November, 1995. It was my BF's birthday (he was not the BF at that time), and I remember making this first-ever attempt at baking a cheesecake. [Ed. note: To quote Private Hudson from Aliens, "Game over, man. Game over."]
Yes. This is the one. Try not to stick your fork through the screen–I dare you.
This delicious caramel bomb made repeat appearances that Thanksgiving, Chanukah and Christmas, and at different times every year after that. My mamala begged me to make it every year for the holidays, and this year I'm making it for a client's Halloween party.
The body of the cheesecake is incredibly creamy (not dense), with a touch of orange juice and a good amount of sour cream. There is a perfect crust-to-filling ratio, and the caramel apple topping is to die for (the caramel stays soft and does not stick to your teeth and harden).
Keep in mind, this makes a large cheesecake (10 inches diameter). Perfect for any get together, my favorite is to offer this at Thanksgiving.
Funny story/cautionary tale: two years ago I made this for my BF again and cut the ingredients in half to make an smaller 8-inch cake (was also going to give half to a neighbor). Just as I was presenting the entire cake to him on a platter, I dropped it. The platter broke, little shards of glass flaked all over and into the cheesecake–unsalvageable.
We stared at the floor for the longest time. Curse words seethed through clenched teeth. Tears were shed. I will not lie, this is not a 30-minute dessert. There is preparation and time involved. (Really, you have to start making this the day before you plan on serving it.) However, the process is very straightforward and the end result is so worth the effort.
Just be careful with those glass platters!
Adapted from: Bon Appetit (September 1995)
Number of servings: 16
Because I ain't no Challahback Girl, I ain't no Challahback Girl!
Sorry, couldn't get Gwen Stefani's "Hollaback Girl" out of my head while making this pumpkin challah. No Doubt fans will understand.
I don't make homemade bread too often, as there are many extraordinary bakeries around me that offer all manner of amazing confections. But it was so worth making this particular bread at home. The aroma alone was intoxicating, and I've never seen pumpkin challah at any bakery.
Disclaimer: my BF is a writer-music-journalist and is meticulous with grammar, so he hates when I use too many !!!!!! [Ed. note: I'm letting this slide, but will need to see you after class.] But people, I mean, look at this challah! Oh my beloved October!
Pumpkin and challah is a divine combination. The inside is a gorgeous saffron yellow, the crust is laquered, and the bread itself is soft and has an ever so slight taste of pumpkin. You can taste it, but it doesn't overwhelm.
There is, however, much down time, and you can do other things while the bread is rising and baking. When fully baked this loaf of bread is hefty, the BF and I feasted on this loaf of love for a week (we've made deli sandwiches, grilled cheese, french toast, bread pudding, croutons and eaten it plain, slicked with honey butter or cranberry butter—my favorite).
If you're invited to a dinner party or perhaps a holiday dinner, and the host asks you to bring the carbs, consider bringing this gem of a challah. Bet you're asked to bring it the following year.
Adapted from: The Bojon Gourmet, Smitten Kitchen and Joan Nathan
Number of servings: Makes 1 large loaf
According to Joan Nathan, the secrets to good challah are simple: use two coats of egg wash to get that laquer-like crust, and don't overbake it. Also, three risings always makes for the tastiest loaves.
The countdown begins: twenty-seven days until Halloween. The pumpkins have found a rightful place in the house. Pumpkin lights are up and dare I say cinnamon-apple-cider candles are lit and wafting their collective fragrance throughout the house. The boyfriend is asking for caramel apple cheesecake—which is a sure sign that autumn is here (at least inside our house). He does not get as excited as I do for fall to arrive [Ed. Note: Perhaps it's the annual fall reminder of how aged I have become, but I digress], but does enjoy the autumnal foods and cute costumed kids ringing our doorbell on the 31st.
Although this post is not a pumpkin recipe [Ed. Note: Spoiler alert--next week], it's the perfect transitional dish through the end of our regular bay-area Indian summers, when the Oregonian in me is chomping at the bit for crisper "soup, sweater, boot" weather.
In the meantime, enjoy this healthy, flavorful soup.
Adapted from: A Beautiful Plate
Number of servings: 3-4 (makes 4 cups)
Scotcheroos. Rice Krispies treats. Never appealed to me. Never had one as a kid or adult. We did not have them in our house growing up, and honestly (if you've read the Chocolate Pavlova post www.moveablefeast.me/blog/chocolate-pavlova-with-berries), you'd know that if I'd been offered one, I would have politely declined. I detested crunch, cereal, peanut butter, butterscotch, marshmallows, nuts, and cloyingly sweet treats. Just wasn't into desserts, and no, my mother did not know how this happened.
