Well it IS September


I know you’re eating apples right now. Why wouldn’t you be? I’m curious if you have a favorite kind. This is not one of those questions meant to illicit comments for the sake of having them. I am honestly curious which varieties of apples people prefer and why. They’re all so different! Macintosh are bright, shiny, and slightly tart. Fuji apples are crisp and sweet (my favorite). And the Golden Delicious are oh so mellow, my kids prefer them.

Eating them out of hand is my favorite way in the fall - preferably picked right off a tree from some upstate NY farm when the air has just enough of a chill to wear your new flannel. But it is also hard to top a dessert with apples in it, don’t you think?

The recipe I have in mind is silly easy. It’s almost embarrassing for the overachiever in the kitchen, since it uses a frozen puff pastry crust. If that’s you, then know that this is Ina Garten’s recipe. Feel better?

And if the thought of store-bought frozen puff pastry being embarrassing makes you roll your eyes, then you’ll probably agree with me that Pillsbury is the best brand for those sorts of things.

Apple Tarts

1 package (2 sheets) frozen puff pastry, defrosted

4 small apples

3/4 c sugar

6 tbsp cold unsalted butter, diced

3/4 c apricot jelly

3 tbsp rum or water

1. Preheat the oven to 400℉. Line 2 sheet pans with parchment.

2. Cut each sheet of pastry into 4 squares, place in the pans, and refrigerate.

3. Peel, core, and slice the apples thinly. Arrange them overlapping diagonally across the pastry. Sprinkle with sugar and dot with butter.

4. Bake for 40 minutes or until golden. Heat the apricot jelly and rum together until bubbly and brush the pastry and apples with the glaze. Serve warm or at room temperature.

Blueberry Cobbler & Sorbet: Go to Earth Eats for the Recipe!

I'm really excited - my first post for the awesome food podcast, public media program, and blog Earth Eats has appeared.  I thought it was appropriate to write about blueberry cobbler for my first post, since I grew up in the Blueberry Capital of Georgia... and had a freezer full of blueberries from my mom. :-)

I wrote about two types of cobbler, and easy blueberry sorbet. Check out the recipes at Earth Eats! :-D

Chocolate Cupcakes, with Peanut Butter or Chocolate Mousse Frosting

This is an awesome cupcake recipe.  I make mine with agave nectar instead of sugar, and love the results.  One thing.  If replacing sugar with agave, use 3/4 agave that the recipe calls for sugar (so in this recipe, you'd use just over 1/2 cup agave because the recipe calls for 3/4 cup sugar).  Then, reduce all liquids (soy milk & canola oil) by 1/3.  The recipe works fine if you don't measure exactly.

1 cup soy milk
1 tsp apple cider vinegar
3/4 cup sugar
1/3 cup canola oil
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 tsp almond/chocolate/more vanilla extract
1 cup all-purpose flour
1/3 cup cocoa powder
3/4 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt

Preheat to 350.  Whisk milk & vinegar and set aside to curdle (you're making "buttermilk").  Add agave, oil, extract(s), and beat until foamy.  In a separate bowl, sift flour, cocoa powder, baking soda/powder, and salt.  Add to wet ingredients and beat till no large lumps remain.  Fill cupcake liners 3/4 full.  Bake 18-20 minutes. Let cool on rack.

Peanut Butter Frosting:
1/4 c margarine, softened
2 tbsp shortening
1/3 cup peanut or almond butter
1 tbsp barley malt syrup or molasses
1 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1 1/4 c powdered sugar
1-2 tbsp rice or soy milk

Beat margarine & shortening till smooth. Add peanut butter, syrup/molasses, and vanilla and beat till smooth. Beat in sugar. Beat in rice milk. Done!

Chocolate Mousse Topping:
1 package extra firm silken tofu (like Mori-Nu)
1/4 cup soy milk
2 tbsp agave
1 tsp vanilla
1 12-oz package semisweet chocolate chips

Puree tofu, milk, agave, and vanilla in blender.  Melt chocolate.  Combine chocolate and tofu mixture in blender. Chill for one hour, then spread.

Brown Rice Crispy Treats with Raisins

Another recipe from The Kind Diet. You need:

brown rice cereal

brown rice syrup

peanut butter

big pinch of salt

raisins or chocolate chips

All you do is heat a jar of brown rice syrup in a pan (with a handful of raisins if you like) until really liquid, then add a huge scoop of peanut butter and a pinch of salt and stir until combined. Pour mixture over the rice cereal and stir until coated. Once the mixture is completely cooled, add chocolate chips if you want. No butter required. :-)

Want to hear the cool thing about these treats? If you look at the ingredients listed on the packaging of the rice cereal, rice syrup, and peanut butter that I bought, your total ingredients comes to...........brown rice and peanuts. Yep. That's it.

Almond Butter Cupcakes with Dark Chocolate Amaretto Fudge Frosting

These cupcakes, made with almond butter, and topped with dark chocolate fudge frosting, are decadent!

In a previous post, I mentioned the Vegan Cupcakes book Chris gave me for Easter.  I was planning to bake cupcakes this weekend, but I couldn't wait.

