Trick-or-treat

Do you remember coming home from trick-or-treating and sorting out your candy?  The Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups got a pile, the PayDays got a pile, Heath and Skor bars-special pile, all those miniatures got a pile and then there were those weird things, loose Raisinetes, pennies, obviously last years Christmas mints, stickers and Bit-O-Honeys.  As a kid, I didn’t spend a lot of time trying to super sleuth where those lame treats came from.  I didn’t have to because Catherine would come up behind me and say “OOOOHHH, is that a Bit-O-Honey?  I’ll trade you my peanut butter cups for your Bit-O-Honeys and pennies!”  But, now that I’m the one buying the Halloween candy I wonder, who, besides my sister, is buying the Bit-O-Honey?

Here’s a treat for the few Skor and Heath bars that might make it home tonight.  (Tell your kids what I’ve told my kids about these candy bars.  That they are made with the leftover meat parts that can’t be put into hotdogs.)   These cupcakes are really good.  I made them fun sized, especially for Halloween, so that the adults would have a treat until the kids got home with the rest of the candy that we’ll pretend  not to eat while they’re at school.  -Andra

Pumpkin Cupcakes with Maple Frosting  Adapted from Ina Garten

1 cup all-purpose flour

1 teaspoon baking powder

½  teaspoon baking soda

½  teaspoon kosher salt

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

½  teaspoon ground ginger

½  teaspoon ground nutmeg

2 large eggs

1 cup canned pumpkin purée (8 ounces), not pie filling

½  cup granulated sugar

½  cup light brown sugar, lightly packed

½  cup vegetable oil

Maple Frosting (see recipe below)

½  cup coarsely chopped Heath bars, for serving (2 1.4-ounce bars)

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Brush or spray the top of muffin tins with vegetable oil or  line them with paper liners.  In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, ginger, and nutmeg.  In a larger bowl, whisk together the eggs, pumpkin purée, granulated sugar, brown sugar, and vegetable oil. Add the flour mixture and stir until combined.

Divide the batter among the prepared tins and bake for 20 to 25 minutes, for regular sized muffins tins or 10-12 minutes for miniature muffin tins until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.  Set aside to cool completely.

Spread the cupcakes with the Maple Frosting and sprinkle with the chopped toffee bits.  Makes 10 regular sized cupcakes or 24 miniature cupcakes.

Maple Frosting

6  ounces cream cheese, at room temperature

3  tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature

¼  teaspoon Boyajian Natural Maple Flavor

½  teaspoon pure vanilla extract

2 cups sifted confectioners’ sugar

In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream the cream cheese and butter on low speed until smooth. Stir in the maple flavoring and vanilla extract. With the mixer still on low, slowly add the confectioners’ sugar and mix until smooth.

Apple Pie Bars

Here’s where you can put your apples, Catherine.  This recipe uses six pounds of apples and makes 48 bars.   When you’ve pulled in a haul of apples from a weekend orchard visit, this recipe will make a big dent in that bushel that you’ve brought home.    -Andra

Apple Pie Bars by Cathy Odson from Food and Wine

Crust

3 sticks unsalted butter, softened

3/4 cup sugar

3 cups all-purpose flour

1/2 teaspoon kosher salt

Filling

6 tablespoons unsalted butter

1/2 cup light brown sugar

12 Granny Smith apples (about 6 pounds)—peeled, cored and thinly sliced

1 tablespoon cinnamon

1/4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg

1 cup water, as necessary

Topping

3/4 cup walnuts

3 cups quick-cooking oats

2 cups all-purpose flour

1 1/2 cups light brown sugar

1 1/4 teaspoons cinnamon

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

1/2 teaspoon kosher salt

3 sticks (12 ounces) unsalted butter, cut into 1/2-inch cubes and chilled

Preheat the oven to 375°. Line a 15-by-17-inch rimmed baking sheet or jelly roll pan with parchment paper. In a standing electric mixer fitted with a paddle, beat the butter with the sugar at medium speed until light and fluffy, about 2 minutes. At low speed, beat in the flour and salt until a soft dough forms. Press the dough over the bottom of the prepared pan and 1/2 inch up the side in an even layer. Bake in the center of the oven for about 20 minutes, until the crust is golden and set. Let cool on a rack.

In each of 2 large skillets, melt 3 tablespoons of the butter with 1/4 cup of the light brown sugar. Add the apples to the skillets and cook over high heat, stirring occasionally, until softened, about 10 minutes. Stir half of the cinnamon and nutmeg into each skillet. Cook until the apples are caramelized and very tender and the liquid is evaporated, about 10 minutes longer; scrape up any bits stuck to the bottom of the skillets and add up to 1/2 cup of water to each pan to prevent scorching. Let cool.

