Blog post from a hurricane:  really, what are you supposed to do with a bowl of home-grown garlic other than photograph it in the pre-hurricane light?  If we end up without power for a while…. at least we have this garlic, right?

I don’t have any recipes or anything for you here….. just garlic.

[If it’s possible to use garlic to ward off the worst of a storm like a vampire, or to make a battery in a power outage, or to comfort the trees after all this wind stops, I’d say we’re all set over here.]

Aside from hot apple cider and shuffling through dried leaves, I don’t think there are many things more autumn-y than pumpkin.  I’ve eaten pumpkin cookies before but never made them, so this was an adventure.  I was hoping that these cookies would be less cakey than most other pumpkin cookies I’d had.  They are a little bit cakey — which I think might be almost unavoidable with pumpkin — but not overwhelmingly so.  The cookie itself is surprisingly light in texture, which makes a good contrast with the oatmeal, nuts, and chocolate.

I couldn’t decide if I wanted pumpkin cookies or oatmeal cookies, so I made both.  Because I didn’t have enough rolled oats, I ended up using half oats and half five-grain hot cereal, which is a mixture of oats, rye, triticale, barley, and flax.  Some of those grains aren’t as soft as the oatmeal, so I wondered how they’d work in the cookies and if they’d be able to absorb enough moisture. But they did, and I actually really like having them there because they add a nice variety of texture. (And they also turn this cookie into even more of a “health food”…. it’s got a vegetable plus lots of grains!)

One more note — a lot of pumpkin cookies out there in the world are mound-shaped and slightly muffin-like. This is because they really don’t spread much in the oven. If you want mounded cookies, you can leave them that way, but I found that I prefer to flatten them before baking.  That makes them a little lighter and less cakey, and also crisper on the edges. Flattening the cookies is easiest to do with a fork, like you would a peanut butter cookie.

Pumpkin Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Cookies

(Adapted from Alice Medrich’s oatmeal cookie recipe in her book Chewy Gooey Crispy Crunchy, and guided/inspired by too many internet pumpkin cookie recipes to separate or name.) Makes about 40 cookies.

2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour

1 tsp baking soda

1 tsp cinnamon

1/4 tsp nutmeg

1/4 tsp cloves

1 1/2 sticks butter

1/2 cup brown sugar

1/3 cup granulated sugar

1/2 tsp salt

1 tsp vanilla extract

1 egg

1 cup pumpkin puree

1 1/2 cup rolled oats or five grain cereal (the kind that cooks in 5-6 minutes)

1 cup chocolate chips

1 cup chopped pecans

Combine the flour, baking soda, and spices in a bowl and mix together with a fork or whisk.

Melt the butter in a large saucepan over medium heat. Remove from the heat and mix in the sugars, salt, and vanilla. Add the egg and stir briskly, then add the pumpkin and stir until it is thoroughly combined and as many of the lumps are gone as you can manage.  Next, add the flour mixture and mix just until it is moistened. Stir in the oats, chocolate chips, and nuts. Let the dough stand for 1 or 2 hours.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Use a tablespoon to drop the dough onto a baking sheet, and then press each mound of dough flat with a fork, as you would with peanut butter cookies. (Or leave them mounded if you prefer.) Bake for 12-15 minutes, rotating the pan halfway through. Let cool on the pan for a couple minutes, then transfer to a wire rack.

I’m assuming that most of you know how to make a grilled cheese, and so this is less of a recipe than an ingredient suggestion.  Many of you share my love of kale (greatest food in the world? perhaps).  Butternut squash is up there as well, and I have always loved grilled cheese in just about any form imaginable.  So, really, this is a winning combination, and I stumbled on it kind of by accident.  It may be the height of my sandwich-making achievements thus far.

I first stuck some kale in a grilled cheese a few weeks ago, when we had a few lonely leaves of kale in the fridge that had accidentally frozen and needed to be used quickly.  It wasn’t until the next time I made a kale grilled cheese, a few days later, that I also added squash.  I roasted a butternut squash as a side dish, and only decided to also put the squash in the sandwich at the last minute.  If you’re not just spontaneously adding squash to your sandwiches like I did, this is going to take a little (but not too much) advanced planning because you need to cook the squash before making the grilled cheese.  I cubed the squash and roasted it with olive oil, a little maple syrup, some chile powder, salt, and pepper.

