MVK’s Recipes for Autumn

sabattical
After much thought in the past few months about where my food writing is going and what I would like to do with it in the future, I’ve decided to take a pause from writing for a few months. At first I thought I only had an either/or, just two decisions, either keep writing or stop completely. But on a long walk last week I realized I can make my own rules and stop writing temporarily. Five years are a very long time to keep my creative juices flowing week after week and I’ve started to feel like I’ve been uncreative in both my cooking and writing. I know whenever I start to feel this way about anything, I know I need to take a step back and reassess.  

That said, I’ll miss writing about my favorite season and holiday, but I have collected some of my favorite autumn recipes to get you through the next few months, plus tips for Thanksgiving Day! And on Sunday, I will be toasting my favorite city in the world with a Perfect Manhattan.

May your autumn be happy, peaceful, and full of the bounty of this glorious season!

Love,
Chris

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Soups and Stews
Check out the farmer’s market and pick up some vegetables for my Late Summer Vegetable Soup.
Whenever I need some comfort, I make a pot of my Hungarian Mushroom Soup.
A delicious vegan meal, Autumn Red Curry Stew.

Main Dishes
This is one of my favorite chicken recipes, Chicken Stew with Old South Buttermilk Biscuits.
And another favorite chicken recipe, Braised Chicken with White Beans and Olives.
This recipe for macaroni and cheese is healthy and one pan!

Side Dishes
Although I love summer cooking, I admit I’m excited about root vegetables. Here are some of my favorite roasted roots recipes.
Fall means apples. Make some homemade applesauce!
I make this recipe for Roasted Delicata Squash all winter long!
Instead of the usual lettuce for salads, try my recipe for Autumn Kale Salad instead.

Sweets
My mom’s recipe for pumpkin bread.
Make these popular miniature Halloween cookies!
My go-to gingerbread recipe, courtesy of Lynne Rossetto Kasper of NPR’s “The Splendid Table.”

Since I’ve cooked Thanksgiving dinner for years, I’ve collected several tips each year to make the day a bit easier. And here are two recipes for the best rolls in the world that I’ve made for the holiday!
Astor House Rolls
Flaky Dinner Rolls

Valentine’s Day Chocolate Pudding Plus MVK’s *Like* of the Week

When I was growing up, my parents never went out to celebrate Valentine’s Day on their own, we always celebrated together as a family. And one of our special desserts was homemade chocolate pudding. I grew up never knowing what it was like to eat pudding from a box, so I didn’t know how spoiled I was by eating this dark, rich dessert topped with just a little bit of cream until I became an adult and had to make my own–from a box!

When I began thinking of this year’s Valentine’s Day, I decided I should bring back that tradition and make chocolate pudding for my Valentine. I found this recipe from Cooking Light, but knew my first switch was going to use whole milk instead of skim. Skim milk contains lots of natural sugar, so I didn’t want this dessert any sweeter than it needed to be. I bought a 4 ounce bar of Ghirardelli semi-sweet chocolate, but then noticed I needed one additional ounce; luckily I had a square of Baker’s in the cupboard. I topped it with a few frozen raspberries, since I love that combination. You could take the remaining egg whites and whip them into meringue or top with whipped cream. The end result will be an incredibly rich, smooth, dark chocolate pudding.

While adding milk to a mix is simple, taking a little bit of effort to make something homemade is so much better! Plus, you know what the ingredients are and that they’re healthy and good for you. I’m a sucker for any kind of pudding, but this is extra special, especially if you’re sharing it with the one you love!

Happy Valentine’s Day and Happy Cooking!

pudding3Chocolate Pudding

This recipe first appeared in the August 2006 issue of Cooking Light magazine

2 ½ cups fat-free (or whole) milk, divided
1/3 cup sugar
3 tablespoons cornstarch
¼ teaspoon salt
2 large egg yolks
2 teaspoons butter
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
5 ounces semisweet chocolate, chopped

Place 2 cups milk in a medium, heavy saucepan; bring to a boil. Combine sugar, cornstarch, and salt in a large bowl, stirring well with a whisk. Combine remaining ½ cup milk and egg yolks, stirring well with a whisk. Add egg yolk mixture to sugar mixture, stirring well. Gradually add half of hot milk to egg yolk mixture, stirring constantly with a whisk. Return milk mixture to pan; bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer 1 minute or until thick, stirring constantly. Remove from heat. Add butter, vanilla, and chocolate, stirring until melted.

