Halloween Treats!

Golden evening light.

Happy Halloween!

For the past few weeks I’ve been in a nesting mode and wanting to do some baking; I think it’s the cooler weather and darker days. I had been thinking of making something pumpkin-related for the holiday, and when America’s Test Kitchen Radio had a recipe for pumpkin bread, I knew the fates were looking upon me and I needed to make a batch. But then for days I kept seeing the photo of Candy Corn Cookies in my Facebook news feed, posted by PBS Food. They looked so good, I decided to make them, too!

Luckily for my waistline, I gave away most of the cookies and bread, much to the dismay of the eater of the house. His description of the bread isn’t suitable for publication; let’s just say he thinks the pumpkin bread is the bee’s knees and I have a feeling this won’t be the last time I make it! (It is pretty good!)

Aren’t these adorable? And this was cookie sheet #1, so my batch definitely made more than 5 dozen cookies!

Candy Corn Cookies
From PBS Food’s Fresh Taste blog, recipe by Jenna Weber

2 sticks of butter, softened
½ cups powdered sugar
1 Tablespoon vanilla
1 egg
½ teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon salt
3 cups flour
Red food coloring
Yellow food coloring

1. Cream together the sugar and butter until light and fluffy. Add the egg and vanilla and continue to beat until incorporated.

2. In another bowl, whisk together the flour, baking soda and salt. Add dry ingredients to the butter sugar mixture and mix until a soft dough just forms. Remove dough from mixer bowl and separate into three equal pieces (use a food scale to weigh each piece if you want to be exact!). Mix together a little bit of red and yellow food coloring to make orange and then add the orange coloring to one of the dough pieces. Make another dough piece yellow and leave the third plain.

3. Place a piece of plastic wrap or tin foil inside a loaf pan and pat down the white dough inside. Place the orange dough on top (pat down firmly) followed by the yellow dough. Remove dough from pan, wrap up in either tin foil or plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight or for at least four hours.

4. When you are ready to bake your cookies, preheat your oven to 350 degrees. Cut 1/4th inch slices down the width of the dough. Continue cutting each slice into small triangles.

5. Place triangles on a lined baking sheet and bake for 6-8 minutes until tops are puffy and bottoms are golden.

Yield: 5 dozen tiny cookies

Cook’s Notes:
• I found this made more than 5 dozen cookies; one slice of the dough made about 10!
• While I tried various methods to make them bigger, my cookies were tiny, a little larger than a regular candy corn. And watch out, these are delicious and being so small, you can definitely get carried away with having “just one more!”

Pumpkin Bread

From America’s Test Kitchen

Makes 2 loaves

The test kitchen’s preferred loaf pan measures 8 1/2 by 4 1/2 inches; if using a 9 by 5-inch loaf pan, start checking for doneness five minutes early.

INGREDIENTS

TOPPING

5 tablespoons light brown sugar
1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon unsalted butter, softened
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon salt

BREAD

2 cups (10 ounces) all-purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 (15-ounce) can pumpkin puree
1 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/8 teaspoon ground cloves
1 cup (7 ounces) granulated sugar
1 cup light brown sugar
1/2 cup vegetable oil
4 ounces cream cheese , cut into 12 pieces
4 large eggs
1/4 cup buttermilk
1 cup walnuts , toasted and chopped fine

INSTRUCTIONS

FOR THE TOPPING:
Using fingers, mix all ingredients together in bowl until well combined and topping resembles wet sand; set aside.

FOR THE BREAD:
• Adjust oven rack to middle position and heat oven to 350 degrees. Grease two 8 1/2 by 4 1/2-inch loaf pans. Whisk flour, baking powder, and baking soda together in bowl.

• Combine pumpkin puree, salt, cinnamon, nutmeg, and cloves in large saucepan over medium heat. Cook mixture, stirring constantly, until reduced to 1½ cups, 6 to 8 minutes. Remove pot from heat; stir in granulated sugar, brown sugar, oil, and cream cheese until combined. Let mixture stand for 5 minutes. Whisk until no visible pieces of cream cheese remain and mixture is homogeneous.

