Wednesday, October 29, 2014

The Month in Review - October 2014

The Month in Review - October 2014

It's finally chilly in New York and the leaves are turning fast. Actually the whole month was fast and I'm not sure how it can already be almost November. The food around here has definitely taken a turn toward autumn fruits and warming comfort. It also seems to have been fixated on caramel, not that there's anything wrong with that.

The October drinks were pretty special, too, and definitely fall themed. So before we unpack the winter coats and dive into turkey and pie, let's take a look back at the deliciousness of October. And actually, it looks so good that I'd be happy to just do it all over again in November. Enjoy!

The Month in Review - October 2014

Check out the October drinks on A Cocktail Life!


Roasted Butternut Squash Soup


Nutty Peanut Buttery Caramel Apples


Marbled Chocolate Pumpkin Bread with Pumpkin Caramel


Ginger Poached Pears with Gorgonzola and Walnuts


Farmer's Market Deconstructed Apple Pie


Apple and Gorgonzola Biscuit Tart


Tender Slow Cooked Roast in Red Wine Reduction


Apple Pie Crumb Bread with Cinnamon Caramel


Monday, October 27, 2014

Apple Pie Crumb Bread with Cinnamon Caramel

Apple Pie Crumb Bread with Cinnamon Caramel

Have you all noticed how popular coconut oil has become? Everywhere I look I see recipes with it and articles talking about the health benefits. I confess that I'm not the biggest fan of coconut flavor and I mostly just like it in my pina coladas.  Still, this merited some research.

Apple Pie Crumb Bread with Cinnamon Caramel
Interestingly, what I've learned is that although coconut oil is a saturated fat, it is actually cholesterol free. Good health aside, what I do know for sure is that baking with coconut oil can be very delicious. Especially when you make apple pie bread with it. And nobody is suggesting you eat the whole loaf by yourself in one sitting. Trust me, I'd love to find someone who would suggest that to me but no luck so far.

Since it was my first time experimenting with this oil, I consulted with some baking friends and a did bit of trial and error in my kitchen so I could offer you a couple of tips. Consider how much of the coconut flavor your recipe can handle. Virgin oils can have a strong coconut flavor that you will detect in your final baked products. But the refined oils are much milder. I had the opportunity to work with a refined coconut oil from Golden Barrel and did not notice any coconut flavor in the baked apple bread.

Apple Pie Crumb Bread with Cinnamon Caramel
As for ratios, you can use the same amount of coconut oil as butter, by weight.  For example, my recipe normally calls for 1 stick of butter which would be 4 oz. Therefore, I used 4 oz. of coconut oil. Also good to note is that butter is actually 80% fat and 20% water whereas coconut oil is 100% fat. Nothing terrible would happen if you used it like that but it might make the bread a little too soft. I switched out a bit of oil for water and was very pleased with the texture of the bread.

But far more important than the geeky kitchen science is the taste of this bread. Moist but firm texture, perfumed with apples and spices, topped with a lot of crumb (because I'm all about the crumb) and drizzled with cinnamon caramel because...caramel! So ridiculously good for breakfast, an afternoon snack with a cup of tea, dessert after dinner. Not that I'm suggesting you do all those in the same day. Nope, not suggesting that at all. Not me. Enjoy!

Ingredients

Apple Pie Crumb Bread with Cinnamon Caramel
Bread:
2 Eggs
1/2 Cup sugar
1/2 Cup light brown sugar
1/2 Cup minus 1 tablespoon liquid Golden Barrel Coconut Oil
1 Tablespoon water
1/4 Cup buttermilk
1 Teaspoon vanilla
2 Cups all purpose flour
2 Teaspoons baking powder
1/2 Teaspoon baking soda
1/2 Teaspoon salt
1 Teaspoon cinnamon
2 Apples, peeled, cored and diced

Crumb Topping:
1/4 Cup sugar
1/2 Cup all purpose flour
2 Tablespoons butter, melted (you can also use coconut oil)
Pinch of cinnamon
Pinch of salt

Cinnamon Caramel:
1/4 Cup sugar
1/4 Cup heavy cream
1 Tablespoon unsalted butter
1/4 Teaspoon cinnamon
Pinch of sea salt

Apple Pie Crumb Bread with Cinnamon Caramel
Add the eggs and sugar to a large mixing bowl and beat together using a stand or hand mixer.  Beat in the coconut oil, water, buttermilk and vanilla until everything is well mixed.

