Toasted bread and toppings is the answer to all of the “I’m hungry what should I eat?” questions. 

When I stumble across a recipe that encourages one to use toast as a base for all of my favorite things (miso! cheese! squash!) you can pretty much guarantee I will be making it.  

These toasts are kind of incredible. Sweet and salty miso jam is the perfect base for tender squash (roasted with just a hint of smoked parika) and then layered with creamy goat cheese and crunchy salty pumpkin seeds. These are infinitely pop-able and absurdly addicting.  They also further validate my thought that everything is best when served on a slice of bread.  

Kabocha Squash Toasts with Miso Jam
Recipe adapted from Tasting Table

Yield: 4 servings

For the Miso Jam

¼ cup red or white miso paste
¼ cup honey
2½ tablespoons water

For the Kabocha Squash Toasts

¼ medium kabocha squash (12 ounces), sliced ⅛-inch thick
½ teaspoon smoked paprika
1 tablespoon olive oil
12 ½-inch thick baguette slices, sliced on a bias, toasted
Miso jam
¼ cup goat cheese, softened
3 tablespoons pumpkin seeds, toasted
Pinch of flaky sea salt
Olive oil for drizzling

Make the miso jam: Whisk the red miso paste, honey and water in a small saucepan over medium heat until the mixture comes to jam consistency, about 10 minutes. Remove from heat, transfer to an airtight container and let the jam cool to room temperature. Store in the refrigerator and use within 2 months. Makes about ⅓ cup.

Make the pumpkin toasts: Preheat the oven to 450 degrees.  On a parchment lined baking sheet, places your pieces of squash and sprinkle them with the olive oil and smoked paprika.  Roast for about 10 minutes or until the squash is tender and just beginning to brown.  Remove from the oven and let cool to room temperature. 

To assemble, spoon about 1 – 2 teaspoons of the miso jam over each toast (depending on the size of your bread). Place a few pieces of squash on each toast. Crumble the goat cheese on top and sprinkle each toast with pumpkin seeds. Sprinkle with salt and drizzle with some olive oil. 

Monday, October 20, 2014


I've reached the less then one month until the big day point and the question on everyone's lips seems to be "how do you feel?".
ruffle and flower backdropSo to answer that question, I feel great. Actually, I feel more then great, I feel awesome.  All the stress from the very beginning has dissipated and you want to know why?  It's because I can't change anything. I can't change my mind, I can't alter my decisions. This is my bed and now I have to lie in it and lie in it I will.  Sure, I can imagine myself having made different decisions, I can ponder the what-if's all day long, but what good does that actually do?  I'm marrying the guy who can still manages to make my heart skip a beat AND I AM SO EXCITED.  So that's how I feel.  I feel excited and happy and better then ever.
So - let's do this thing.  T-minus 26 days.

Image via Pinterest. 

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

chocolate ginger molasses cookies.

Look, I understand that most people in this world aren't going to gravitate towards ginger molasses cookies. They aren't particularly special and they aren't chock full of chocolate.  They are a spice cookie, something that most people scoff at.

But I love them.

Let me rephrase that.  I love a very particular type of ginger molasses cookie.  One that is soft with crispy edges and a barely set center, flavorful but not overwhelmingly so.  The perfect one lives at the Bent Spoon in Princeton, NJ and I am still holding out hope that someday they will make a cookbook so I can get my hands on that recipe. Until then, I will continue to tinker in my kitchen.

And tinker I did which is how I ended up with this.  The most perfect ginger molasses cookie I have ever made. And yes, there is chocolate involved as well.

Two types of ginger, a whole lot of molasses, some cinnamon, and a generous helping of chocolate chips is what makes this cookie so excellent.  It's soft but not too soft with a deep and pronounced flavor.  It's all gorgeous and sparkly which makes it all the better.  I love consuming them now while it's fall and spiced flavors are a welcome change of pace but I am looking forward to making them again in December for my yearly holiday cookie boxes.  

Chocolate Ginger Molasses Cookies
Recipe adapted from Une Gamine Dans la Cusine

Makes about 20-22 cookies

1 cup all-purpose flour
½ cup spelt flour (or an additional ½ cup all-purpose)
1 ½ teaspoons baking soda
2 teaspoons ground ginger
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon ground cloves
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon cocoa powder
1/2 cup (that's one stick) unsalted butter, softened to room temperature
1/2 cup tightly packed, dark brown sugar
1/2 cup unsulfured molasses 
3 teaspoons freshly grated ginger

6 ounces (about 1 cup) bittersweet chocolate chips
1/4 cup super-fine sugar (regular granulated sugar will work too)

In a large mixing bowl, whisk together the flour, baking soda, ground ginger, cinnamon, cloves, salt and cocoa powder.

