Archive for the ‘Fall’ Category

Roasted Red Pepper Pasta

There aren’t enough sauces, ingredients, shapes, cheeses, or styles in the world to burn out my love for pasta. If anything, it seems my taste for the stuff has only expanded since I started this blog; my childhood pasta preferences were limited exclusively to spaghetti with butter and parmesan cheese, and now I favor short, thick pasta dressed in zesty, flavorful sauces. There’s really nothing like writing a food blog to force me into trying new things. And as much as I want to make some of my favorites over and over again, then I’d have nothing new to tell you about! (However, if you haven’t already tried the Penne alla Vodka, you should really make it your top priority.)

Well, maybe your second priority. Because I’m pretty darn happy with this one, too.

All the bits and pieces

Roasted red peppers are pretty easy to come by at the grocery store. Yes, I know that fresh red bell peppers are EVERYWHERE at this time of year (at least in North Carolina), but for a quick and filling weeknight dinner, I went with these. Plus I already had them in my pantry and it was time to use them up.

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Perfect Autumn Caramels

Oh dear friends.

October is doing that thing again where it goes by too quickly. It’s my favorite month: the peak of autumn on most of this continent, and I may have mentioned once or seven-hundred times that autumn provides me the greatest joy of any season. A plentiful harvest of food to enjoy in the moment and store for the winter, repressed pigments unleashed in the forests in a glorious display of color, a chance to layer every article of orange, green, purple, and brown clothing I own in endless combinations for my daily attire (it is the only season I feel my wardrobe is remotely fashionable).

And of course, autumn recipes. This one in particular is the pinnacle of fall flavor unity: a basic caramel sweetened with maple syrup and punched up with a quart of apple cider boiled down to pure apple goodness. And now is really the best time to make them because it’s the one time of year you can buy fresh-pressed, unpasteurized apple cider.

Freshly picked apples

And while yes, the primary purpose of my annual expedition is a supply of local fruit to get me through the winter, the added perk is access to this incredible cider. Unpasteurized apple cider, contrary to its grocery store counterparts, is thick, opaque, and must be refrigerated. But it’s filled with the most incredible flavor: you can still taste which varieties were used to press the cider. Most apple orchards sell it, but you can also occasionally find it in specialty grocery stores or farmers markets. Get out there and get some!

I also had a bottle of maple syrup that I bought in Wisconsin. It seemed appropriate to add to this autumn candy, right?

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Ginger has never really been something I’ve thought about very much. Occasionally, my dad would add some ground ginger to stir fry, or I’d use some in fall desserts. But the farmers near Durham have been showcasing mounds of baby ginger at their tables for the last few weeks, and my curiosity about this knobby little root grew with each table I passed.

And with fortuitous timing, I came across this recipe for ginger apple chutney. Combined with apples & onions, also plentiful at local markets, this seemed like a perfect opportunity to buy a chunk of ginger. The recipe wasn’t written as one for canning, but I suspected the acid content would be high enough for canning and checked with a deft canning blogger to be sure.

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This Thanksgiving, I’m not cooking Thanksgiving dinner. In fact, I’m not cooking anything. Instead, I’m joining eleven of my family members in Florida for several days in Disneyworld and Universal Studios!

But this is a food blog and food blogs in the United States simply MUST address Thanksgiving. I’m thrilled to say that Sierra (if you don’t know her by now, here’s a little intro) has volunteered to guest post one of her most precious Thanksgiving recipes! Sadly, I didn’t get to eat any of this gorgeous dessert, but I’m anxious to give the recipe a try when I return from the Sunshine State.

I hope you enjoy Sierra’s post, and I wish you all a Happy Thanksgiving!

Pumpkin Chiffon Pie, by Sierra H.

I know we just met, but I’m going to tell you a secret. This is something that I have hidden deep inside for as long as I can remember, and it weighs on my mind every Thanksgiving season.

I hate classic pumpkin pie.

There, I said it. I’ll eat it, but I’d almost just as rather eat pumpkin-scented lotions and candles. If you’ve been following Kristi’s chronicle of wedding cake baking, then you’ll know that I adore pumpkin, but the hard, dense, often over-sweet classic pumpkin pie just isn’t my thing.

It isn’t pumpkin pie’s fault. The blame belongs squarely on the shoulders of one lady: Grammy LoLo. My father’s mother, Grammy LoLo (you can call her that, too, by the way, everyone does) gave us the tradition of another kind of pumpkin pie: one that is light and airy, pumpkin-filled, and gorgeous light orange with just a teeny bit of pure whipped cream to make it the perfect end to a holiday meal (or a stunning post-Thanksgiving breakfast). In our house, we always just called it The Chiffon, and it had a special place in the Thanksgiving preparatory kitchen, often the day before the real craziness began.

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I’ve talked rather a lot in the last few months about the wedding in early October for which I traveled across the continent, stood up as a bridesmaid, and baked the groom’s cake & wedding cake. What I haven’t talked quite so much about is the wedding I attended the week after as, quite blissfully, simply a guest.