• Whisk together eggs and buttermilk. Add egg mixture to pumpkin mixture and whisk to combine. Fold flour mixture into pumpkin mixture until combined (some small lumps of flour are OK). Fold walnuts into batter. Scrape batter into prepared pans. Sprinkle topping evenly over top of each loaf. Bake until skewer inserted in center of loaf comes out clean, 45 to 50 minutes. Let breads cool in pans on wire rack for 20 minutes. Remove breads from pans and let cool for at least 1½ hours. Serve warm or at room temperature.

Cook’s Notes:
• Given the amount of sugar in the bread, I decided to forego the topping. It seemed like it would be closer to cake than that of a snacking bread.
• I discovered as I was just about to spoon the bread into the pan that I now own only one bread pan. So instead of waiting to reuse the pan, I went with an 8 x 8 square pan. Cooking time was a little bit shorter, but it was still delicious. I wrapped some pieces and popped them in the freezer for later eating! 

 

Roast Chicken and Stuffing

The month of October has been cold and rainy, the perfect weather for a Sunday roast!

Perhaps it was the martini talking, but a few weeks ago, I offered to cook Thanksgiving dinner for nine (three under the age of ten). Hands down, Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday; I usually take those three days off before to plan, clean, cook, and bake. When thinking of this year’s holiday, I am reminded of last year’s Thanksgiving, three days post surgery and nary a thought given to my menu or even food. But this year will be different; ideas have been swirling around my head for weeks around whether I’m going to go with some old favorites or try something new. But I took a step back when my dad asked if I cook the stuffing inside the bird or out. I have roasted many a turkey, but always have cooked the stuffing outside the bird. Even when I asked my brother, who also hosts a big dinner every year, he responded with, “I NEVER cook the stuffing inside the bird.” Growing up, the stuffing always was cooked inside the turkey and no one got sick, but the thought of possibly giving my family food poisoning gave me pause.

Always one for being up for a challenge, I decided to practice for the big day by stuffing a chicken for dinner one night. How hard can it be? I found out, not hard at all! And no food poisoning!

(Full disclosure, several years ago I roasted a chicken that smelled a little funny, but thought it was just me. Turns out it wasn’t, and I was saddled with food poisoning until late the next morning, so I’ve always been wary when cooking chicken. My kitchen manta now? When in doubt, throw it out!)

The below is my go-to stuffing recipe that originated from Cooking Light many years ago and which I’ve melded into my own through the years. This will probably be the one and only time you will hear me say use soft white bread, the kind you can get for $1 at the supermarket and which has no nutritional value whatsoever; I’ve tried whole wheat bread and it just isn’t the same, I think it adds a certain sweetness to it. Before I go to bed the night before Thanksgiving I usually leave the bread out on the counter to dry, but you can skip this step by toasting it in the oven on a cookie sheet. A sauté of celery and onions, dried white bread, some broth or water, and poultry seasoning and you have stuffing! You can fiddle with it and add some dried cranberries or nuts, but I like it just the way it is. I like the crunchiness of the celery and there may be too much for you, so you can certainly cut down on the amount if you like.

Please note, I find there is a certain amount of messiness when making this as I mix this by hand to incorporate everything together. You can certainly use a spoon, but I’ve always found it comes together easier by using my hands. Just don’t forget to take off your jewelry!

I apologize there is no picture for this week, but trust me, this was one for the record books. It wasn’t until I had totally cut it apart that I remembered I never took one! But it was golden, gorgeous, and trust me, delicious!

Roasted Chicken with Stuffing
This stuffing might make a little bit more than will fill the bird; if you have some left over, just put it in a baking dish, cover with foil, and bake along with the chicken toward the end of its roasting for about 15 minutes. Before putting away leftovers, be sure to take all of the stuffing out of the chicken and place in a separate container.