In a separate bowl, sift together the flour, baking soda, baking powder, cinnamon and salt. Slowly mix the dry ingredients into the wet and then fold in the apples.

Butter and flour a loaf pan (I also placed a sheet of parchment paper in there for easy removal) and pour in the batter.

Make the crumb topping by combing the flour, sugar, cinnamon and salt in a bowl.  Pour in the melted butter, mix and allow to stand for 5 minutes.  With your hands, clump the mixture and crumble it onto the batter in the pan. Bake in a pre-heated 350 degree oven for 55 - 60 minutes or until a cake tester comes out clean.

To make the sauce, melt the sugar in a pot over a low to medium flame.  Do not stir. When the sugar has completely dissolved, remove it from the heat and add the heavy cream.  The mixture will bubble up. Return to a low flame and stir until any lumps are gone. Stir in the butter, cinnamon and salt to taste. Serve the apple bread drizzled with the warm caramel.  Makes approximately 10 servings.

Check out the Golden Barrel web site for other cooking and baking products, oils and mixes.

I was compensated for creating this recipe but my opinions are my own. Thank you for supporting the brands I love and use in my kitchen.

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Tender Slow Cooked Roast in Red Wine Reduction

Tender Slow Cooked Roast in Red Wine Reduction

Sundays in the chilly autumn make me want to cook something low and slow. Something mouthwatering that will make my whole house smell delicious and dinner will be an eagerly awaited event. Something like a Sunday roast

Tender Slow Cooked Roast in Red Wine Reduction
My Pot Roast a la Giada is a staple but I was in the mood for something richer and more fragrant. Not as fatty as short ribs but with a deep, wine based gravy.

Chuck roasts are wonderful for slow cooking and you really can't go wrong since it will just shred and make a wonderful stew-like dish. The trick here, though, is reducing the gravy once the meat is cooked. Taste the sauce when it first comes out and again after you've reduced it and you'll marvel at the difference. And then you're going to be really, really hungry. I think I could live on this dish all winter long. Enjoy!





Ingredients
1 Chuck Roast, approx. 3-4 lbs.
2 Large onions, peeled and quartered
3 Large Carrots, peeled and quartered
3 Stalks celery, quartered
8 Cloves garlic, peeled
4 Cups veal stock *
1 1/2 Cups red wine
Handful of fresh thyme sprigs
2 Tablespoons all purpose flour
1 Tablespoon unsalted butter
1/2 Teaspoon salt
1/4 Teaspoon pepper or to taste

Tender Slow Cooked Roast in Red Wine Reduction
Place your roast in a large roasting pan or Dutch oven. I used my 6 qt. oven from Lodge. Add the onions, carrots, celery and garlic. Pour in the veal stock and wine. If you find you need more liquid, add beef stock. Season with salt and pepper and add in the thyme sprigs.

Cover (if you're using a roasting pan without a lid, cover tightly with aluminum foil) and place in a 350 degree oven. Cook for 5 hours.

Remove the meat from the pan and strain out the vegetables and herbs. Pour the liquid into a pot (or keep in the Dutch oven, if using), place on the stove top on medium heat and reduce until it's about halved in volume and almost syrupy. Thicken with a flour and water mixture and finish with the pat of butter.

The meat will be tender enough to shred. If you prefer, once it cools, wrap it tightly in aluminum foil and refrigerate overnight. Slice it the next day and reheat in the gravy. I served mine over buttery polenta. Makes approximately 8 servings.

* If you're having trouble finding veal stock, try your local butcher shop as they may have it. Or you can make your own following this recipe. Worst case scenario, use beef stock instead. Not quite the same flavor but still very good.

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Apple and Gorgonzola Biscuit Tarts

Apple and Gorgonzola Biscuit Tarts

My good friend Renee and I are bonded over our mutual love of food, cocktails, photography and doggies. Not necessarily in that order, of course. She's also the creator of the Magnolia Days blog where she shows off her talents. But today she's on vacation, eating and drinking her way through Germany, and she asked me to keep her readers entertained with a good recipe. My pleasure, Renee! And I expect you to bring me back a strudel.

Monday, October 20, 2014

Farmer's Market Deconstructed Apple Pie

Farmer's Market Deconstructed Apple Pie

I'm a big fan of our city's green markets so it was a huge honor to be invited to do a cooking demo at one of them this past Saturday. I spent the week before going over everything with the market director and wandering around the various stalls, with their dizzying array of options, trying to decide what to make. For all the possibilities, though, my eyes kept coming back to the glorious display of apples.