Just a few short days after I returned from my whirlwind week in Colorado, Brad and I headed north to Washington DC for wedding #2. Though we stayed in the city with a friend who was also on the guest list, the ceremony itself was about an hour outside the city at a quaint little vineyard nestled in the rolling hills of Northern Virginia. It was a beautiful, clear evening, though the chill of autumn had definitely arrived. And while the wedding party raced against the sun to capture all their photos, the rest of us took advantage of the occasional & delicious delivery of appetizers throughout the cocktail hour.

Our favorite? Shot glasses full of brilliant orange sweet potato soup. Since we were shamelessly stalking the catering staff for more and subsequently tilting each glass back to drain every last drop, I knew I must try to recreate it at home.

This soup is another super-thick, veggie-packed, warm and filling delight. Its the latest installment of my recent obsession with soups (I’ve made no less than five large batches of soup this fall) and it’s certainly one I’ll make again. It begins, of course, with sweet potatoes, and is supported by a smattering of other vegetables.

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I haven’t baked much since I spent four days in early October creating two massive cakes for Sierra’s wedding. So it might seem rather surprising that the first time I pull out my cake pans after such a project, it’s to reprise the very recipes I used for the largest tier of the wedding cake. I, however, am not surprised, as I have been wanting to share this recipe in a normal, human-sized dessert that you can make for you and your family instead of a full wedding guest list.

Before autumn wanes completely, I urge you to make this cake. This cake is rich, moist, and full of pumpkin flavor. This maple cream is studded with these sugared pecans (easily my favorite discovery of the season) and compliments the spicy cake perfectly. And for layer cake, this is pretty easy! No icing to smooth, no crumbs to worry about, no delicate folding dry ingredients into the batter, no piping. You can totally do this.

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This Halloween is a bit odd for a huge swath of the U.S. A deep cold has arrived much earlier than normal due, in major part, to the massive storm that walloped the Eastern seaboard early this week and continues to wreak havoc as it churns slowly west. Durham was spared much of the power of the storm, but for many cities with transit systems shut down, widespread power outages, hugely destructive flooding, fires, and heavy snows, it is a bit of an understatement to suppose that many a trick-or-treater’s plans have been marred or cancelled all together.

This chili, based on my mom & dad’s recipe, is normally something I strongly associate with winter. I didn’t particularly care for it much as a kid, and yet there was nothing I wanted more after a day outside in the snow. Thick, warm, and hearty, I’ve come to favor it earlier and earlier in the season every year.

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ATTENTION STORES EVERYWHERE:

I love Christmas, I really do. But I’m not ready for it. Not for candy canes and glittery pine cones and red ribbons on the ends of the aisle. I’m not ready for the ghost and goblin decor to be heaped haphazardly on a clearance rack by the checkout while pine boughs and Santa hats flood in from the back room. It’s Halloween this week, thank you very much, it’s Thanksgiving in a month, and there are several beautiful weeks of autumn between now and then.

And for you big-budget stores, I’m really not ready for jingle bells and dancing elves to adorn your circulars & commercials.

So in defiance of the ever-earlier Christmas season, I offer these treats that scream “Halloween!” loudly enough to drown out the dancing elves, at least for the next few days.

I speak, of course, of caramel apples. It’s no wonder this treat is a classic: a tart, crisp apple enrobed in a sheen of chewy honey caramel is one of the greatest joys of fall. These apples are Pink Ladies, my favorite variety, and they hail from this year’s annual apple-picking trip, which has become a cornerstone of every fall for me (my little blog is named after it!)

Photo from Monica B.

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Apple cider. It is,without question, my favorite thing to drink. I’m rather fond of apple cider cold and unpasteurized, straight from an orchard, but I also believe that apple cider is truly at its best served warm, in a cozy little mug, for a soothing drink on cool nights in the fall and winter. From early October to New Years Eve, I need only the tiniest hint of a social gathering to bust out the crock pot and a half gallon of cider and am forlorn when parties I attend elsewhere don’t feature this essential holiday beverage.

The singular challenge I face with my affection for spiced hot cider? Unless I am hosting a party, I simply need one mugful. I’ve tried various packets of instant cider mix, but I usually find them far too sweet and not apple-y enough for my tastes. And the Caramel Apple Spice from Starbucks? Tasty, but not good for the wallet. And again with the too sweet.

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With both colder weather and a bothersome chest cold arriving in the last couple of weeks, I’ve craved almost nothing but soup. I know many of you live in areas where it’s still a bit too balmy to day dream about tiny basins full of steaming soup, but bear with me. Your cooler weather will arrive soon enough, and when it does, you need to be ready to make this incredibly incredible soup featuring a vegetable almost as synonymous with autumn as king pumpkin: the butternut squash.

I won’t lie to you. Butternut squash is only something I’ve come to appreciate very, very recently. I don’t remember eating it much as a kid; we tended to favor summer squashes in my house. So when a friend brought me a bowl of butternut squash soup (in the worst days of my cold) I admit: I was a bit nervous. But after one spoonful, I became keenly aware that I may have been missing out on a vegetable that is practically given away at the farmers market, easy to store for long winters, and downright delicious.

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