Tag Archives: fall

Pumpkin Spice Granola

I’ve lived in places where fall is fleeting. At first sight of one yellow leaf in Central Oregon, I would fall myself – into a preemptive winter depression, knowing that we were in for 6 months of cold, icy days. North Carolina, however, has 4 legitimate seasons, and fall lasts a glorious 2-3 months, during which the rolling hills become sprinkled with color (“Like a pack of Lifesavers,” according to Grant) and the humidity blows away, but the hard chill hasn’t taken hold.

Many people head to the Blue Ridge Parkway to enjoy the foliage-gasm around us. We head to the mountains, too, and enjoy the smell of burning hickory logs and my pumpkin spice granola, punctuated with sweet fruit and crunchy nuts and seeds.

I baked this granola twice as long as it called for because I like really toasted granola – but don’t break your jaw, remember that the granola hardens as it cools. A wonderful, healthy fall breakfast…

Adapted from The Pastry Affair.

Pumpkin Spice Granola

Ingredients:

  • 3/4 cup pumpkin puree
  • 1 T pumpkin pie spice
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 3/4 cup brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup maple syrup
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 4 cups old fashioned oats
  • 1 1/2 c. mixed dried fruit and nuts (I used almonds, cranberries, pumpkin seeds and soy beans)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Line a large baking sheet with parchment paper.

In a large bowl, mix together the pumpkin puree, pumpkin pie spice, vanilla extract and salt. Stir in the brown sugar and maple syrup until smooth. Add the oats, fruit, nuts and seeds, stirring until granola is evenly coated.

Spread out evenly on prepared baking sheet. Bake for 20 minutes and stir the granola around. Bake for an additional 30-40 min, or to your desired doneness, stirring occasionally. Allow to cool completely before storing in an air-tight container.

We spooned the warm granola over cool Greek yogurt and the mix of temperatures was nice.

Then we went out and looked at the prettiness – and the Christmas tree farms!

Deck view: Sunrise on our last day…

Hope everyone is having a great fall. Enjoy, friends! xoxo

Pumpkin Beer Pretzels

As you can see from the photo above, fall in The South hits us later than the rest of the country. Yes, we have pumpkin spice lattes and pumpkin beer, but we also have vine-ripened watermellon and ripe peaches fresh in the farm stands.

But that doesn’t mean we can’t still get into the seasonal mood, with an amber pumpkin ale and a yeasty pretzel to enjoy with fall football. I never really watch football, but I love just having it on in the background on the weekends. A great backdrop when I’m making rich curries or wine-soaked beef short ribs with bacon and wild mushroom polenta (THAT was amazing, recipes to come!).

These pumpkin beer pretzels are not really pumpkin-flavored. Or beer flavored. But while you’re making them, you can sure smell it. Originally from We Are Not Martha, I had to tweak this recipe quite a bit to make it work – adding way more flour and kneading more than it originally called for. Actually, they were kind of a pain and made a huge, sticky floury mess. But they baked up nicely and were tasty with a side of grainy mustard and a frothy beer in an iced glass. I snuggled into my new sectional couch with my steaming pretzel and a weekend game, and I was set.

Pumpkin Beer Pretzels

Ingredients:

  • 1 packet active dry yeast (2 1/4 t)
  • 1/2 C warm water, plus 2 C warm water
  • 1/2 T sugar
  • 1/2 t salt
  • 1 t olive oil
  • 1 C pumpkin beer of your choice
  • 5-7 C all-purpose flour
  • 1 t baking soda
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • 2-3 T coarse salt
  • 1 T butter, melted
  1. In a large bowl, whisk yeast with 1/2 cup warm water. Let rest for about 5 minutes, until frothy.
  2. Stir in sugar, salt, and olive oil. Pour in the beer. With a wooden spoon, stir the flour in one cup at a time.
  3. Knead the dough on a lightly floured surface for about 8 minutes, adding more flour to keep it from sticking. It is done when it becomes a smooth, elastic ball. Put dough into a lightly oiled bowl, place in a warm spot, cover with a kitchen towel, and let sit for an hour or so to rise.
  4. Punch the dough down and divide into 12 balls. Roll each dough ball into a rope and shape the rope into a pretzel by forming into a “u” and crossing one end down, followed by the other end.
  5. Mix your remaining 2 C warm water with 1 t baking soda in a baking pan or other shallow dish. Dip the formed pretzels in. Place on a greased baking sheet. Continue with remaining dough balls. Cover with a kitchen towel again and let rise for another 20 minutes. Preheat oven to 425.
  6. Brush each pretzel lightly with beaten egg. Sprinkle with kosher salt. Bake for about 15 minutes, until lightly browned on top.
  7. Right when they come out of the oven, brush them with a little melted butter for an extra yummy taste.

The crust is crunchy and the inside is nice and chewy. These aren’t as good as those ones you get at the mall, but still…

Spoon some spicy mustard into a dish for serving, or just eat away! They would also be good sawed in half for a sandwich.

Enjoy, friends! xoxo

Baked Apples

My dad used to make baked apples. As the grateful recipient of my mother’s daily meal planning, dad never cooked much around the house. So I guess that’s why I remember the few times he owned the kitchen, when he wasn’t warming milk to help his little daughters  sleep or making the morning coffee.

Baked apples were a mystery when I was little. Dad would hollow out an apple, fill it with sugar and butter, pop it in the microwave and out came my favorite fall snack.

There’s something uniquely seasonal about apples roasting in sugar, butter and spices. The culinary equivalent of running through leaves when the sunlight gets a warmer shade of golden, and the air takes on that distinctive tinge of falling foliage.

My baked apples don’t taste quite as magical as those of my youth, but can anything capture those tastes from our memories?

Simple Baked Apples

Ingredients:

  • 4 apples, cored but not all the way through (I just used a mellon baller) and peeled around the top
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp nutmeg
  • Pinch cloves
  • 1/2 c. brown sugar
  • Pinch salt
  • 4 T unsalted butter
  • Juice of 1 lemon

Preheat oven to 325. Place apples in baking dish. Combine sugar, salt and spices in a small bowl. Fill each apple cavity with spices. Top with 1 T butter. Squeeze lemon over everything and pour enough water into the pan to fill 1/2-inch up the apples. Cover with foil and bake until soft, 25-45 min (it will depend on your apple and your preference).

The apples should be soft, but not turning to applesauce.

To serve, place each apple on a plate and pour the pan juices over the apples. Great with a scoop of vanilla ice cream or caramel syrup.

Enjoy, friends! xoxo

Apple tart and autumn

Trail near our house - Bethabara Park

Why does it feel like autumn is over when all the leaves finally fall off the trees? We still have quite a few leaves hanging on down here, but this rain/wind storm is doing its best to remove them. This post is dedicated to some of the foliage I’ve enjoyed in my first fall in NC.

Yes, Ellie, this is the "scary trail"

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Now, for the food. I made this apple tart a few weeks ago, adapting it from a Martha Stewart recipe. I made my own applesace, even, and it was pretty tasty. I think it would be even better with home-made crust. Here’s how it goes.

Preheat oven to 375. Roll out one thawed sheet of puff pastry. Smooth on a scant 3/4 c. good applesauce, leaving room for the crust. Fold up the edges to create said crust.

Layer thinly sliced apples over the top. Pick a firm, tart apple because they hold up better.

Brush the whole thing with melted butter and then sprinkle on sugar. Bake until the pastry is puffed and the apples are caramelized, roughly 25-30 min. for me, but check it at 20.

Once finished, brush on some melted jam, apricot or fig or whatever you have. Slice into pieces and serve warm.

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Enjoy the end of your fall, friends! xoxo

Southern Living

This post is dedicated to some decidedly Southern foodie bits I have been enjoying lately.

For instance, okra chips. We buy these at Fresh Market and they are wonderful. Lightly fried whole okra pods. Ma and pa brought some home with them.