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Ginger Poached Pears with Gorgonzola and Walnuts

Ginger Poached Pears with Gorgonzola and Walnuts


When summer fruit season ends, I usually mourn until I hit the market and discover the autumn bounty of figs, apples and pears.  Especially the pears. For out of hand, sweet juice dripping down your chin, eating, I'm partial to Bartletts.  But for any cooking or baking, I turn to the slightly firmer Boscs. I also happen to think they're the prettiest.  What? You don't think pears are pretty?  Pfft.

Monday, October 13, 2014

Marbled Chocolate Pumpkin Bread with Pumpkin Caramel

Marbled Chocolate Pumpkin Bread with Pumpkin Caramel

I don't understand how it's nearly the middle of October already.  And I certainly don't understand why this is my first pumpkin bread of the season.  I normally like to greet the first nip in the air with the aroma of fresh baked pumpkin bread.  Oh, well, still not to late.

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Nutty Peanut Buttery Caramel Apples

Nutty Peanut Buttery Caramel Apples

My fellow holiday food bloggers and I are cooking up Halloween treats today.  Mine aren't spooky but they're totally holiday ready!

Monday, October 6, 2014

Roasted Butternut Squash Soup

Roasted Butternut Squash Soup

Hey, was that a nip I just felt in the air?  Is that quiet from the fact that the constant hum of the air conditioner has been turned off and the windows opened?  This weekend was the first time this season that I wore a jacket and enjoyed warming up under my down comforter.  I love summer and I tell myself I will hold onto it as long as possible but every year, the first chilly day, a leaf falling at my feet and a display of pumpkins sends me into a daze of autumn happiness.  I love autumn!

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

The Month in Review - September 2014

The Month in Review - September 2014

I was just looking back at last month's review and saw that I promised there wouldn't be an onslaught of pumpkin recipes here until October.  I said I'd stick to apples and pears and figs but, OK, so one slipped in. I just had an overwhelming urge to see if pumpkin and soda bread go well together and do they ever!

Monday, September 29, 2014

Salisbury Steak

Salisbury Steak

Can you even hear Salisbury steak mentioned without thinking of childhood?  For me it represents the quintessential frozen dinner, that special treat that my mother rarely allowed.  But when she did finally give in and I had a choice, it was usually this one that I'd pick.

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Easy Pulled Chicken Chili


This is a Sponsored post written by me on behalf of Manwich for SocialSpark. All opinions are 100% mine.

Today I thought I'd share my weekly meal plan with you:
Weekends - Farmer's market and grocery shopping.  Elaborate homemade meals and desserts both days.
Monday - Leftovers (we love 'em!)
Tuesday - Possible small amount of remaining leftovers supplemented by veggies and beans.
Wednesday - Eggs
Thursday - Desperate pantry scrounge
Friday - Help!

Monday, September 22, 2014

Labneh Cheesecake with Honeyed Figs


Those of you familiar with labneh are now racing to the bottom of this article to find where you can get your hands on it.  For the uninitiated, I shall explain.  Lebnah is a Middle Eastern yogurt cheese.  Basically, think Greek style yogurt but even more strained.  Thick, almost a cream cheese consistency, rich and tart and heavenly tasting.  It's usually drizzled with olive oil, seasoned with za'atar (more on this wonderful spice soon) and served as a dip with pita bread.  It was many years since I'd had it but I never forgot.

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Pumpkin Soda Bread

Pumpkin Soda Bread

I was trying to hold off on the pumpkin recipes until October, I really was! But I was walking past my favorite gourmet food and produce store and there they were. Not all markets have them yet but this place did. A big display of pumpkins and squash and those little gourds that I love so much. Oh, all right, I give in. I really do love pumpkin.

Pumpkin Soda Bread
What I will do is start off a little light. I usually kick off my fall baking with a pumpkin bread but I was thinking of what new version to make. The pumpkin bread we usually think of is a sweet quick bread but why not make an actual bread? No yeast and kneading this time. Just my favorite soda bread recipe adapted to include a light touch of pumpkin.

This bread is not really sweet although it's great with some honey drizzled on it. I ate it with butter and a bowl of soup. And it's going into the make again this season pile because it's that good.  Enjoy!


