Old-​​Fashioned Apple Cake with Brown Sugar Frosting

Old-Fashioned Apple Cake with Brown Sugar FrostingSome­thing Wicked This Way Comes…For Now

Hal­loween has me a little con­cerned this year. In the past, cos­tume plan­ning started in Jan­uary. This year serious plan­ning didn’t start until Sep­tember. Well, except for my daughter; she still started plan­ning in Jan­uary. She will be going as a ham­ster. Without the human-​​sized ham­ster ball though. She’s totally bummed…and, yes they do make human-​​sized ham­ster balls.

The boys were seri­ously less enthu­si­astic. Get­ting them to commit was worse than pulling teeth, and the ideas kept changing from day to day. Scooby Doo and Shaggy were their first options. Frankly, I thought it was an awe­some idea, but my opinion may be why it was nixed immediately.

One of the boys wanted to be this blow up ostrich thing—just too weird. (Really? Who comes up with these?) The other one was first thinking about being a caveman, and then the lime green uni­tard guy…ummmm, no!

The good news? No blood and guts for 2014. Instead we have a Spartan (that in no way resem­bles Tommy Trojan. I made sure of that. Go Ducks!), a nerd, and of course a ham­ster named Peanut—complete with a bag of peanuts. (This is an essen­tial part of the cos­tume as is the sign that says:  Hi, my name is Peanut. My daughter is nothing, if not thorough.)

All of this semi-​​drama leads me to believe that it might be the last year for Hal­loween fun, at least for the boys. This goes way beyond the usual com­plaining when I take pic­tures of them in their cos­tumes before school. Next year they hit Middle School and the inno­cence of the Buzz Lightyear cos­tume morphs into I’m too cool for school. What-​​evs! And bring on the T.P. mischief.

I’m not ready for it to be over. Next thing you know we will loose Santa, the Tooth Fairy and the Easter Bunny. Total child­hood anarchy. I refuse to accept it. So I have been self-​​medicating with cake.

I made this one over the weekend. It seemed to help… Read more…

Three Soups! Bonus Recipes

MinestroneOctober is soup season, and we are posting three of our staff’s favorite soup recipes to add to your reper­toire. We hope you enjoy them as much as we do!

Here are the recipes for Thai Hot and Sour Chicken Soup, a deli­cious Mine­strone, and Spicy Chicken and Rice Flu Chaser Soup. Read more…

Apple, Onion and Cheddar Soup

Apple, Onion and Cheddar SoupSoup to Nuts…or Nuts for Soup

OK, I admit it. I like soup. I am eating some right now, in fact. There is some­thing about that first day when it actu­ally feels like Fall, (My tem­per­a­ture gauge said it was 48º this morning.) that makes me want a cup of some­thing warm and cozy. It also makes me think about what soup I will be making and freezing this weekend.

Canned soup is okay in a pinch, and there are some great ones avail­able these days, but they don’t hold a candle to home­made. (Cheating by making chicken noodle with store bought broth still counts.) I have found myself grab­bing for the frozen soup a lot lately. Espe­cially after foot­ball prac­tice or after­noon activity. (World Series anyone?) A little soup and grilled cheese, maybe a salad, and you have the mak­ings of a quick and com­forting meal.

I have been trying to branch out a bit with my recipes. I still have my favorites like the one I am eating now, but I can get bored of the same old, same old after a while. So I’ve been on a mis­sion to find the new and inter­esting, and I think I found one!

I have owned a copy of the New Eng­land Soup Com­pany Cook­book for years, but it’s one of those cook­books that I tend to forget about. Last week I ran across it while looking for some­thing else, and saw this recipe for Apple, Onion and Cheddar Soup. I knew I just had to try it. It’s per­fect now that apples are coming into their season.

Apple, Onion and Cheddar Soup
Adapted from Mar­jorie Druker
Chef/​Co-​​Owner, New Eng­land Soup Factory

This soup is per­fect for a Sunday open-​​house party during the cool fall months. It incor­po­rates apples and cheese, which are also an old-​​fashioned com­bi­na­tion for a pie in New Eng­land. The soup builds con­trasting layers of sweet­ness, starting with the apple cider in the stock. Into that go the onions, sautéed slowly until they are per­fectly browned and sweet. Green apples add tartness.

Read more…

Traditional French Cassoulet

Traditional French Cassoulet When it comes to cooking, I’m always up for a challenge.

The first time it hap­pened, was maybe my sopho­more year in high school—or pos­sibly even younger, and I was des­perate to make this incred­ibly dif­fi­cult choco­late cake that I saw on Great Chefs. It had dark and white choco­late, choco­late ganache, and choco­late shavings.I had no busi­ness attempting to make this cake but I did it anyway.

The cake was beau­tiful. Though it didn’t turn out exactly as it was sup­posed to, it was still impres­sive. (So was the mess. Just ask my mother!)

Over the years I have attempted many other con­sid­er­able chal­lenges. Fresh but­ternut squash ravioli was one. There were also a couple of dishes from the master, Julia Child. Lately I have found that most recipes from Thomas Keller can be tough to make look “right”. They tasted pretty good, though.

There is one dish I have really wanted to make over the years that isn’t exactly dif­fi­cult, but does require some time: Tra­di­tional French Cassoulet.

The main reason I have put it off is that it usu­ally requires a Confit of Duck that I really don’t have time to make. A few weeks ago, I found a post on Serious Eats, the clouds parted, and the sun shone down. (Cue angelic singing.) J. Kenji López-Alt’s recipe made making a cas­soulet so much more approach­able, that I just had to try it. So over the weekend, I did.

It still required work and time, but the end result was worth it. The beans were unbe­liev­ably tasty and creamy. The chicken was tender. My only com­plaint was that it was too salty for my tastes (López-​​Alt warns about this in the post.) The rest of my diners didn’t think so. I include my kids in this—they actu­ally went back for sec­onds. I think next time I will cut the amount of salt pork in half just to see. And there will be a next time.

This is def­i­nitely a Sunday dinner type dish because of the time involved, but the recipe is a keeper and it is the per­fect lazy, rainy weekend dinner. Read more…