That said, am not sure of the exact date, but at some point in my mid-forties I developed a slight sweet tooth. And this Rice-Krispies-treat variant is quite addicting.
What makes this variant different from traditional Rice Krispies treats? For starters, I used Whole Foods 365 brand Everyday Value Organic Brown Rice Crisps Cereal (Kellog's makes one too), making this gluten free. Also, there's no marshmallows, butter, corn syrup (brown rice syrup was used instead), or granulated/refined sugar (maple syrup filled that role). This does not make these healthy by any stretch, sugar is sugar–but I happen to think they taste better, a little less sweet and slightly nuttier.
They make a great alternative to cupcakes for back-to-school activities, as well as adult tail-gaters and date-day matinees (they hold up well in the movie purse). Oh, and did I mention they took five minutes to make, no bake, and my BF has asked, "When are you making these again?"
[Ed. note: The BF would like to thank Mike Cosgrove and the rest of Alien Ant Farm for being such gracious hosts to me in my previous life as a writer interviewing musicians. Dig the press-advance copy of ANThology. To this day I wonder if Annie is okay.]
Adapted from: Pinch of Yum
Number of servings: 12-20 squares (depending on how small/large you cut the bars)
My people. My siblings, relatives, closest friends and of course my BF—they are my people. The people that bring me up and make me feel my very best self. God, how I love them! My siblings and relatives live in Oregon, Boston, Chicago-area and as far away as Thailand, and when any one of them visit, it's a big deal. So when my brother and sister visit, as they did this past June, it feels like all the holidays rolled into one. It's that special.
We had so much fun: doing the mundane (which I miss the most), to my sister replanting my garden and landscaping our yard, and my brother sharpening all my knives, assisting as my sous chef, and carrying robust discussions with my BF. We spent an afternoon in San Francisco walking, er, grazing: Humphry Slocombe ice cream, Hog Island Oyster Bar, Ferry Building, Ghirardelli Square, walk-away shrimp cocktail at Fisherman's Wharf, coffee at Blue Bottle, and Boudins bakery to bring back an amazing chocolate sourdough round for my BF (who was kind enough to keep our anxiety ridden pup company at home). [Ed. Note: Next time I want three.]
On their last night, the kind of bay area summer night we feel spoiled to have, we set the table out on the patio, lit the candles, and flipped on the string lights. I made this beautiful Baked Greek Shrimp with Tomatoes & Feta and served it with Semifreddi's Sour Batard, olives, and a green salad. The only change I made to the Once Upon a Chef recipe was to add chopped fennel, which goes well with Greek flavors and shrimp (and my brother really likes fennel). Dinner was on the table in 45 minutes—easy enough to prepare for a weeknight, special enough for a good-bye dinner, and it's a healthy one-pan meal that works any time of year.
Adapted from: Once Upon a Chef
Number of servings: 4
My BF has a thing for caramely, butterscotchy tidbits and chocolate chip cookies. [Ed. Note: C is for cookie, and after proper advisement from my attorney, I submit that it is, indeed, good enough for me.] I mixed the two together and added liquor and dare I say this is the cookie, at least in our house. The butterscotch schnapps put it over the top with a toasted caramel note without it tasting boozy. Have tried this same recipe with bourbon, and it's good, real good. [Ed. Note: Hiccup.]
There are rules in our house for homemade chocolate chip cookies 1) not flat and crispy 2) not cake like 3) must be cold from the fridge 4) must be soft and chewy in the center and crispy around the edges. Some people like warm cookies out of the oven, but we like our cookies cold from the fridge.
You can eat these cookies with milk, but bourbon also works. Please designate a driver if you go this route.
Inspired by: Baked – New Frontiers In Baking
Serving size: Makes 1 dozen cookies
"You say tomato, I say tomahto."
September is one of those in-between cooking months. Summer is over, but it’s still hot out and the Farmers Market bins are overflowing with juicy, ripe tomatoes in myriad of colors. Autumn root vegetables have made an appearance, and I can't wait to leap into fall, but I promised my BF I would not start decorating or making anything pumpkin-related until Oct 1. [Ed. Note: It would be "All Halloween All The Time" in this house, if she could get away with it.]