Spoon pudding into a bowl. Place bowl in a large ice-filled bowl for 15 minutes or until pudding is cool, stirring occasionally. Cover surface of pudding with plastic wrap; chill.

vday2MVK’s *Like* of the Week: Valentine’s Day Menus

With Valentine’s Day on a Sunday this year, that gives you a little extra time if you were planning on making a meal at home as opposed to eating out. Two years ago I combed the MVK archives to find some special recipes for the day. You can see that post here.

Looking for more chocolate inspiration instead? Check out these double chocolate cookies from last year!

Old-Fashioned Blueberry-Maple Pie Plus MVK’s *Like* of the Week

Don't the clouds look like cotton candy?

Don’t the clouds look like cotton candy?

A funny thing happened to me in March. I received an email from a local filmmaker, Josh Hummel, who stumbled across my blog and my recipe for blueberry pie from 2012  and wanted to meet to discuss a film he was planning on making that featured—ta da! A blueberry pie!

The film, titled “The Kitchen of Ambrosia,” is brilliant; six athletes come together with ingredients to make a pie that is then shared. A runner gathers the berries, a kayaker takes the berries into the lake to wash them, a hiker goes into the woods for the maple syrup, a cyclist goes to a farm to gather wheat berries and cream, a rock climber grinds the wheat into flour, and a mountain biker goes over bumps and hills to make the butter. I spent a few hours filming this over the past few weekends and had great fun. And as you can surmise, I was the cook so I had to make two delicious tasting—and more importantly good looking–pies!

The Eater of the House took this photo of everyone being filmed eating the pie!

The Eater of the House took this photo of everyone being filmed eating the pie!

My blueberry pie is normally made with sugar, but I wanted this to be authentic to the film, so I found this pie recipe published in Bon Appétit magazine that uses maple syrup. I had wanted to practice making a lattice crust this summer, but time escaped me, so I had to do it on the fly! And it was super easy! I used these instructions, and had my phone in front of me as I followed the instructions on crisscrossing the crust. Since I was making two pies in the morning of the film shoot, I made the crust ahead of time to save on time and popped it in the fridge. You can do this too, just make sure the crust is room temperature before you start to roll it out. And of course, you don’t have to do a lattice, a “regular” crust will taste just as good!

The pie filling was delicious; I was disappointed in my crust and that the filling bubbled over a little bit, but all the athletes declared it delicious! I haven’t seen the final movie but saw a sneak peek of the rough cut and I can’t wait to be able to share this little bit of Vermont with you in the near future!

bluepieOld-Fashioned Blueberry-Maple Pie
This recipe first appeared in the August 1999 issue of Bon Appétit magazine. Pie crust is from The Joy of Cooking.

Pie crust
1 ½ cups all-purpose flour
½ teaspoon or so of salt
6 Tablespoons unsalted butter
Ice water

Filling
4 cups fresh blueberries (about 23 ounces)
1 cup pure maple syrup
¼ cup unbleached all purposed flour
¼ cup quick-cooking tapioca
4 teaspoons fresh lemon juice

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

For the crust: In a bowl, sift the flour and salt together. Add the butter, cut into chunks, and with a pastry blender or two forks, work the butter into the flour until it resembles cornmeal. One tablespoon at a time, add the ice water and mix until the crust melds together, and divide in half. On a floured surface, take your rolling pin, add a little bit of flour to the pin and the crust, and work it in a circle until it is about 9 inches for your pie pan. Carefully set it into a greased glass pie plate.

Combine blueberries, syrup, flour, tapioca, and juice in a bowl; toss to blend. Let stand for 15 minutes. Add the filling and repeat rolling out the crust for the top or cut for lattice. Bake pie until juice bubble thickly and crust is golden, about 1 hour. Cool pie on rack. Serve at room temperature.

