Archive for October, 2010

Claire’s Spooky Whoopee Pies

Friday, October 29th, 2010

 
A few months ago my sister-in-law Leigh came home from her friend Claire Bradshaw’s house with several delectable whoopee pies.
 
The first thing I did was eat one, of course!
 
The second thing I did was call Claire and ask her for her recipe.
 
These pies are versatile. They can be filled with a marshmallow filling or a peanut butter filling. For Christmas I’m thinking of trying peppermint! I’m sure you’ll hear about that experiment.
 
Meanwhile, a plain butter frosting with a little spooky topping will stand me in good stead for Halloween. 

Claire suggested the spider-web design, and I’m sure she would do it much more neatly than I did (not a hard feat!).

 
Claire’s Spider-Web Pies
 
Ingredients:
 
for the pies:
 
1/2 cup (1 stick) sweet butter at room temperature
1 cup sugar
1 egg
1-1/2 teaspoons baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 cups flour
5 tablespoons cocoa
1 cup milk
 
for the filling:
 
1 cup (2 sticks) sweet butter at room temperature
confectioner’s sugar as necessary to achieve desired consistency (I used about 2-1/2 cups)
2 teaspoons vanilla
milk or cream if necessary to stir
 
for assembly: 

candies and/or sprinkles if desired

 
Instructions:
 
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Grease 3 nonstick baking sheets. (You may use silicone or parchment, but I found that these particular cookies stick less on well greased sheets.)
 
In a large bowl cream the butter and sugar until they are creamy. Beat in the egg, the soda and salt, and the vanilla.
 
In another bowl combine the flour and cocoa. Add this mixture to the butter mixture, alternating with the milk. Combine just until smooth.
 
Drop tablespoons of the dough onto your cookie sheets 2 inches apart. (I used a little cookie scoop I got from King Arthur Flour to make the cookies as uniform as possible.)
 
Bake the cookies until they are firm when lightly touched (about 10 minutes).
 
Remove the cookies from the sheets as quickly as you can and put them on racks to cool completely.
 
When the cookies are cool make your filling. Beat the butter until it is soft; then add the confectioner’s sugar a little at a time. It will be a bit lumpy, but the vanilla should make everything adhere nicely. If it doesn’t, stir in a little milk or cream.
 
Spread a small amount of filling on the bottom of one cookie and top it with another cookie to make a little sandwich. Continue until all of your sandwiches are complete.
 

For extra Halloween fun, pipe a little filling on top of some of the pies in a spider web pattern and put a little candy spider in the web. I gave up on this project fairly quickly because I’m hopeless at making things like spider webs. You could also spread a little filling on top of some of the pies. Or just enjoy the chocolaty goodness without any adornment.

Truffle was not allowed to sample these particular treats, but she still hopes for some kind of Halloween handout.

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Mrs. Baker’s Applesauce

Tuesday, October 26th, 2010

 
Today I’m doing something I’ve never done before, revising an old post. I have quite a few apples on hand (although not as many as I did two years ago, when I originally posted this recipe). So I’m returning to the recipe myself and thought readers might like to come along.
 
When I first posted it, I didn’t have any regular readers—so I don’t know how many of you, if any, have looked at it.
 
Here are my words (slightly edited) from October 2008:
 
This year has seen the most abundant apple harvest I can recall in our corner of New England. My neighbor Alice speculates that our literal windfall of apples has something to do with the hatching of swarms of bees just as the apple trees blossomed last spring.
 
All I know is that our apple trees, most of which are older than anyone living on our road, suddenly acted like fertile teenagers.
 
Naturally, my mother and I have made large quantities of applesauce. Applesauce is the perfect fall comfort food, and it’s amazingly easy to make, especially if you have a food mill. Food mills render the peeling and coring of apples completely unnecessary.
 
The skin, core, and seeds of the apple cook along with the sauce, adding flavor to the end product, and then get pushed out and discarded. The residue left in the food mill is surprisingly small.
 
If you don’t have a food mill, you will have to peel and core your apples. On the other hand, you will end up with lumpy applesauce, which some people prefer to the smoother version.
 
As you can see in the photographs above and below, my food mill requires me to push the apple pulp manually through the holes in the mill. My neighbor Peter has a relatively high-tech machine with a crank that does most of the work. Either type of mill is definitely worth purchasing. 
 