For cheese, I used cheddar, which tends to be the staple cheese in our house and which I really enjoy in grilled cheese.  The sharpness of the cheddar was really nice with the sweet squash and bitter kale.  But I could also imagine swiss being nice here, or a combination of cheeses.

You’re going to want to butter the outsides of your bread, lay down your cheese, and let that melt in a pan.  When the cheese has mostly melted, it’s time to add the squash to one side (I also sprinkled some pepper flakes on the other).  Pile the kale on top of the squash — I’ve found that about half a leaf of kale is good for one sandwich.  You want to squeeze in as much as you can because it will cook down, and it also helps to make sure that your kale is torn into manageable pieces.  Flip the other slice of bread over on top of the pile of kale, press down with a spatula, and flip it a few times until it’s done.  Adding the kale just before you press the two halves of the sandwich together gives it enough time to cook so that it’s an appropriate texture for a sandwich but still chewy and kale-like.

Happy grilled cheese-ing!

There’s really only one thing to say about this challah: it’s delicious.  Apples and honey, the symbols of sweetness in the new year, in challah form…. you really can’t go wrong.  I decided last week that I’d make this for Rosh Hashana, and I’m glad I did.

The recipe, of course, is from Smitten Kitchen.  And contrary to what you might assume, it’s actually fairly easy to make.  Most of the time the dough is just rising, and really the most complex parts are folding in the apples and then braiding the dough into a round.  But even those steps are pretty simple, and very forgiving — if a piece of apple falls out of your dough, just poke it back in and you’re fine.

The dough stands up really well around the apples, and the honey flavor is slight, so the bread has good structure and isn’t too sweet (I left off the optional sprinkling of sugar on the top before baking). And I am so excited to make french toast with this tomorrow.

I’m not going to reproduce the recipe here — you can find it, along with some really helpful step-by step photographs of folding and braiding, over on Smitten Kitchen.

L’shana tova!

Well, it’s kind of fall again, and this first fall out of school is weird.  I feel like I’m supposed to be Doing Things again (especially since I am still “figuring out my life” and don’t actually have that much to do, really).  So I decided to take on a project I’ve been wanting to try for a while — I bought some canning jars (that was fun), checked out a couple books from the library, read up on some preserving blogs, and set out to begin my canning self-education.  Jam seemed like a good place to start, and with apple season just getting started, I wanted one last hurrah with the end-of-summer peaches.

The title of this post is a little misleading, I’ll admit.  This was my first try at jam-making and canning, so not everything turned out as planned.  My “jam” never gelled up all the way, even though I cooked it way longer than the recipe’s 20 minutes — so I guess we’re calling it sauce, or not-jam, or whatever else you please.  And I also failed to buy quite enough ginger, so you can’t really taste it very much.  But it’s still peach and delicious, so I’m calling it a success regardless.

This is my second peach post in a row on here.  Not the best variety, perhaps, but peaches are kind of the greatest.  When I was little, there used to be these peach juice boxes that I loved, but they seem to have disappeared since then.  I spent a while a few years back trying to find a suitable replacement for them, but most peach juices you find in the grocery store have too much apple or pear juice added to really taste like pure peach (I’ve since discovered that the best and cheapest way to get peach juice is in the form of peach Izzes — the best).

But I digress.  The point of this blog wasn’t to talk about peach juice.  But like peach juice, this jam is a good way to get your peach fix.  It only has three ingredients — not even pectin, which may be why I had trouble getting mine to gel — but that short ingredient list it does make it simple.  Regardless of the jamminess or the gingeryness or whatever other quirks you end up with, this is worthy of your canning endeavors.  I think it was a good start to mine.

Ginger Peach Jam (adapted from Food In Jars)

(Makes approximately 3 pints)

7 cups peaches, peeled and mashed

3.5 cups sugar

4 oz ginger (I only bought not-quite-3 oz, which was my downfall of gingeryness)

Make ginger juice: chop the ginger and pulse in the small bowl of a food processor with 1/4 cup water until blended.  Strain through a piece of cheesecloth and squeeze to get all the liquid out.

