Upside Down Honey Walnut Pear Cake

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“And all at once summer collapsed into fall.” Oscar Wilde

The dynamic combination of in-season pears with honey, warming spices, yogurt and walnuts come together in this simple but elegant cake.  Instead of the usual brown sugar on the bottom of the pan, a honey-orange-vanilla syrup is poured over the pears before adding the batter.   Flavor-packed in every delectable bite, it is sure to become a fall favorite.  Serve with a dollop of  yogurt if you’re being good, or ice cream or whipped cream if not!

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Sheet Pan Bay Leaf-Orange Chicken and Sweet Potatoes

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When I read The New York Times’ recipe for Bay Leaf Chicken I was intrigued.  Most recipes calling for bay leaf only use 1.  This was meant to use up a lot of fresh bay leaves from the garden in a marinade for chicken thighs.  I wanted to try the recipe in spite of not growing bay leaves in my garden and I easily substituted dried bay leaves.   The marinade is absolutely fantastic.  It is more of a thick wet-rub with bay leaf, Worchestershire sauce, orange zest and the warming spices  of cumin and  coriander.  The original recipe asked for mustard seeds which I did not have so I substituted some grainy mustard and added some cumin seeds. The chicken thighs can marinade for as little as an hour or up to overnight.  Mine marinaded about 4 hours.  I modified the recipe completely from this point on.  I roasted the chicken in a sheet pan alongside sweet potatoes and shallots.  This dish smelled absolutely divine while cooking.  Instead of a parsley salad, I made a wilted spinach salad to accompany the chicken.  To serve, I spread a layer of baby spinach on a serving platter. I placed the hot chicken and sweet potatoes/shallots over the spinach to wilt it.  I drizzled the whole dish with a simple mustard vinaigrette then added the orange chunks and toasted sunflower seeds.  Sublime! So colorful and pretty, too.   Continue reading

French Almond-Pear Cake

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“It is, in my view, the duty of an apple to be crisp and crunchable, but a pear should have such a texture as leads to silent consumption.”
Edward Bunyard, ‘The Anatomy of Dessert’

More pear than cake, this cake is just bursting with fruit. Choose pears that are ripe yet still firm.  The pears do not need to be peeled, so this cake is super quick to make.   French in style, there is only enough batter to hold the fruit together. As far as cakes go, it is pretty guilt-free.  The almonds on top give it another layer of almond flavor and make it gorgeous to serve. Oh là là, délicieux!

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Turkey Cauliflower Mushroom Bake

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“We know that in September, we will wander through the warm winds of summer’s wreckage.  We will welcome summer’s ghost.”  Henry Rollins

Even though my children are grown and flown the coop, I still feel like it’s Back to School every September.  And that means baking wholesome one dish meals that fill the house with enticing aroma.   This healthy casserole is one of those perfect fall dishes, chock full of vegetables, low in carbs and fat.  Kids will think they’re having a fabulous Italian meal and won’t suspect you have an entire head of cauliflower hiding in there!  Roasted cauliflower is combined with ground turkey, mushrooms and spinach, topped with marinara and a sprinkling of parmesan.  It is baked to a pipping hot,  delectable 1-dish meal in just 15 minutes.  It can be made ahead a day.    I modified the original recipe from Cookin’ Canuck by adding spinach and shallots to the mix.  It made for a delicious weeknight low-carb meal.  To save time, you can use bottled marinara.  You can serve it over pasta, but then…there goes the low carb!  Enjoy!

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Fall Alfresco Table Setting

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“By all these lovely tokens September days are here,

With summer’s best of weather

And autumn’s best of cheer.”

Helen Hunt Jackson

When summer’s sultry heat has abated and the leaves have just started to turn is a wonderful time to enjoy some fall alfresco dining.  Take a cue from nature and highlight autumn’s gorgeous jewel shades in your table setting.  Start dinner a bit earlier to catch the setting sun and share some easy conversation around a table set under the early autumn sky.  Bring in some candlelight and break out the sweaters to stretch the evening under the stars.