My applesauce is named after Abigail Baker, who lived around the corner from our property in Hawley, Massachusetts, in the 18th and early 19th centuries. Mrs. Baker is famous (in our corner of the world, at any rate) for creating the winning pudding in a late 18th-century pudding contest that gave our district, Pudding Hollow, its name.
 

 
When my friend Judith Russell and I began work on our Pudding Hollow Cookbook, Judy suggested that we include a recipe for Mrs. Baker’s applesauce. Somehow it slipped through the cracks then so I’m rectifying that omission here on my blog.
 
I have portrayed Mrs. Baker several times in the entertainment that accompanies our revived pudding contest. And I see her grave every time I visit my what my nephew Michael calls my father’s “burial crypt” in the Pudding Hollow Cemetery. Hawley’s most celebrated cook is therefore seldom out of my thoughts. 

Judy, too, is in my thoughts a lot, especially at this time of year. She died in the autumn of 1994, but her colorful folk art and sunny spirit live on in our hills, in our hearts, and in my cookbook.

 
Mrs. Baker’s Windfall Applesauce
 
Ingredients:
 
enough apples to make 6 generous cups of cut-up apples (preferably more than 1 variety)
1 cinnamon stick
1 pinch salt
1/4 cup cider plus additional cider as needed
maple syrup to taste, depending on the tartness of your apples (I used 2 tablespoons for the batch pictured here, which was relatively sweet)
 
Instructions:
 
Wash the apples and quarter them (actually, I tend to cut them into eighths if they are at all big). Remove any bad spots, but don’t worry about cutting out the core and seeds if you have a food mill. 

Place the apple pieces, the cinnamon stick, the salt, and the cider in a 4-quart pot. Bring the mixture to a simmer over low heat, covered, and simmer it until the apples soften, checking frequently to see whether you need to add more cider to keep the sauce from burning. The cooking time will depend on the type and age of your apples and how many of them you are using. A 6-cup batch may take as little as 25 minutes, but a larger, firmer batch can take up to an hour.
 
Let the apples cool for a few minutes; then run them through a food mill. Discard the pulp and seeds (excellent pig food or compost!), and place the sauce in a saucepan. Add maple syrup to taste, and heat until the syrup dissolves, stirring to keep the syrup from burning.
 
If you want to can your sauce, reheat it to the boiling point, ladle it into sterilized jars, and process pint jars in a boiling-water bath for 20 minutes. 

The yield will depend on your apples. Six generous cups of apple pieces provide about 1 pint of sauce. Feel free to multiply this recipe if your apple harvest is copious.


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The Ghost Farmer

Sunday, October 24th, 2010

Jody Cothey (Courtesy of Pleasure Boat Studio)

 
Jody Cothey scribbles bits of poetry on little pieces of paper as she goes about her daily chores.
 
A farmer as well as a writer, the poet lives and works in the hills of East Hawley, Massachusetts, where she and her husband Edward run Tregellys Fiber Farm. There they raise yaks, Icelandic sheep, Bactrian camels, and several dogs as well as other exotic and non-exotic animals.
 
Jody, whose pen name is Pamela Stewart, is attuned to the seasons and the cycles of nature. Her farm, animals, and companions appear in her new collection of poetry, Ghost Farm, released by Pleasure Boat Studio.
 
So do feelings about love and loss, the aging process, and the joys of literature and music. 

I recently talked to Jody about her life and her poetry—and of course I asked her for a recipe! 

Courtesy of www.carabs.com

I was curious about the origins of the fiber farm. She explained that she met her husband in Cornwall, where she was working on a poetry project. The two spent seven years in the U.K. before returning to the U.S.
 
They lived in Montague, Massachusetts, for several years until he suggested a change in lifestyle. “Ed, who used to work on a dairy farm, said, ‘I miss animals. Let’s get a farm,’” recalled his wife. Tregellys Fiber Farm grew out of that longing.
 
Jody laughed in retrospect at the potential folly of the project. “We got this farm and made it too big. But if I hadn’t gone along, I would never have experienced the stuff I have.
 
“I would never have learned to spin. I would never have met a camel. I would never have met the Tibetan people that we love,” she said. She added, “I think the farm is the center for the poet in me.”
  

Courtesy of www.carabs.com

 
Nevertheless, she admitted that sometimes the farm overwhelms her poetry. She explained that she loves to run errands in her car. “That’s when I have time for me.”
 