In the bowl of a stand mixer, fitted with paddle attachment, beat the butter and brown sugar together until creamy (about 3-5 minutes on medium speed). Add molasses and fresh ginger - continue beating till well combined. 

Add the flour/spice mixture and beat on low speed until just combined (don't overmix). If the mixer is straining on low speed, use a large rubber spatula to stir in the dry ingredients - the dough will be very heavy and sticky. Stir in the chocolate chips. Pat the dough into a large ball, place the ball onto a sheet of plastic wrap and flatten it into a 1-inch thick disc. Wrap it tightly in plastic wrap and chill for at least 4 hours, or overnight.

Line a cookie sheet with parchment paper. Place the 1/4 cup of super fine sugar (or granulated) into a large flat bowl or plate. 

Remove the chilled cookie dough from fridge and divide it into 20-22 equal chunks (use a scale to ensure they're the same size). Roll the chunks into tight balls and roll each ball through the sugar until completely coated. {Note: The dough is extremely sticky so you may have to wash your hands from time to time so it won't stick to your palms instead of itself.} Place the sugar-coated cookies onto prepared sheet and refrigerate while the oven preheats. 

Preheat the oven to 325F. Line a separate baking sheet with parchment paper.

Place the chilled balls of dough onto the sheet, allowing for at least 2-inches of spreading room.  

Bake 10-12 minutes or until cracks begin to develop. {Note: My cookies were spot-on chewy after 10 minutes. If you prefer crispier cookies, bake for the full 12 minutes.} Remove the sheet from the oven and allow cookies to rest for 5 minutes before carefully (mine were still tender) transferring to a cooling rack.

Tuesday, October 14, 2014


Give me.

(Green and grey aka greige is kind of everything.)

Dark industrial kitchen with leather stools and plants.

Image via Pinterest

Sunday, October 12, 2014

rigatoni and cauliflower al forno.

Last night, Tyler complained that I don't blog about his favorite things that I cook.  It should be known, that Tyler loves the hodge-podge meals that I put together with the random assortment of things we have leftover in the fridge at any given time.  These meals get cobbled together and they are generally speaking pretty awesome.  How they end up so awesome I do not know (the mysteries of cooking). It's not that I don't want to talk about these meals, it's just that on a nightly basis after working all day, going to the gym, and trying to have some semblance of a relaxing evening, I don't have the energy to religiously document how I made a dish.  Cooking is a lot of trial and error.  It's about tasting and then adding flavors and ingredients.  A lot of these evening meals are made that way and I think the freedom to not follow a recipe is what makes them so wonderful.

On occasion, following a recipe is good thing and that is how this dish came about (one that Tyler declared his new favorite).  Baked pastas are a glorious fall meal, but often times they are heavy, cheese and sauce laden behemoths that leave you requiring a nap.  This baked pasta is the furthest thing from that.  Sauteed cauliflower is tossed with olives, lemon juice, and red pepper flakes to provide a nice bright punch of flavor.  The seasoned cauliflower is tossed with pasta and cubes of fontina  to provide the perfect amount of cheesey-gooeyness.  The whole thing is topped with bread crumbs and baked until crispy, crunchy, and golden brown.  It's irresistible and the perfect dish for a brisk Sunday evening.

Rigatoni and Cauliflower al Forno
Recipe adapted from the NYTimes 

The thing I love about this dish is the fact that you can add so many other things to it (of course I had to alter it).  I mixed in 1/2 cup of chopped red peppers I had in the fridge and that was a superb add-in.  I think some sauteed mushrooms could be wonderful as well as some chopped sun-dried tomatoes.  Feel free to use this pasta as an opportunity to "clean out your fridge".

¾ pound rigatoni or other large pasta shape
1 medium cauliflower, about 1 1/2 pounds
 Extra-virgin olive oil
 Salt and pepper
1/4 cup green olives, roughly chopped 
3 garlic cloves, minced
¼ teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes, or more to taste
3 tablespoons roughly chopped sage, plus a few sage leaves left whole
½ teaspoon lemon zest
1/2 - 1 cup additional add in's (optional, see note above)
6 ounces coarsely grated fontina 
2 ounces finely grated Romano cheese or other hard pecorino
½ cup coarse dry bread crumbs
2 tablespoons chopped flat-leaf parsley, for garnish

Cook the rigatoni in well-salted water according to package directions, but drain while still quite al dente. (If directions call for 12 minutes cooking, cook for 10 instead.) Rinse pasta with cool water, then drain again and set aside.