MVK’s Like of the Week: Tonight’s Dinner

I read about food every single day. Whether it’s newspapers, magazines, websites, emails, cookbooks, I am always getting new ideas and inspirations. A few months back, I told you about the email the New York Time’s Food team sends several times a week. It’s great and I get lots of creative suggestions for meals that don’t take a lot of time or money to put on the table. I just loved this message last week from writer Sam Sifton. I’m going to look for some local tomatoes tonight!

fresh-tomato-exporterSummer cooking is different from the cooking we do other times of the year. Here are some beautiful tomatoes. With a drizzle of olive oil, a spray of salt and a garnish of capers, that’s dinner, and if someone happens to have a beautiful ball of fresh mozzarella to tear apart on top of it all, so much the better. Honey, could you grab me some basil? Dinner is served. (Try doing that in February.)

 

Happy 4th of July Plus MVK’s *Like* of the Week

forth mountainRabbit Rabbit! Can you believe it’s already July 1st?

I hope all of you are able to take a little time off this weekend to enjoy the local parades and fireworks. I spend an afternoon or so this time of year in the kitchen cooking so there are handy things in the fridge to grab for picnics at the lake: salads, dips, and a batch of cold chicken. This week’s recipe, a revisit from last July, isn’t particularly portable, but oh, is it good and worth eating at home!

Strawberry season in Vermont is a short one and I hear this year is a bumper crop. So for the next couple of weeks you’ll find me down the road at the farm stand grabbing a quart or two until they are gone. I can’t get enough of them. So with this plethora of riches, I always take the opportunity to make a strawberry shortcake with homemade whipped cream. Because if you’re going to have dessert for dinner, you should go all out, right?

This is the way I grew up eating strawberry shortcake, a biscuit-like “cake,” split it in the middle, the middle filled with whipped cream and lots of berries, and then topped with more whipped cream and berries. A sort of layer cake, if you will. While the Egg Biscuit Cake is from The New England Cookbook, by Brooke Dojny, the assembling instructions and whipped cream recipe are my own.

You can always make drop biscuits if you have a small family or want to tote this to a friend’s house. It really doesn’t last past a day once assembled. But then again, there is always breakfast!

strawHomemade Strawberry Shortcake
1+ quart of strawberries, hulled and sliced (set aside eight perfect berries)

Egg Biscuit Cake
This cake recipe was published in The New England Cookbook by Brooke Dojny, 1999.

2 cups all-purpose flour
¼ cup sugar
4 teaspoons baking powder
½ teaspoon salt
6 tablespoons cold unsalted butter, cut into about 10 pieces
1 egg
½ cup milk

1. Preheat the oven to 450 degrees. Generously grease an 8-inch cake pan.

2. Pulse the flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt in a food processor. Distribute the butter over the flour mixture and pulse until the mixture looks crumbly. Whisk the egg with the milk in a glass measuring cup. With the motor running, pour the milk mixture through the feed tube and process just until the dough begins to clump together. (To make the dough by hand, whisk the dry ingredients together in a bowl, work in the cold butter with your fingertips, add the egg and milk and stir with a large fork to make a soft dough.) Scrape out onto a lightly floured board, knead lightly a few times, and roll or pat into an 8-inch round. (The dough can be prepared several hours ahead and refrigerated at this point.)

3. Transfer the dough to the prepared pan, patting it gently to the edges. Place in the oven and immediately reduce the oven temperature to 375 degrees. Bake for 22 to 26 minutes until the shortcake is pale golden brown on top. Cool in the pan on a rack for about 10 minutes.

Homemade Whipped Cream
1 pint of heavy or whipping cream
2 tablespoons granulated sugar
2-3 teaspoons vanilla extract

Pour the cream into a large bowl. Add the sugar and vanilla. With a hand mixer set on high, beat the cream until stiff peaks form—about 6 minutes or so. Set aside.

To assemble
Take the shortcake out of the pan and let it cool on a rack. When cooled, carefully slice it in half horizontally and divide. With the bottom of the shortcake, add some whipped cream and berries. Add the top of the shortcake, add more berries, whipped cream, and dot with the reserved whole berries.

Quirks-1MVK’s *Like* of the Week: The 10 Most Annoying Food Packaging Quirks
Here’s a laugh for you this morning. I could identify with almost every single packaging on this list! Flour on the counter, foil seal tabs on the peanut butter jar, shrink-wrapped goat cheese, I didn’t realize how aggravated these made me until I read this article! Take a look here, it will make you feel better that you’re not alone!

Speaking of Pumpkin…

The days of warmth and color are quickly becoming a memory.

The days of warmth and color are quickly becoming a memory.