Pumpkin Soda Bread


Pumpkin Soda Bread

by Anita Schecter
Prep Time: 15
Cook Time: 40
Ingredients (serves 12)
  • 4 Cups all purpose flour
  • 2 Tablespoons sugar
  • 1 Tablespoon baking powder
  • 1 Teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 1/2 Teaspoons salt
  • 1 Stick unsalted butter, chilled and cut into 1" pieces
  • 1 Egg
  • 1 Cup buttermilk
  • 2/3 Cup unsweetened pumpkin puree
  • 1/4 Cup pumpkin or sunflower seeds
Instructions
In a large bowl, combine the flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda and salt. Cut in the butter using either a fork or a pastry cutter until the mixture resembles large crumbs.
In a separate bowl, combine the egg, buttermilk and pumpkin puree. Fold the wet mixture into the dry until a dough ball forms and turn it out onto a floured surface. Kneed it lightly into a large loaf shape. You can place it on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper or bake it in a 9" pie dish, which is what I did. Press the seeds into the top of the dough so that they stick. Bake in a pre-heated 375 degree oven for 40 - 45 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean.
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Monday, September 15, 2014

Not Lazy Meatloaf

Not Lazy Meatloaf

Hi, my name is Anita and I'm a recovering lazy meatloaf maker. Maybe you can relate, maybe not, but this is my story. I grew up eating and liking meatloaf. My mother made it and taught me to make it. We were a meatloaf eating family. When I grew up and began my own life, I continued to make meatloaf but that life got a little busy. Shortcuts began to creep in.

Not Lazy Meatloaf
The walk to the butcher shop became long after a hard day of work. Supermarket ground beef is probably fine. Sauteing the vegetables before adding them to the meat seems like so much extra work. It'll be fine if I just add them in raw. I don't have time to chop up all those herbs if I'm also mashing potatoes and tossing salad. Dry herbs are fine. That whole business of mixing the meat gently by hand instead of beating the tar out of it with a spoon is just an old wive's tale (I hate getting my hands in meat). Lazy meatloaf was born.

And suddenly, people didn't like the meatloaf and didn't want to eat it.  Fine.  I'll eat it.  I think it tastes good.  Except, I didn't really and started making it less often.  And then not at all.  But take me to any diner or casual restaurant that offered it and you could bet I'd be ordering the meatloaf.  Why, I'd wonder, can't I cook it this good at home?  I can cook almost anything.  And the truth set in.  I am a lazy meatloaf maker.  Don't be like me.  Don't do as I've done.  Do as I will now do.  Any meatloaf that's born in my kitchen from now on will have been made properly, in the non-lazy method.  And it will be good.  Enjoy!

Ingredients
1 lb. Ground beef *
2 Tablespoons olive oil
1 Onion, peeled and diced
4 Cloves garlic, peeled and minced
1 Egg
1/4 Cup seasoned breadcrumbs
1/3 Cup milk
1 Tablespoon chopped chives
1 Tablespoon chopped parsley
1 Teaspoon fresh thyme leaves
Salt & pepper to taste (I used a 1/2 teaspoon of salt and 1/4 teaspoon of pepper)

* Because the beef is the dominant flavor, it's important to buy high quality ground beef. You can choose to use a mixture of beef, veal and pork but I advise against buying the supermarket "meatloaf mix" unless you know the quality.

Not Lazy Meatloaf
Add the olive oil and diced onions to a large saute pan. Cook on medium heat for about 15 minutes or until the onions are soft and very lightly caramelized. Stir in the garlic, remove from the heat and allow to cool.

In a large bowl, add the ground beef, egg, milk, breadcrumbs, herbs, seasoning and the onion and garlic mixture. Gently fold the mixture together with your hands and do not overwork it. Place on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper and mold into a loaf shape. Bake in a pre-heated 350 degree oven for 45-55 minutes or until the top is a light golden brown. Makes approximately 8 slices or 4 servings.

I served the meatloaf with the same, simple gravy as in my Swedish Meatballs.

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Chocolate and Peanut Butter Marbled Sandwich Cookies

Chocolate and Peanut Butter Marbled Sandwich Cookies

I think you all know that I'm a big fan of OXO kitchen products and use them daily.  I've had the pleasure of getting to know some members of the OXO team and gotten the opportunity to test many of their products.  So far my only complaint is that I don't have a large enough kitchen to have all their tools because I certainly want them. And so it was my pleasure to lend them a hand in baking to raise money for a great cause.

Chocolate and Peanut Butter Marbled Sandwich Cookies
Sadly, a long time employee of theirs lost a son to pediatric cancer and that prompted OXO to create the Good Cookies project to raise funds for research. They will donate a portion of the proceeds from the sale of specially marked tools so please visit the site and see the complete list.