Heat oven to 400 degrees. Cut cauliflower in half from top to bottom. Cut out tough core and stem any extraneous leaves. Lay cauliflower flat side down and cut crosswise into rough 1/4-inch slices. Break into smaller pieces.

Put 3 tablespoons olive oil in a wide skillet over high heat. Add cauliflower slices, along with any crumbly pieces, in one layer. (Work in batches if necessary.) Let cauliflower brown and caramelize for about 2 minutes, then turn pieces over to brown the other side. Cook for another 2 minutes, or until the cauliflower is easily pierced with a fork. It’s fine if some pieces don’t brown evenly. Season generously with salt and pepper. Add capers, garlic, red pepper flakes, chopped sage, sage leaves and lemon zest and stir to coat.

Put cooked cauliflower mixture in a large mixing bowl. Add cooked rigatoni, additional add-in's if using, and fontina and toss. Transfer mixture to a lightly oiled baking dish. Top with Romano cheese, then with bread crumbs and drizzle with about 1 tablespoon olive oil. (Dish may be completed to this point up to several hours in advance and kept at room temperature, covered.)

Bake, uncovered, for 20 to 30 minutes, until top is crisp and golden. Sprinkle with freshly chopped parsley before serving.

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

gold and grey.

Gold bar stools are everything.  Especially when paired with gold pendant lights.  

Also, charcoal grey is the new black. 

(I am currently obsessing over all things grey which may explain my love of grey jeans and the never ending search for the perfect soft light grey sweater.)

bar stools.

Image via Pinterest

Monday, October 6, 2014

maple buttermilk custard pie.

Yesterday fall showed up.

I made spiced apple pancakes.  I wore my favorite pair of thick socks (probably one of 3 pairs of socks I willingly wear).  I consumed grilled cheese in sweatpants.  I took my leather jacket and sweaters out of hibernation and then I baked a pie to celebrate this momentous occasion. 

Tyler will be the first to tell you that I have an unnatural obsession with maple syrup.  There is something undeniably delicious about it.  I love it drizzled (OK, poured) over pancakes and waffles and pumpkin flavored oatmeal.  I love it mixed into plain yogurt and used as a substitute for sugar in any and all baked goods which is how this pie caught my attention. 

I tend to gravitate towards fruit pies, but this one with the combination of cornmeal, buttermilk, and maple syrup seemed too irresistible to ignore.  And irresistible it is! The custard is divine - tangy, flavorful, and oh so creamy.  The cornmeal crust provides the perfect amount of textural contrast to the custard. 

(Not a bad way to usher in fall.) 

Maple Buttermilk Custard Pie

Cornmeal Crust for a 9-inch single-crust pie, partially pre-baked (recipe below)
1 tablespoon unbleached all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon stone-ground white cornmeal
¼ cup packed light brown sugar
½ teaspoon kosher salt
5 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
1 teaspoon vanilla paste (or vanilla extract)
1 cup sour cream
3 large eggs
1 large egg yolk
¾ cup maple syrup (preferably Grade B)
1 cup buttermilk

Position a rack in the center of the oven and preheat the oven to 325°F. Place the prebaked pie shell on a rimmed baking sheet.

In a large bowl, mix together the flour, cornmeal, brown sugar, salt, and melted butter. Add the vanilla paste (or vanilla extract) and the sour cream and stir until smooth. Add the eggs and egg yolk one at a time, blending well after each addition. Add the maple syrup and buttermilk and mix until smooth.
Strain the filling through a fine-mesh sieve directly into the pie shell, or strain it into a separate bowl and then pour it into the shell. (FYI: I was left with about 1/3 cup of filling that would not make it through the strainer.) 

Bake on the middle rack of the oven for 45 to 55 minutes, rotating 180 degrees when the edges start to set, 30 to 35 minutes through baking.
The pie is finished when the edges are set and puffed slightly and the center is no longer liquid but still quite wobbly.

Be careful not to overbake or the custard can separate; the filling will continue to cook and set after the pie is removed from the oven.

Allow to cool completely on a wire rack, 2 to 3 hours. Serve slightly warm, at room temperature, or cool. The pie will keep refrigerated for 2 days or at room temperature for 1 day.