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Breakfast Grain Salad with Fruit

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For a recent morning business meeting on a sveltering hot day, I was looking to serve something cool.  I searched for a breakfast salad not knowing if such a thing existed.  I came upon a quinoa berry salad on the Two Peas and Their Pod blog.  I loved all the fruit and nuts in it and the mint and basil herbs for flavor punch.  The vinaigrette is fat free and a combination of orange, lemon and lime juice with honey. My grain mixture had red quinoa, lentils, amariinth, wheat berry and farro.  So good with a great tooth feel and  crunch.  Fantastic source of protein as well.    I added arugula to my version and seasonal fruit instead of just berries.  It was a big hit.  Easily doubled for a crowd as I did for mine.  Why didn’t I think of salad for breakfast before now?  It was like a giant grain and fruit bowl that have become so popular.  Best eaten the day it is made because of the berries.  This salad is so good you may not want to have it just for breakfast.  It would make a great side for any meal.

Breakfast Grain Salad with Fruit

Adapted from Two Peas and Their Pod

Honey Citrus Vinaigrette:

1 teaspoon orange zest
4 tablespoons fresh orange juice
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1 tablespoon fresh lime juice
2 tablespoons honey
1 teaspoon finely chopped mint
1 teaspoon finely chopped basil

Salad:

  • 2 cups cooked ancient grains mix  or quinoa, cooled to room temperature
    1 1/2 cups strawberries, cut in quarters for the large ones or halves for the smaller ones
    5 clementine oranges, peeled and segmented
  • 2 cups of arugula
  • 1 cup of chopped seasonal fruit such as plums, pears or peaches
  • 1 cup blackberries
    1 cup blueberries
    1 cup roughly chopped toasted whole almonds
    1 tablespoon finely chopped mint
    1 tablespoon finely chopped basil
  • zest of 1 lime

Directions:

For the dressing:  In a small jar, whisk together the orange zest, orange juice, lemon juice, lime juice, honey, mint, and basil. Reserve.

For the salad:  In a large serving bowl, combine the cooked grains and the arugula.   Toss with the vinaigrette. Top the salad with the fruit, almonds, basil, mint and lime zest.  Toss gently just before serving.

Fall Floral Centerpieces from the Garden

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“Flowers always make people better, happier, and more helpful; they are sunshine, food and medicine to the mind.” Luther Burbank

One of my favorite challenges is to create floral arrangements out of what is blooming in my garden, no matter the season.  Come fall, the selections are fewer but no less interesting.  I was hosting a large group recently and needed several floral arrangements to place throughout the house. I went foraging in my garden and this is what I was able to find to work with:

  • persicaria ‘Red Dragon’, for its pretty purple and green foliage
  • hydrangea, in various stages of colors from green to deep pinks
  • astilbe in its post flowering seed stage
  • a few yellow annual dahlias still blooming in a planter
  • hardy begonias both for their delicate pink flowers and for their striking heart-shaped leaves
  • sedum ‘Autumn Joy’, still in its green stage
  • a single ‘Pierre-Auguste Renoir’ rose

I will show you half a dozen way I used different combinations of these flowers to create beautiful arrangements, all a bit different from one another.  Even when I didn’t think I had very much to work with and I was ready to run out to buy flowers, I managed to create seasonal centerpieces and hope to give you ideas to do the same.

For the bar area I created a tall arrangement in a birch bark container using astilbe, sedum, hydrangea, upside down begonia leaves and feather clusters in autumnal colors.  I started with a tight bundle of astilbe. I then wrapped sedum around their stems. Next came a crown of hydrangeas just beneath the sedum. I finished the arrangement with upside down begonia leaves for their striking pink color. I just gathered the flowers in hand and tied the stems together with an elastic band to keep the arrangement tight. I stuck the feathers in last. This is my favorite creation by far.  Doesn’t  it look like it came from a high end florist? Continue reading