This tart is a perfect end of summer meal—lunch, brunch, dinner or an even better appetizer. It's also a great way to use up all your ripe garden tomatoes in a quick and non-fussy fashion. And on muggy odd-weather weeks like we've experienced recently in the bay area (triple-digit heat followed by monsoon rain and lightning), lets be real, I don't want to bake when it's a bajillion degrees.
I have made this tart every September for the last decade with various crusts, i.e., one sheet of defrosted puff pastry, homemade rye, buckwheat, or polenta tart crust, as well as whole wheat pizza dough. This time I made it with Vicolo cornmeal pizza crust (see picture below). This is not a sponsored post, but these ready-made crusts are a godsend: freshly made, organic, all natural, no preservatives, and there are even gluten-free options. They come pre-packaged in the refrigerated section of your grocery store (Safeway, Trader Joes, Whole Foods, etc.), and if you like the taste and texture of cornmeal, you won't be disappointed.
If you can't find Vicolo in your grocery store, you can substitute with one sheet of defrosted puff pastry, rolled out to a 9x13 rectangle and placed on a baking sheet. Follow the baking instructions on the box and let it cool completely, then follow the rest of my instructions for the filling and assembly.
Number of Servings: Approx 2-3 (per one 8-inch tart).
Note: Ingredient list below is for one 8-inch tart, and Vicolo crusts come in packages of two. So if you want to make both you will need to double the filling amounts below.
My BFF (since 4th grade) lives in a charmingly small Washington-state town in the shadow of Mt. Rainier. Her circa-1920s farm house is populated with every imaginable nut and fruit tree – chestnuts, walnuts, hazelnuts, apples, cherry plums, pears, and bay. Wild blackberries, raspberries, huckleberries, a summer garden, as well as a menagerie of animals (rabbits, chickens, birds, goats, cats) complete the picture.
The pièce de résistance is the blueberry orchard (see last photo below), with blueberries as large as grapes that, dare I say, truly taste “blue.” We recently reconnected, and I of course took the opportunity to bring home a good supply of the prize blueberries and put them to good use.
This sauce is the perfect compliment to pork chops, wild salmon, chicken and steak. Personally, I don’t like cloyingly sweet fruit combined with meat, but this is different as the balsamic and red wine vinegar give it just the right amount of acid to counter the richness of the protein.
By the way, this is peak salmon season in Washington and the recipe is as Pacific Northwest as they come.
Number of servings: 4-6
Gadgets. Not my thing, usually. Was a late adopter to the smart phone, slow cooker, Instant Pot, and mandoline. Still don’t own an ice cream maker, waffle iron or Ebleskiver Pan, nor do I want any.
That said, I took swift interest in the Spiralizer www.williams-sonoma.com/products/5965843/ and hand-held julienne peeler www.target.com/p/zyliss-julienne-peeler/-/A-16731252. They appealed to my sensibilities and food preferences, particularly pasta, and introduced the idea of substituting vegetables as a healthy, low-carb alternative.
Kids love twirling the veggie strands onto their fork like spaghetti, and even my meat-and-potatoes loving BF loves it. One of the most endearing things he has said to me was, as I served him Spiralized rutabaga noodles with beef meatballs in marinara sauce, “I don’t miss the pasta.” [Ed. Note: Still don't.]
This is so easy, it’s barely a recipe. You can use a Spiralizer, but really, for this the hand-held julienne peeler works fine. The tool itself is inexpensive and can be bought most anywhere (see photo below).
The dish is gluten free, paleo, low carb, Whole30 friendly, and a great way to clear out your vegetable garden at the end of summer. Perfect for breakfast, lunch or dinner.
Number of servings: 2
Soft Boiled Eggs
More people will come if they think we have punch and crostata!
-Eric Cartman (who knows his pie substitutions)
If you're planning a La Resistance soiree, or even a Resist La Resistance soiree (hopefully the South Park fans will get this), you'll only need about two hours to throw this treat together, including resting and baking time. And Cartman is right, more people will show up.
Personally I prefer making crostatas because I like the fruit-to-crust ratio better than pies (read: I'm only in it for the crust).
And even if you have resistance fatigue, at least you can take advantage of the peak pluot and plum season with this crostata.
Adapted from: Honestly Yum
Number of servings: 6
I'm Jacquie, personal chef & recipe developer in the bay area. Living life with my wildly funny boyfriend and dog Marlowe. Lover of books, bourbon, chocolate and movies.