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Something called a “grits bowl” that I got in Durham, N.C. You can add all sorts of toppings. I had a fried egg, bacon, salsa and avocado. The grits already had cheese in them. Delicious for breakfast.

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Shrimp and grits. They should be made with lots of bacon or other pork products. With Atlantic shrimp. Fabulous.

North Carolina's finest

North Carolina's finest

Pumpkins and mums. These were all on sale at the farmers’ market and I just couldn’t help myself.

My fall doorstep decor!

My fall doorstep decor!

Enjoy your week, friends! xoxo

French lentil soup with sausage

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So far, it seems The South goes kicking and screaming into fall. A cool week, then an 80-degree weekend. We’ll have rain, then we’ll have sun to make everything muggy. The honeysuckles are still blooming, but the maple leaves are turning into their own kind of brilliant flower.

All of this brings me to soup. Thick, spicy, hearty, fill-that-tummy-up soup. We really don’t eat enough of this economical food in my home, so we recently decided to change that. What immediately came to mind is a soup that I love but never have made: lentil soup.

I browsed a few recipes on FoodNetwork.com, and decided on Ina Garten’s recipe, after reading glowing review after glowing review (tip: always read reviews of Food Network recipes – it is a rare luxury to hear others’ experiences of online recipes). She combines dark green French lentils with a ton of onions, leeks, carrots, celery, garlic, thyme, cumin, tomato paste and red wine. Oh, and kielbasa sausage (for the Polish in me).

It was a great combination of flavors, although I must say that  my Dutch oven was too small to fit all the chicken stock she asks for. No worry, just fill the pot as much as you can.

Ingredients:

1 pound French lentils

1/4 c. EVOO

3 large yellow onions, diced

2 leeks, chopped

2 cloves garlic, minced

1 T kosher salt

1 1/2 tsp. black pepper

1 T minced thyme

1 tsp. cumin

5 stalks celery, diced (I used hearts)

5 carrots, diced

3 quarts (boxes) chicken stock

1/4 c. tomato paste

1 pound kielbasa sausage, sliced into half-moons

1/4 c. dry red wine (I used a cheap Malbec)

Parmesan cheese

Method:

Cover the lentils with boiling water and let sit for 15 minutes. Drain and set aside.

In large Dutch oven over medium heat, add olive oil and saute onions, leeks, garlic, salt, pepper, thyme and cumin for 20 minutes. Add celery and carrots and saute 10 min. Add stock, tomato paste and lentils and cover. Bring to a boil, reduce to simmer and cook uncovered for 1 hour. Pour yourself a glass of wine and relax.

Once the lentils are tender, check for seasonings and add the sausage and wine. Simmer until the kielbasa is heated through.

To serve, drizzle olive oil over the portioned soup and sprinkle with freshly grated Parmesan cheese. Add a great loaf of bread and simple salad and you have a complete and healthy meal.

This will definitely make enough to freeze the leftovers, so I wouldn’t recommend doubling the recipe. It was a truly satisfying combination of flavors – exactly what we were looking for on a drizzling, gray autumn day.

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Enjoy, friends! xoxo

Pumpkin ice cream sandwiches

Like a pumpkin-spice latte in dessert form!

Like a pumpkin-spice latte in dessert form!

So far on the pumpkin challenge (my one-person challenge to make a new pumpkin recipe each week from now until Halloween), I’ve made the chocolate-pumpkin tart. Recipe No. 2, also courtesy of Martha, is her pumpkin ice cream sandwiches.

I must say that I’m continually impressed by my ice cream-making skills since I moved to The South. I don’t know if I’m just choosing better recipes or the milk is creamier here, but the ice cream always comes out thicker, almost frothy, and so, so smooth.

However, I did have some hiccups. Let me chart out this multi-day baking experience:

Day one: I made the ginger-molasses cookies. I had all the ingredients on hand, so I made the dough one night when I had the time. They needed to chill overnight.

