Wednesday, October 12, 2016

14 October Favorites

October is one of my favorite cooking months! There are still lots of fruits like apples, pears and cranberries for stuffing into desserts and other baked goods. There are quite possibly tons of winter squashes of all kinds! They’re so plentiful and so delicious that they just beg to be included in all sorts of sweet and savory recipes. Colder nights and the first frosts call for comfort foods. And then, there’s Halloween, which means little more than sweet, sweet candy to the likes of me.

Here is a pared down (I did my best) list of 14 of my favorite dishes and treats for this time of year, all from The Messy Apron Archives:

1. Early and late autumn can merge together in sweet harmony in Applesauce with Pumpkin and Spices, which is delicious eaten with a spoon, but also great in…


3. I’m always trying, and loving, new variations on recipes for pumpkin muffins, such as Pumpkin Cranberry, Pumpkin Molasses, and Pumpkin Spice Latte

4. Pumpkin Focacccia (Sweet or Savory) is an extra-special treat when there’s time for baking yeast breads.

5. Pumpkin Alfredo Sauce is wonderfully delicious on filled pastas, or on any noodle. It also is a quick and delicious dish to make when you have used part of a can of pumpkin for another recipe and are looking for a way to use the remainder.

6. I can’t wait to make Winter Squash and Leek Empanadas with Sage this year with butternut squash from my own garden!

7. While spaghetti squash doesn’t quite fill the same niche as pumpkin or butternut squash, it’s still great in comforting savory dishes, such as Spaghetti Squash Casserole with Bacon and Cheddar

8. Spaghetti squash is also great with Asian flavors, like in Spicy Spaghetti Squash Stir Fry

9. There’s more than just squash to eat in October, of course, and Noodles with Cabbage, Bacon and Onions is just the thing for a cold night’s supper.

10. If I need a delicious side dish this time of year I go directly for Roasted Vegetables. In fact, I often serve them as the main course, sometimes with sausage roasted right in the pan with the vegetables. Love it!

11. On the lighter side, there’s Cranberry Walnut Tabbouleh, a fall take on bulgur salad.

12. Desserts like Pear Apple Crumble Pie allow me to step away from pumpkin-y sweets, while still getting a comforting autumnal feeling.

13. My favorite Halloween candies are often put to good use (as if just opening the wrapper and popping them in my mouth isn’t enough!) in baked goods, such as Peanut Butter Butterfinger Blondies and…

If you count the links in this post, you might just come up with more than 14 October favorites, but with so much to love, who can blame me for so many variations on so many themes. Enjoy!

One year ago: Maple Date Oatmeal Bars

Monday, October 3, 2016

Oatmeal Date Cookies

I never really know how to introduce posts about a new cookie recipe. Most of them don’t have a good story or even a good excuse. Usually, a new cookie recipe comes to these pages because I love cookies and wanted to try some new ones.

And this recipe was one I’ve been wanting to try for quite a long time. Finally, I got the chance, and I’m so excited! They’re kicked-up oatmeal cookies loaded with sweet, sticky dates and fragrant, spicy cardamom. It’s a fabulous combination, delicious and exotic, but still familiar and comforting, like an oatmeal cookie should be.

To get my cardamom for these cookies, I cracked open whole cardamom pods, extracted the tiny, dark seeds, and ground those seeds in a spice grinder (really just a coffee grinder designated for spice grinding.) I cannot recommend this way of enjoying cardamom enough. Those freshly ground seeds have a perfume and flavor so far beyond that of a can of cardamom that has already been ground that they’re practically different foods. I never had a clue what a joy cardamom could really be until I made the effort to deal with it in this way.

While I really think the cardamom is extra-special with the caramel-y dates, you wouldn’t have to use it if you didn’t want to. Cinnamon would be fine in its place, or even Pumpkin Pie Spice. It is that time of year!

Once you have the cardamom prepared and the dates pitted and chopped, these are just as easy to make as any drop cookie. And like my other favorite drop cookies, I like to chill the dough for these for at least a couple hours (and up to 2 days). I just feel like my cookies come out better when I do that. If you don’t have time you can skip that step. Just don’t skip out on a chance to try the wonderful sweet and spicy combination of dates and cardamom in oatmeal cookies!

Oatmeal Date Cookies with Cardamom
Adapted from Fine Cooking magazine

1 ½ cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon ground cardamom
½ cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, softened
1 cup light brown sugar
¼ cup granulated sugar
2 large eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
3 cups rolled oats
1 ½ cups chopped, pitted dates

1. In a medium-size bowl, combine the flour, baking soda, salt and cardamom. Whisk together to combine well.

2. In the bowl of a heavy-duty electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, combine the butter, brown sugar, and granulated sugar. Beat on medium-low speed until light and fluffy. Add the eggs and vanilla and beat until well-combined.

3. Slowly stir in the flour mixture. Stir in the oats and the dates. Cover the dough well and refrigerate for at least 2 hours or up to two days.

4. Preheat oven to 350 F. Lightly spray cookie sheets with cooking spray. Scoop the dough in heaping tablespoons onto the prepared baking sheets leaving 2 inches between each cookie. Gently flatten the dough balls.

5. Bake at 350 F for about 20 minutes, or until golden brown on the edges and set in the middle. Remove from the oven and cool on the pan on a wire rack for 2 minutes. Remove the cookies from the pan and cool on the wire rack. Repeat with the remaining cookie dough.

Makes about 4 dozen cookies.

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

12 Seasonal Favorites

It’s the end of September, and the real, calendar-based autumn is here. The big fresh summer taste of tomatoes, cucumbers, and beans might be fading away (although there still seems to be plenty of zucchini!), but they’re being replaced with other delicious wonders. Here are12 late-season favorites from The Messy Apron Archives that I go to year after year to accommodate changing tastes that come with changing weather, and make the most of what’s in season.

For me, salads get heartier in late September. Here are 3 that feature seasonal ingredients like apples, spinach, cabbage, and cauliflower.

While cool salads are still welcome, warmer, comforting dishes are becoming more so as well. Here are 4 warm dishes, including quick pan-cooked meals and savory tarts that help make late-season greens, bell peppers, and potatoes into delicious meals.

This time of year tends to be a busy one for me, so complex breakfasts have to wait for weekends off. This one is worth the time it takes to put together, especially since the leftovers provide breakfast for a couple more days.

Don’t forget seasonal fruit desserts! While all of the desserts and snacks in this list of apple recipes are delicious choices, the 3 listed below are on my mind right now. Plums and grapes deserve a mention this time of year, too.

Apple and Cranberry Crisp (with or without the cranberries)

Apples, pears, cabbage, greens, peppers, plums, and grapes are the centers of my meals and other eating experiences in late September. I’m enjoying them all while I can, because winter squash and hard-core comfort foods will demand my attention soon!