And what are you going to do with those tools?  You're going to bake amazing cookies.  I don't know what you consider amazing but my definition pretty much always includes peanut butter and chocolate.  And more peanut butter.  Lots more.  Enjoy!

Chocolate and Peanut Butter Marbled Sandwich Cookies
Ingredients

Peanut Butter Dough:
1 Egg
3/4 Cup sugar
1 Teaspoon vanilla
1 Cup peanut butter
1/4 Teaspoon salt
1/4 Teaspoon baking soda
2 Tablespoon all purpose flour
2 Tablespoons milk

Chocolate Dough:
1 Egg
1/2 Cup white sugar
1/2 Cup brown sugar
1 Teaspoon vanilla
10 Tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 Cup all purpose flour
1/2 Cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1/2 Teaspoon salt
1/2 Teaspoon baking soda
1 Tablespoon milk

Filling:
1/2 Cup confectioner's sugar
2 Tablespoons milk
1/2 Cup peanut butter
Pinch of salt

Chocolate and Peanut Butter Marbled Sandwich Cookies
To make the peanut butter dough, cream the egg, sugar, vanilla, butter and milk until smooth.  In a separate bowl, sift together the flour, baking soda and salt and fold into the peanut butter mixture.  Set aside.

To make the chocolate dough, cream the egg, sugar, butter, vanilla and milk.  In a separate bowl, sift together the flour, cocoa powder, salt and baking soda.  Fold into the butter mixture until well combined.

Using a scoop (1 oz. - 1 1/4 oz.) grab about a third scoop full of the peanut butter dough and the rest of chocolate dough.  Don't worry if it's not exact.  Drop the scoops onto a baking sheet lined with parchment paper and keep them spaced a few inches apart to allow for spread.  Sprinkle a touch of sea salt on top of each scoop, if desired.

Chocolate and Peanut Butter Marbled Sandwich Cookies
Bake in a pre-heated 350 degree oven for 10 minutes and allow to cool before removing them from the baking sheet.  I used two baking sheets and alternated them in the oven.

While the cookies are cooling, make the filling by whisking together the confectioner's sugar and milk.  Mix in the salt and peanut butter until smooth. When the cookies have cooled, spread about a heaping teaspoon of filling on half of them and top with the other half.  This recipe should yield approximately 2 dozen cookies which will make a dozen sandwich cookies.

Note that OXO provided me with the tools to make these cookies but I was not otherwise compensated. Thank you for supporting the products I love and use in my kitchen.

Monday, September 8, 2014

Sweet Spiced Pear Bread

Sweet Spiced Pear Bread

My pear obsession is getting out of control.  First there was Spiced Pear Hand Pies then came Pear Cosmos and now we have pear bread.  Actually, what we had was a couple of leftover pears and I couldn't resist putting them to good use.

Sweet Spiced Pear Bread
I'd actually been trying to decide what kind of pear bread to make for a while now.  I could have just chopped them up into the batter and made my life easy.  Or I could have gone all fancy, poached them and then baked them whole into the bread.  My friend Heather from GirliChef did just that recently and the result was absolutely gorgeous.

In the end I decided to split the difference.  I sliced the pears raw and inserted them into the batter such that every slice of the bread would have a slice of the pear.  A little easy, a little fancy and a whole lot of delicious.  Enjoy!

Ingredients
2 Eggs
1 Cup sugar
1 Stick unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 Teaspoon vanilla
1 Container (approx. 7 oz.) Greek style yogurt (full fat)
2 Cups all purpose flour
1 1/2 Teaspoons baking powder
1/2 Teaspoon baking soda
1 Teaspoon salt
1/2 Teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 Teaspoon ground ginger

1/8 Teaspoon nutmeg
2 Firm pears, peeled and cored

Sweet Spiced Pear Bread
Using either a stand or hand mixer, add the eggs and sugar to a large bowl and beat together until fully combined.  Beat in the butter, vanilla and yogurt.

In a separate bowl, sift together the flour, salt, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, ginger and nutmeg.  Slowly stir the dry ingredients into the wet until all the flour is incorporated. Butter and flour a loaf pan (add parchment paper for easy removal) and pour in the batter.

Slice each pear into 4 or 5 vertical slices and insert the slices evenly into the batter in the pan.  The pears will stand because the batter is thick.  The goal is to have a pear slice in each loaf slice.  Bake in a pre-heated 350 degree oven for 45 - 50 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean.  Dust with powdered sugar before serving.  Makes approximately 10 servings.