Day two: I got up early after a late night at The Opera House (dive bar in W-S) so I could bake the cookies and make the dulce de leche, which you need for the ice cream. Dulce de leche takes two hours to cook (sweetened condensced milk stirred over a double-boiler).

My rental oven bit back by burning the entire bottom sheet of cookies = trash. Luckily, I had 12 perfect cookies on the top sheet. I just love that gingerbread smell…

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Finally, I decided that the dulce de leche was done. It had been cooking about 160 minutes.

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Next, and this is still day 2, I made the ice cream custard, which included heating, cooling, reheating, then mixing milk, cream, cinnamon, eggs, sugar, pumpkin puree and cloves. And the dulce de leche. I poured the custard into what I would soon realize was only a partially-frozen ice cream bowl (fail). I poured the custard out of it and put the ice-cream thing back in the freezer.

Later that night and after another five-hour experience (pot roast), I thought the ice cream thing would be ready….it got part of the way there, but then melted again. Fail! For those who don’t have an ice cream machine, here’s what: you need to freeze the mixing container that you pour the custard into. When it spins, the custard freezes evenly. But you need to freeze that thing at least 24 hours, especially if you live in a hot, humid climate.

Day three: After work, I attacked the ice cream situation again. This time: success! After the ice cream firmed up in the freezer, I scooped it, sandwiched it between the ginger cookies and froze everything again.

The ginger cookies taste like a gingersnap crust for a pumpkin pie or something. I like that crunchy texture with the creaminess of the ice cream. Watching Top Chef has taught me that dishes should have complimentary textures, so I think this is a win.

Until I noticed that the container holding my ice cream was covered in cat hair. How does she do it??!?

Kitty, eyeing the rainbows on the wall

Kitty, eyeing the rainbows on the wall

Apple and pear crisp

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Not that I would know, but sometimes you just feel snotty. Either your head is so congested that you just want to be deep under the covers or you feel disheartened that you haven’t found your dream job yet … snotty is as snotty does.

One of the reasons I watch so much Food Network is because it calms me. Watching people prepare beautiful dishes is nearly as comforting as doing the cooking myself. That’s why I love the soothing voices of Ina Garten and Giada over the too-harsh Emeril or Rachael Ray (I prefer the Rachael Ray magazine).

I recently watched the Barefoot Contessa make a yummy-looking apple-pear crisp and I thought, ‘Perhaps that’s just what the doctor ordered,’ if I had health insurance and could afford to visit the Dr.

It was nummy. The combo of apples and pears with spices will make your house smell like fall. The added citrus zests really give it a gourmet flavor, too. And that crust? Well, the secret’s in the crust, my friends!

Here’s how to make it…

2 lbs. firm pears, such as bosc, peeled, cored and cut into chunks

2 lbs. apples, such as gala, peeled, cored and cut into chunks

1 tsp. orange zest

2 T fresh orange juice

1 tsp. lemon zest

2 T fresh lemon juice

1/2 c. sugar

1/4 c. flour

1 tsp. cinnamon

1/2 tsp. nutmeg

Preheat oven to 350. Mix the above ingredients together in a bowl and pour into a baking dish.

For the crust, note: Her recipe made way too much crust and because I don’t have a KitchenAid, I did most of it in a food processor. So this is my interpretation:

Combine in food processor 1 c. flour, 1/2 c. sugar, 1/2 c. brown sugar, 1/2 tsp. kosher salt, 2 sticks of cold butter in cubes. Process until the butter is in small pieces. Transfer to a larger bowl and mix in 1/2 c. oats with a wooden spoon (or do this in the FP if you have enough room). Sprinkle this over the apple-pear mixture.

Put the dish on a baking sheet and bake until golden and bubbly, about 1 hr.

Serve steaming with vanilla bean ice cream over the top.

Jesse loves the addition of the pears with the apples (I usually make plain apple crisps), and I am just a huge fan of the crust. Enjoy, friends, as summer leaves us for fall!

What makes a crisp a crisp

What makes a crisp a crisp