Combine the peaches, ginger juice, and sugar in a large pot and simmer for approximately 20 minutes, until the jam reaches 220 degrees or passes the plate test (click through to the original recipe above for a link to that one) or whatever other jam-consistency test or method you have.  Also, boil your jars.

When the jam is cooked, fill the prepared jars, wipe the rims, and put on the lids and rings.  Process in a boiling water canner for 10 minutes.  Remove and let them cool on a towel.

Keep in a cool dark place for up to a year.

About a month ago, I made a peach pie.  It is of course long gone, but I still have a scar from a run-in with the hot oven, so I guess that day will live forever on my arm.  And on this blog.  I meant to write this post a little a lot earlier than this, but hey, better late than never, right?  And as summer comes to a close, maybe it’s time to make one more peach pie before apple season kicks into gear.

This is Rose Levy Beranbaum’s “Perfect Peach Pie” from The Pie And Pastry Bible, which, in our house, really does live up to its name.  (Rose’s Cake Bible is also our cake bible — most birthday celebrations in my family require her All Occasion Downy Yellow Butter Cake, although we can never remember if it’s “downy yellow” or “yellow downy.”)

We usually use her basic pie crust, but this time I decided to follow the suggestion in the peach pie recipe and make a cream cheese crust instead (Rose describes that crust as the “soul of the book”…how could I resist?).  The result was delicious — flaky crust, not-too-wet filling, just perfect peach flavor and not much else.

I’m not reproducing the recipe here, but if you don’t have the book, get it from the library!  You’ll be glad you did, I promise.

Sometime this past spring, I discovered cold-brewed coffee, and it was a miracle.  I’m sure everyone around me must have gotten tired of hearing me go on and on about it endlessly.  But it really is pretty brilliant.  Making it involves nothing more than mixing up some coffee and water and letting it all sit at room temperature for a while.  It’s a lot smoother and less bitter than coffee made with hot water, and it is mainly really excellent for iced coffee, because it makes a coffee concentrate that you can just store it in the fridge for whenever you want to drink it.  It’s also, apparently, really good in ice cream.

When a friend and I decided (sort of spontaneously) to make ice cream the other day, coffee seemed like a good choice because of the cold brew we had in the fridge.  And I’m happy to report that it was a good idea!  A very very good idea.  This ice cream contains not just cold-brewed coffee, but also some coffee-steeped milk.  It’s nicely coffee-flavored, although to give it a stronger flavor you could increase the coffee/milk steeping time (we only left it for about 45 minutes, the time it took us to go buy some cream), or the amount or strength of the cold brew.  I also really like that it’s not too creamy; instead, it’s light and just a little bit icy from the milk and water, which makes it more refreshing like iced coffee.

Cold-Brewed Coffee (from Smitten Kitchen)

The general ratio for this is 1/3 cup of ground coffee to 1.5 cups of water (adjust to make the amount of coffee that you want).  Combine the coffee and water in a jar, and let it sit at room temperature for 12 hours.  Then strain and filter it, and store it in the fridge.  This makes a coffee concentrate; to drink it, dilute it half-and-half with water or milk.

Cold-Brewed Coffee Ice Cream

2 tbsp. ground coffee

1 cup whole milk

2 cups heavy cream

1/3 cup cold brew concentrate

About 1/3 cup sugar

1/2 tsp. vanilla extract

Combine the coffee and milk in a bowl and let it sit in the fridge for 45 minutes to an hour (or longer, for a stronger coffee flavor).  Strain the milk and add the sugar to it, whisking until the sugar is dissolved.  Whisk in the cream, cold brew, and vanilla, and then freeze in an ice cream maker.

This would be good with heath bars mixed in, or anything else chocolatey, really.  I haven’t experimented yet with different coffee strengths, but you could adjust the amount and/or strength of the cold brew, as well as the milk-brewed coffee.  Depending on how you adjust the coffee, you might also want to adjust the amount of sugar.