Spread the walnuts in a pie plate and toast until golden and fragrant, about 8 minutes. Let cool, then coarsely chop the walnuts. In a large bowl, mix the oats with the flour, light brown sugar, cinnamon, baking soda and salt. Using a pastry blender or two knives, cut in the butter until the mixture resembles coarse meal. Stir in the walnuts and press the mixture into clumps.

Spread the apple filling over the crust. Scatter the crumbs on top, pressing them lightly into an even layer. Bake in the center of the oven for 1 hour, until the topping is golden; rotate the pan halfway through baking. Let cool completely on a rack before cutting into 2-inch bars.

Make Ahead:  The bars can be stored in an airtight container at room temperature for 4 days or frozen for up to a month.

Orzo Soulad and Blackberry and Peach Cobbler

I know “soulad” isn’t really a word, but I can’t decide if what we ate last night was closer to a soup or a salad.  I was out of so many things but didn’t have the energy to go shopping with my kids so I ended up scraping the bottom of the pantry for dinner.  I sautéed an onion and a clove of garlic in olive oil until just starting to brown, then added a can of drained and rinsed artichoke hearts that I chopped into quarters.  Then I added about two pints of chopped cherry tomatoes, four cups of chicken broth and about a cup of orzo.  While the orzo cooked, I crisped about 8 ounces of prosciutto in the oven.  (Pancetta or bacon would have been great as well, but I only had an expired package of prosciutto on hand.*)  Once the orzo was cooked, I added a can of cannellini beans and kept the pan on the heat until they were heated through.  When I was ready to serve, I crumbled some of the crispy prosciutto over the “soulad” with shavings of parmesan, lots of fresh basil and a drizzle of olive oil.  It was, I have to say, a perfect meal for a hot summer day; not too heavy, served at room temperature, and it had a cured pork product.  Perfect.

Before the Biscuit Topping

I also made a blackberry and peach cobbler with a biscuit topping.  I started with the Blueberry-Drop Biscuit Cobbler recipe  in the new Bon Appetit, but with all my minor changes, it was a different cobbler by the time it went in the oven.  One change was cutting the sugar called for in Bon Appetit’s recipe in half.  I always find that cobblers, crisps, any summer fruit recipe really, have way too much sugar in them.  The whole point is capitalizing on the natural sugar in the fruit, right?  I always cut sugar that’s tossed with the fruit in these recipes in half, which sounds drastic, but they end up tasting like fruit.  When I eat a cobbler or a crisp with the full amount of sugar in them, they’re so sweet they’re almost cloying, and I miss all the acidity that normal fruit has to balance out the sugar.

* I was on the phone with Andra when I told her the expiration date on the package of prosciutto.  I asked her if we were all going to get toxic shock from this meal and she said, incredulously, “Seriously?  It’s cured meat!  Do you think cowboys sitting around a campfire cared about expiration dates on their vittles??”   She was right, but she’s always had a looser interpretation of expiration dates than I have.  I know what you’re thinking and the answers are “yes” and “yes”:  Andra is always mean to me, and you probably would enjoy dinner at my house more, where the food is so fresh.

– Catherine

Linguine with Squash, Zucchini and Basil

Last night, I made zucchini pasta again, using both squash and zucchini.  I make this often during the summer because it’s so easy and so delicious.

I use the mandolin to slice the squash and zucchini very thin and add that to about a half cup of olive oil with two cloves of chopped garlic and saute until the squash and zucchini are soft and translucent.

The starch from the vegetables mixes with the olive oil and makes a sauce.  When the pasta is ready, I add about a half cup of starchy pasta water to the vegetables with the pasta and let the whole thing thicken before finishing it with fresh basil and parmesan.

I also made another blueberry crostata, using Martha’s recipe for Pate Brisee.  While I love these, I think I’ll use the next batch of fresh blueberries for something new.  Is it just me, or did the grocery store roll-out pie crust make a prettier crostata?  (Hope Martha doesn’t unfriend me for saying that.)

– Catherine

Blueberry Crostata

Yesterday, I took my girls blueberry picking at a local organic blueberry farm.  We paid for just over two pounds of fresh blueberries, but smuggled much more away in our bloated stomachs.  I threatened the girls that the men at the scales would know by their blue faces just how many blueberries they had eaten in the field and make them pay for the berries with toys, but neither seemed too concerned with the consequences of petty blueberry theft.

We  made the simplest blueberry crostata with the berries.  I just tossed about 2 1/2 cups of the blueberries with 1/3 cup of sugar, a dusting of corn starch, lemon juice, a dash of vanilla and a pinch of cinnamon and baked it in a roll-out pie crust for 15 minutes at 420°.  I had planned to make the pie crust, but we were out blueberry picking all morning, remember?

For dinner, we had a classic Cobb Salad.  I learned from Cook’s Illustrated to add a dash of Worcestershire Sauce to the dressing and you can’t imagine how it elevates a basic vinaigrette to a “Cobb Salad” vinaigrette.

But enough about the salad.  Dinner last night was all about getting to dessert.

– Catherine

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