Last week I talked about how everything lately is pumpkin spice flavored. So I had to bring you a recipe; I began the season with apples, and now that’s it’s crisp and dark outside, it’s time for the warmth of pumpkins!

The Eater of the House likes anything pumpkin: bread, pancakes, but his favorite is pumpkin pie. One year I said I’d make one, but in a fit of laziness, decided to make it without the crust and it became a new fall favorite! And without my beloved crust, it makes for a lot easier and healthier dessert.

The recipe, believe it or not, comes from the back of the condensed milk can! One bowl and five minutes, it takes longer for the oven to preheat than it does to actually mix it all together. I call it a pudding, because without a crust, cutting it into an actual pie slice is rather difficult. So I do my best, and put it in a serving dish. But of course, you can put it in an unbaked pie crust and serve it for Thanksgiving dessert!

unnamedPerfect Pumpkin “Pudding”
This recipe is adapted from the original Eagle Brand® recipe for Perfect Pumpkin Pie.

1 (15 ounce) can pumpkin
1 (14 ounce) can Eagle Brand® Sweetened Condensed Milk
2 large eggs
1 tsp. ground cinnamon
½ tsp. ground ginger
½ tsp. nutmeg
½ tsp. salt

1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Whisk all the ingredients in a mixing bowl until smooth. Pour into a greased pie pan. Cook for 40 minutes or until a knife inserted in the pudding comes out clean. Cool. Top with whipped cream.

MVK’s Endorsement of the Week: New York Times Cooking Newsletter
unnamedIf you’re like me and can’t get enough stories about food, the New York Times now has a cooking newsletter that can be delivered right to your inbox several times a week! Written by food editor, Sam Sifton, you’ll find food stories and recipes, and I’ve found it’s a great way to get inspired for dinner and other meals. For example, Sunday’s newsletter was “Cook on Sunday, be Thankful on Monday.” Who doesn’t want that? In addition, you have access to all of the recipes printed in the New York Times and you can create your own recipe box to save recipes for later instead of printing it out. A few days ago, Sifton wrote about stuffed baked potatoes and I haven’t been able to get them out of my mind. Stay tuned, I’m sure I’ll be making some soon!

To subscribe, click here.

 

Retro Dessert: Floating Island

One of my all-time favorite movies is “Desk Set.” A little known Tracy and Hepburn film, Katharine Hepburn plays a research librarian at a television network in New York City; Spencer Tracy plays an efficiency expert. It’s great fun and I watch it every December because the movie starts in November and a big scene takes place at Christmastime. (So I was especially excited to go to Rockefeller Center last December to live my version of the movie!)

Desk_Set_4
There is a scene where, following a big rain storm, Tracy is soaked and ends up having dinner at Hepburn’s apartment; he makes her fried chicken and she makes floating island for dessert. Her boyfriend shows up, suspects their cozy dinner is something other than what it is, and assumptions and confusion ensues. Of course, it ends happily.

I’ve been making this dessert since the first time I saw this movie probably 20 years ago. A soft custard pudding, it has a meringue “island” floating on top. It is a perfectly comforting and homey dessert that takes little time and makes just the right amount for two. I had to research the history of this dessert and I thought it was American through and through,  but turns out it is European!

Floating Island
This recipe, from Betty Crocker’s New Dinner For Two Cook Book, says to make this in a double boiler. If you don’t have one, like me, a thick-bottomed saucepan works just as well.

Make Soft Custard (below). Make a meringue of 1 egg white and 2 tbsp. sugar. Drop meringue as “islands” on custard in serving dish. Chill before serving. (MVK’s Note: Making the meringue takes about 10 minutes at least with a hand mixer set on high.)

Soft Custard
¾ cup milk
2 egg yolks (or 1 whole egg)
2 tbsp. sugar
Pinch of salt
½ tsp. vanilla

Scald milk in top of a double boiler over direct head. Beat egg yolks in a small bowl. Blend in sugar and salt. Gradually stir in scalded milk. Return to double boiler. Cook over simmering (not boiling) water, stirring constantly. When custard coats silver spoon (thin coating), remove from heat. Cook quickly. If custard should start to curdle, beat vigorously at once with rotary beater until smooth. Blend in vanilla. Pour into serving dish. 2 generous servings.
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