When she has enough scraps of paper with snippets of poetry saved up, she takes a break from farming and goes to Wellspring House, a writers’ retreat in nearby Ashfield, which she called “a godsend.”
 
“I wouldn’t have been able to write the poems [in Ghost Farm] without it,” she noted. “I recommend it to anyone who needs to get away.”
 
About her writing process, she stated, “I write before I think. I have to write and then think. My angle is just scribbling everything. Then later I follow through on my scribbling.”
 
She compared composing a poem to making a soup or a stew. “You can start with something and then add something else and so on but you can’t always take things out.”
 
Asked whether she thinks of herself primarily as a poet or a farmer, Jody laughed. “Mostly I think of myself as a person with a large streak of housemother right now.
 
“It involves taking care of dogs, our friend’s son who’s about to turn 17, and my husband; and having my mother live with us,” she explained. “I feel that I think as a poet but it doesn’t often come out in daily life….
 
“I do what I want to do. I know other people for whom poetry is their all-consuming life. It’s not my all consuming thing. It’s a part of me.”
 
Jody agreed that poetry is not our culture’s most popular or most celebrated art form. Nevertheless, she clearly values it highly herself.
 
“I think poetry itself has a spiritual life of its own. It will always be there no matter what the culture or the society or the age is busy doing…. If you catch into it at any age, it becomes a part of you,” she said.
 
“When I’m doing it, I’m in touch with something that’s bigger than me and causes me joy–and sometimes agony, but mostly joy.”
 
Jody Cothey (and/or Pamela Stewart) will read from Ghost Farm and sign copies of her new book this afternoon at 2 pm at Boswell’s Books in Shelburne Falls. Massachusetts.
 
If you can’t make the signing, you may get her book from Boswell’s or from the publisher, Pleasure Boat Studio.
 
While you’re reading it you might like try nibble on one of Jody’s Ghost Farm Cookies.
 
When I asked for a recipe, Jody happily gave me these simple brown cookies. Their plain exterior belies their richness. “They are brown cookies—my forte,” she told me, “but lovely and crumbly/buttery.” 

I liked them so much I’m adding them to my Twelve Cookies of Christmas collection.

 
 
Ingredients:
 
1 cup (2 sticks) sweet butter at room temperature
1/2 cup dark (or light!) brown sugar, firmly packed
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
2 cups flour
 
Instructions:
 
Preheat the oven to 325 degrees. Cream together the butter, brown sugar, and soda. Stir in 1 cup of the flour. Transfer the dough to a board (on which you have sprinkled part of the second cup of flour!) and knead it.
 
Knead in the remaining flour. The dough will be quite stiff by the time you finish incorporating all the flour.
 
Jody suggests a number of ways in which to shape her cookies, including rolling them out and cutting them. Here’s what I did: I rolled my dough into three logs and cut each log into little cylinders. I then pressed the cylinders into little flat circles.
 
Place the cookies on an ungreased cookie sheet and bake them for 15 to 20 minutes. Let them cool on the cookie sheet for a few minutes before transferring them to a wire rack to finish cooling. 

Makes about 24 cookies (depending on how big you cut/roll them).

Courtesy of www.carabs.com

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My Favorite Flank Steak

Tuesday, October 19th, 2010

 
I don’t post a lot of meat recipes on this blog. I’m not sure why. I do eat meat. Somehow it doesn’t stimulate my memory, senses, and creative juices as vegetables, breads, desserts, and appetizers do, however.
 
Today I’m popping a quick meat recipe on anyway. Whenever I see a flank steak at the meat counter of Avery’s General Store I’m tempted to make this truly easy dish. I love marinating things, and flank steak really rewards you with flavor and texture if you marinate it.
 
I’m sorry that the measurements aren’t exact. Luckily, you can’t really go wrong with the recipe.
 
Next time I make it I’ll try to get something written down. But this is just one of those weeks!  Lots of phone calls to make and answer, lots of recipes to test and write up, a number of songs to practice, and a bored elderly mother to entertain.
 
Earlier today in her infatuation with the autumn sun Jan made an unauthorized break from the house with her walker. I thought she was napping until the Hawley, Massachusetts, road crew showed up at the door.
 
“Your mother seems to be hiking to Charlemont,” Wayne Clark told me in his laconic drawl.
 
When I found my mother she was WAY down the street chatting unrepentantly with a man she had found while walking.
 