5-7 pound roasting chicken
Olive oil
Salt and pepper

For the stuffing:
8 slices of soft, white bread
1 ½ cups celery, diced
1 medium onion, diced
½ Tablespoon butter
Chicken broth or water
Poultry seasoning

1. Preheat oven to 425 degrees.

2. Rinse off the chicken and pat dry with a paper towel. Place in roasting pan. Drizzle a little bit of olive oil on the bird, rub it all over the skin, and add some salt and pepper.

3. For the stuffing, either leave the bread out for several hours to dry, or place the slices of bread on a cookie sheet and stick in a 350 degree oven until dried. (Note, you don’t want this brown, like toast, cook it until it’s just barely golden.)

4. Meanwhile, in a large skillet, melt the butter and add the celery and onion, cook for 5-7 minutes until soft but still crunchy. Set aside to cool.

5. Take a large mixing bowl and tear the bread into pieces. When the celery and onion are cool, add to the bread. A quarter cup at a time, add the broth or water, and work it into the bread. With your hands or a spoon, continue adding the liquid until all the bread and vegetables are worked together into something that resembles a sticky cookie batter (think chocolate chip cookies). Add poultry seasoning to taste, about ½-1 teaspoon, I’d say.

6. By the handful or spoonful, add the stuffing into the bird’s cavity.

7. Cook at 425 degrees for 15-20 minutes, then reduce the heat to 325 degrees and cook until a thermometer reads 165 degrees in the thick part of the bird. In total, cooking time will be about 90-120 minutes.

A Perfect Fall Side Dish: Roasted Beets with Sherry Vinegar and Goat Cheese

Even though the foliage has been a bit off this year, the sunrises and sunsets have been incredible!

As I mentioned last week, I’ve reluctantly given myself up to the season and am fully back into my cooler weather cooking routine. I make a point of getting home late afternoon on Sunday so I can spend time cooking food for the week while warming the house with delicious aroma of roasted chicken or other dishes. Although I’m not happy it’s getting colder out, the change of seasons does bring some of my favorite vegetables that I haven’t seen in seven or eight months.

I think most people have a love/hate relationship with beets, in that they either love them or hate them. I am in the former category; when fall arrives, I know these ruby gems will be on my grocery list every week. I roast and then dice them for salads, and now make my new favorite side dish: thinly roasted beets with a little bit of sherry vinegar and small pieces of goat cheese.

I’ll sometimes spend a little extra to buy the golden beets from my favorite farm, Golden Russet in Shoreham. Although I didn’t make it to the farmer’s market as much as I would have liked this past season, they sell their wonderful veggies at the coop year-round, so I’m never out of luck. But this recipe is good with any color variation of beets.

The way I always roast beets is to scrub them until they are clean, then place in a shallow dish with a bit of water. Cover with foil and roast at 350 degrees until they are still firm, yet soft. When they are cool to the touch, I’ll peel off the skin and cut into thin slices. Fanned on a plate, sprinkle with sherry vinegar and dot with goat cheese, salt and pepper to taste.

Sherry vinegar is an indulgence of mine; I love all vinegars, but there is something about sherry that I just adore. Unfortunately, it is only sold in smallish bottles and for close to $4 a pop, it’s not inexpensive, so I try to make it last as long as I can. It has just the right amount of tang and flavor and it adds a little something special to any dish or salad. If you don’t have sherry vinegar on hand, I’d substitute with cider vinegar.

Roasted Beets with Sherry Vinegar and Goat Cheese

• 4-5 small beets, ends cut off and scrubbed
• Sherry vinegar (or substitute cider vinegar)
• Goat cheese
• Salt and pepper to taste

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

In a shallow dish (a pie pan works just great), add the cleaned, scrubbed beets and a little bit of water, about a quarter of the way up the beets. Cover tightly with foil and roast in the oven for 45-60 minutes or until the beets are soft yet firm. When cool, peel off the skins and slice thinly, about 1/4 inch thick. Fan on a plate, sprinkle with the vinegar and dot with the cheese. Add salt and pepper to taste.