Cornmeal Crust (for a single-crust pie)

1 cup unbleached all-purpose flour
¼ cup stone-ground cornmeal
½ teaspoon kosher salt
1½ teaspoons granulated sugar
¼ pound (1 stick) cold unsalted butter, cut into ½-inch pieces
½ cup cold water
2 tablespoons cider vinegar
½ cup ice

Stir the flour, cornmeal, salt, and sugar together in a large bowl. Add the butter pieces and coat with the flour mixture using a spatula. With a pastry blender (or using your fingers like we did), cut the butter into the flour mixture, working quickly until mostly pea-size pieces of butter remain (a few larger pieces are okay; be careful not to over blend).

Combine the water, cider vinegar, and ice in a large measuring cup or small bowl. Sprinkle 2 tablespoons of the ice water mixture over the flour mixture, and mix and cut it in with a bench scraper or spatula until it is fully incorporated. Add more of the ice water mixture, 1 to 2 tablespoons at a time, and mix until the dough comes together in a ball, with some dry bits remaining. Squeeze and pinch with your fingertips to bring all the dough together, sprinkling dry bits with more small drops of the ice water mixture, if necessary, to combine.

Shape the dough into a flat disc, wrap in plastic, and refrigerate for at least 1 hour, preferably overnight, to give the crust time to mellow. Wrapped tightly, the dough can be refrigerated for 3 days or frozen for 1 month.

How to partially pre-bake it: 
Once dough has been chilled in the refrigerator for at least 30 minutes, roll it out and shape it into a 9-inch pie plate. Use a fork to prick all over the bottom and sides, 15 to 20 times. Place the shaped crust in the freezer. Position the oven racks in the bottom and center positions, place a rimmed baking sheet on the lowest rack, and preheat the oven to 425°F.

When the crust is frozen solid (about 10 minutes), line it tightly with a piece or two of aluminum foil. Make sure the edges are completely covered and there are no gaps between the foil and the crust.

Pour pie weights or dried beans into the pan and spread them so they are concentrated more around the edge of the shell than in the center. Place the pan on the preheated baking sheet and bake for 20 minutes, until crimped edges are set but not browned.

Remove the pan and the baking sheet from the oven, lift out the foil and pie weights, and let the crust cool for a minute. Use a pastry brush to coat the bottom and sides with a thin layer of egg white glaze (1 egg white whisked with 1 teaspoon of water) to moisture-proof the crust. Return the pan, on the baking sheet, to the oven’s middle rack and continue baking for 3 more minutes. Remove and cool completely before filling.

Thursday, October 2, 2014

broccoli slaw.

Last week, when I was home alone for dinner, I made this for myself.  I served it with a wedge of really good aged cheddar cheese and a couple of crackers and I was happier than a pig in shit. (I had never heard of this phrase until I started dating Tyler and now it’s my favorite saying.)

This recipe may not look like much but somewhere along the way, it results in one of the most gloriously addicting salads ever. It's crunchy and creamy.  It tastes both indulgent and healthy. It can be made ahead and it really never goes soft.  It's practically perfect.  

This will become your fall go-to because it’s so insanely easy and utterly satisfying.  There is nothing wrong with that.  

Broccoli Slaw
Recipe adapted from the Smitten Kitchen Cookbook

I added tahini to the dressing because I find that it’s a nice way to thicken dressings without using more mayo.  It also imparts a pretty great flavoring to the dish that leaves people perplexed in the best possible way.  You can obviously omit it if you choose.  If you do, you will need to offset with a little more mayo.  

Makes about six cups of slaw.

2 heads of broccoli
1/2 cup thinly sliced almonds, toasted (pine nuts also work here)
1/3 cup dried cranberries or raisins

Buttermilk Dressing

1/2 cup buttermilk, well-shaken
1/3 cup mayonnaise
2 teaspoons tahini
2 tablespoons cider vinegar
1 tablespoon sugar
Salt and pepper to taste

Trim broccoli and cut it into large chunks. From here, you can either feed it through your food processor’s slicing blade, use a mandoline to cut it into thin slices, or simply had chop it into smaller pieces. I used the stem and the flowerets, but if you have a broccoli stem aversion you can just use the tops. (But using just the tops would be foolish in my humble opinion.)

Toss the sliced broccoli with the almonds, cranberries and red onion in a large bowl. Meanwhile, whisk the dressing ingredients in a smaller one, with a good pinch of salt and black pepper. Pour the dressing over the broccoli (if you’ve skipped the stems, you might not want it all; I otherwise found this to be the perfect amount) and toss it well. Season well with salt and pepper to taste.