(Believe me, it’s not easy to find stray men here in Hawley!)
 
“I knew you’d find me,” she said with a big grin on her face. I had to grin back as I thanked the man and the road crew.
 
Thank goodness for small towns! It takes a village to care for more than just children…….
 
The Flank Steak
 
Ingredients:
 
1 flank steak (1-1/2 to 2 pounds)
several cloves of garlic, peeled and sliced into tiny slices
soy sauce as needed (enough to cover but not submerge your steak)
 
Instructions:
 
With a small sharp knife make small slits all over one side of your flank steak. Insert pieces of garlic into each slit.
 
Pour soy sauce onto the steak; then turn it over and repeat the cutting, inserting, and pouring on that side as well.
 
Allow the steak to marinate at room temperature for at least 1-1/2 hours (a little longer is best, but if you want to marinate it for several hours you’ll need to refrigerate it). Turn it every 1/2 hour or so to make sure both sides stay moist.
 
Remove the steak from the soy sauce and place it on a hot grill (or on a grill pan). Grill it for about 4 minutes on each side—maybe a little longer—so that it is rare. If you overcook your steak it will be tough. It doesn’t have to be as rare as the photo above, however. (I love rare steak!)
 
Slice the warm steak against the grain.
 
Serves 4 to 6.


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Sue’s Enchilagna

Friday, October 15th, 2010

 
There’s a chill in the air. We have had our first frost, and comfort food is on the menu of the day.
 
Luckily for me, Sue Haas of Seattle has come forward with another tasty recipe—a layered version of enchiladas that saves prep time over rolling. She says she was inspired by Mexican food she ate in Los Angeles.
 
Sue adds that one can substitute 1 pound of cooked chicken or 10 ounces frozen spinach (thawed) for the browned ground beef. I haven’t tried either, but both sound good.
 
I received photos of Sue’s own enchilagna, which looked a lot neater than mine (presentation was never my forte), but unfortunately her camera’s focus was off so readers are stuck with my messy version.
 
I added the chili powder and cumin, which didn’t overwhelm the dish at all. Next time, I think I’ll use a little more cheese (I skimped a bit on cheese so the top of my tortillas dried up a little) and try using the green chili salsa Sue suggested. I like my enchiladas wet! 

The basic flavor of the dish as written worked very well, however. And its warmth and heartiness made my guests (and their hostess) very happy last night. Thank you, Sue!

 
 
The Casserole
 
Ingredients:
 
1 pound ground beef
1 large yellow onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
olive oil as needed
3 green onions, chopped (2 for sauce; 1 to sprinkle on top before baking)
2 4-ounce cans diced green chile peppers, mild (or use green chile salsa for a spicier flavor)
1 14.5-ounce can stewed tomatoes, chopped
2 fresh medium tomatoes, diced (optional)
1 8-ounce can tomato sauce
salt and pepper to taste (about 1 teaspoon of salt and a dash of pepper should be enough)
1/ 2 teaspoon chili powder
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
8 ounces Monterey jack or cheddar cheese, grated (about 2 cups)
1 dozen small corn tortillas (yellow or white corn tortillas)
1 pint sour cream
3 tablespoons fresh cilantro, chopped (optional)
 
Instructions:
 
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
 
Brown the ground beef and drain it. In a separate pan cook the onion and garlic in just a little olive oil until the onion pieces are translucent. Add the 2 green onions, the green chiles, the stewed tomatoes, the tomato sauce, the fresh tomatoes (if you are using them) the salt, the pepper, and the spices. Simmer about 10 minutes and keep warm on low heat.
 
Meanwhile, cut the tortillas into quarters. Put a generous dab (about 1 tablespoonful) of sour cream on each piece of tortilla and make a layer on the bottom of a lightly oiled 9″ x 13″ baking pan.
 
Add a layer of the meat mixture; then add a layer of grated jack cheese. Continue layering the tortillas with dabs of sour cream, meat (or chicken or spinach) mixture, and grated cheese, until all is used. There should be about 3 layers. End with a top layer of tortillas dabbed with sour cream, grated cheese, and 1 chopped green onion (and chopped cilantro, optional).
 
Bake until the casserole is bubbly and hot, and the cheese and sour cream are slightly browned, about 30 minutes. Serve with salsa, as desired.
 
Serves 6 (large servings) to 12 (small servings).