Naked Apple Pie

After fighting tooth and nail to extend summer, when October rolled around, I knew I lost my battle. The leaves are changing, it continues to get darker earlier each day, and the biggie, we finally had to turn the heat on! So I figured if we’re going into another season, I’m going to jump in head first. Weekly trips to the apple orchard have brought me my favorites, Jonagold and Ginger Gold. And side dishes for dinner have turned to squashes, root vegetables, and dark hardy greens.

This recipe is one my mom gave me years ago and I still make at least once a year. Basically it’s an apple pie with no crust, but it’s more than that; with the baking powder and egg, there is a little bit of fluffiness between the apples, which almost steam in the oven. Eating this warm topped with cream or some vanilla ice cream, it will make you forget about the loss of light and all the other goodies summer brings. You can even eat it for breakfast!


Naked Apple Pie
I like to use Cortland apples for my pies; if you use a sweeter apple, you can, of course, cut down on the sugar. A perfect dessert to take along to a potluck; the only real work is cutting up the apples!

½ c. white sugar
½ c. brown sugar
½ c. all-purpose flour
1 tsp. baking powder
Pinch of salt
1 egg
1 tsp. vanilla
6-7 peeled, pared, diced apples
½ c. nuts, optional (if using, I use walnuts)

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
2. Mix together the dry ingredients in a large bowl.
3. Add the egg and vanilla and stir.
4. Add the apples and nuts, if using.

Bake in a greased pie pan or small cake pan after topping with cinnamon and nutmeg for roughly 30 minutes, or until apples are soft.

Kale Chips

Even though it’s dark when I get up in the morning now, I’m at least treated to incredible sunrises.

I was a little insulted last week when I was listening to the latest episode of “America’s Test Kitchen Radio” and when a listener called in about making kale chips. Bridget Lancaster said they’ve been “in fashion on the food blogs lately.” Well folks, kale chips has been on my list of recipes to bring to you this fall, so I guess I’m in fashion by joining the ranks of the rest of the food bloggers in writing about them!

There was an advertisement a long time about eating potato chips, how you couldn’t eat just one. I’m like that; I’m much more of a savory, not sweet gal; I will take a bag of chips and some dip over dessert any day. I heard about kale chips from my sister-in-law about a year ago and the idea always intrigued me. One night when I was looking for a little snack before dinner, with a bunch of kale in the fridge, I decided to try them. And I haven’t looked back since!

This is perfect time of year to make these, as kale is one of those never-ending fall vegetables; I can get local kale through October and into November, they like the cold! These will go quickly, so watch out! They melt in your mouth, a crunchy and crispy “chip.” Take a few stalks of rinsed kale, take them off their stalk, and tear into pieces, about 3-4 inches. In a big mixing bowl, add the kale and a little bit of either olive oil or coconut oil (unrefined), place them on a cookie sheet so they are separated, add a dash of Kosher salt (or table salt if you have it), and stick it in a 350 degree preheated oven. If it looks like a large amount, don’t worry, they shrink. I’ll leave them in the oven for anywhere from 10-15 minutes, checking on them to make sure everything is cooking correctly. Of course, the chips on the edges are done the earliest, the ones in the middle take a little bit more time. These usually don’t make it to a serving dish, we’ll just eat them off the cookie sheet. Much more healthy than an actual cookie!

I use my large mixing bowl to “massage” the kale with oil.

Kale Chips
5-6 stalks of kale (I prefer curly)
1-2 Tablespoons olive oil or coconut oil (unrefined)
Kosher salt

1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
2. Rinse the kale and remove the center stalk. Tear into 3-4 inch pieces.
3. In a large mixing bowl, add the kale and whatever oil you’re using.
4. Place in the oven and bake until crispy, 10-15 minutes, depending on your oven. Toss occasionally.

The kale “shrinks” when it’s cooked, so you might want to keep your bowl handy for another batch!