Actually, here's what happened.  It was rainy and gloomy today.  I was feeling a little blah.  Suddenly, I had the idea to make cupcakes and eat them for dinner.  My mood instantly lifted!

I based my cupcakes on the cookbook's recipes for peanut butter cupcakes and for thick chocolate fudgey frosting.  I tweaked them a little, substituting almond butter for peanut butter, agave nectar for sugar, and dark chocolate cocoa for regular cocoa.  I would like to give you the recipe, but I think the authors want you to buy the book... however, you can find tons of cupcake recipes online, and I can give you some tips to make them healthy without compromising decadence!  That post to come! :-)

The result tonight was a moist, rich, heavenly cupcake.  Not bad for my first cupcake!  I'm going to have fun with this cookbook.

Oh yeah - and I ate two cupcakes for dinner.  And one for dessert.

Cupcakes... It's Time

I have never made a cupcake in my life.  I know people love cupcakes, especially right now.  Cupcakes have been trendy for a while, so long that you'd think they'd be on their way out.  But people still adore cupcakes.

I have a confession to make.  The fact that it seems everyone is making cupcakes these days is one reason I haven't bothered to bake them myself.  When something gets so popular it's no longer fresh, I tend to avoid it.  But really, isn't that me just being snobby?  Maybe I should lighten up a little?  After all, of course people like cupcakes!  Cupcakes are cute, colorful, and yummy.

Plus, one of the best things about cooking or baking is feeding people things that they love, that make them happy. And people love miniature things, I've noticed. Bring a pie to the office and it'll be eaten. But bring mini tarts, and they're demolished before 9am.

And yesterday, I got THIS in my Easter basket.
I started looking through the recipes and getting really excited.  So many unique flavors and colors.  Like fun Margarita Cupcakes with real tequila and lime juice in them, a sea-salty tequila-lime glaze, and a rainbow sugar rim!  Or delicate Pistachio Rosewater Cupcakes.  Or, gooey Peanut Butter Cupcakes with chocolate ganache.

So... it's on!  Cupcakes to come, very soon!!

Spicy, Honey-Roasted Nuts

Addictive.  As proof, I gave Chris the entire batch on Thursday, and when I came back to Atlanta today (Sunday), the bag was pretty much gone.  Use whatever nuts, seeds, or dried fruits you like best.  Put these in a pretty jar for a great gift.

1/4 c honey
1 tsp ground cayenne pepper
4 c raw nuts and/or seeds
1/4 c turbinado sugar
1-2 tsp sea salt
dried fruit or candy

1. Preheat the over to 325 F. Line a large shallow pan with lightly oiled wax paper.
2. Melt the honey and cayenne pepper in a pan on the stove.  Add the nuts/seeds and toss until coated.
3. Spread the nuts on the baking sheet and bake for 10 minutes.
4. Cool the nuts for about a minute. Then toss them in a bowl with the sugar and salt, and add the dried fruit.  Spread it all out on the baking sheet again to cool completely.
I used about 2 cups of peanuts and two cups of mixed nuts (almonds, cashews, walnuts, pecans, hazelnuts, and brazil nuts), dark chocolate-covered raisins, dried cranberries, and dried apricots.  Next time, I'll do the exact same thing except I'll omit the cranberries and use dried cherries instead.

The turbinado sugar is important. It adds crunch and looks pretty.

I bagged these and put them in this pitcher, but I think they'd be pretty in a clear jar.

Pumpkin Oatmeal Raisin Cookies

I ate most of this batter before it made it to the cookie sheet.  That's kind of embarrassing, isn't it?
If you like your cookies chewy with a crisp edge, these are that.  They're very moist too, so for crispy edges, leave them out, and not in a container like you see here.  These have golden raisins and walnuts in them.  I recently discovered that I prefer golden raisins to the more common brown.

As I'm writing these words, I just ate 5 cookies.

The Perfect Brownie

My roommate is a pastry chef, and her bakery is known for its enormous dark and milk chocolate brownie squares.  She gave me the recipe.  I've since made these brownies several times.  It's rare that I care to make the same dish over and over again when there are so many new and interesting recipes to try.  But I have a fascination with this brownie recipe.

The recipe takes the elements that make a brownie a brownie, as opposed to a cake or a cookie or fudge, and exaggerates them.  No - the recipe hones in on the crucial essentiality of the brownie, and pays homage to it with a definitive, simplistic product.  You could put this brownie on a tray in a museum under a glass case with a plaque bearing the engraved title "Brownie."

While some brownies lean towards cakey or fudgy, this one owns its core being: that chewy, dense, heavy, moist, bordering on grainy texture.  Nothing more and nothing less.  Also, the color is opaque throughout; no variation in the form of a lighter chocolate chip or a peanut butter swirl or a tan fudge icing breaks the consistent, permeating darkness.

Made with dark chocolate cocoa powder, the brownie is almost black.  It's a beautiful thing, placed on a stark white plate with a scoop of vanilla ice cream and a sprig of green mint (which I haven't actually done but wouldn't it be pretty?).