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It’s all about apples these days. And fortunately or unfortunately, it will be for some time…at least if you head to a farmer’s market in the Northeast in the next 6 months. If you get sick of just munching on them in their unadulterated form, may I suggest one of these two baked goods? Neither of these recipes requires the quantity of apples that, say, an actual apple pie requires. So if you’ve got a bumper crop or have gone apple picking, you might want to look elsewhere.

But, if you like subtly apple-flavored, perfect-for-fall recipes, look no further. The challah is definitely a bit more involved, but totally worth it. Actually, if you’re working from home like I am these days, you may want to think twice about this bread….I have been tearing off hunks every time I walk by the plate and it’s getting kind of embarrassing how much I’ve eaten in the last day. Therefore, I recommend making these for parties — I made the apple cider donut cake for a potluck and mercifully I did not take any home with me.

The Apple Cider Doughnut Cake recipe can be found here, at Serious Eats. My only modifications were to use 1/2 t. maple extract and 1/2 t. vanilla instead of all vanilla. Maple is just such a perfect complement to the other flavors. But it’s not essential. I also tried doing a glaze instead of the sugar coating and I’d say it was a solid “meh” so follow the recipe on that one. You win some, you lose some.

The Apple Honey Challah is from, where else, Smitten Kitchen. I didn’t modify anything in the recipe, but I think my braids were too fat, resulting in a shape that got a bit funky as it rose in the oven. But it didn’t affect the flavor so I wouldn’t stress about it if I were you.

Fall is here people, and there’s no turning back!

There’s nothing that motivates me to cook more than throwing a party. There just isn’t the same healthy pressure when cooking for yourself. Even when I am motivated enough to whip something up that’s really good, the reward of cooking for lots of people is definitely greater.

When I have guests over, I actually buck the common wisdom and cook new things fairly frequently. What can I say? I like living on a very, very safe edge. I definitely have a few go-to dishes that I like to make for parties, but in general, I get bored when I make things too many times.

Last night was Mark’s birthday party, and I wanted to make a couple of simple snacks to avoid excessive drunkenness. Dips typically serve that purpose pretty well, especially when you serve them with lots of bread. For this dip, I incorporated a lot of roasted garlic and some caramelized leeks with white beans and other deliciousness.

For the desert, my decision was sort of circumstantial — I have a friend who works in a photo studio and gave me 9 granny smith apples that were left over from a photo shoot (I am not above free apples, people), so I finally made this apple sharlotka from Smitten Kitchen that I’ve had my eye on. I added some nutmeg to the mix, but otherwise followed the recipe faithfully. It is tender, moist, apple-filled, and nice and tart — in other words, highly recommended and quite simple to make. I have a 10″ springform and it was flatter but worked out just fine.

Full recipe for the dip after the jump!

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Sometimes I have the hardest time finding simple recipes online. Does this happen to you? I guess for the sake of differentiating, people try to create the craziest thing instead of the basic thing. For instance, I searched for an oatmeal cookie recipe and got something along the lines of “Oatmeal Chocolate Cherry Chunk with Almond Crumble” or something equally ridiculous. All I wanted were oatmeal cookies!!!

So then I tracked down this crispy oatmeal chocolate chip cookie recipe on food52, and instead of the chocolate chips, I used pecans. I will be clear: I am anti-raisin and anti-chocolate when it comes to oatmeal cookies. Look, chocolate chip cookies are awesome, but don’t let that bleed into every other kind of cookie, OK? Chocolate doesn’t belong in everything. But I digress. I learned from making these that I do, however, like and even encourage some crunchy nuts in chewy raisins’ place.

The only other change I made was that I didn’t have allspice, so I added some cardamom to these instead. Clove would probably be equally delicious. The warm spices made them almost like oatmeal snickerdoodles. Totally awesome.

OK time to freak outttttt! I’m back! (and just in time for Thanksgiving).

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve cooked something in the past few months and thought “I should take a picture of this” and just didn’t. I didn’t have my camera for about a month, but that’s no excuse, since I do have my iPhone camera after all. I also no longer have a computer at home, which complicates things…but I’ve just gotten a new work laptop that I think I’ll have with me a lot more (mostly because I have to work more, but let’s just pretend it’s because I like the computer). All that to say, no more excuses, I’m going to try to post at least a couple times a week. I mean, it’s baking season and Thanksgiving season and I’m drooling just thinking of all the pies I’m going to make and I hate just leaving this thing languishing out there in the vast internet wasteland.

So what started out as “I’m sick, I’m going to make soup” turned into a fall feast — don’t worry, this was a couple weeks ago, so not totally competing with Thanksgiving’s feastiness. When Gemma and I cook, we COOK if you know what I mean. I made a tomato fennel soup (a variation on one I’ve made many times before), and she made a fall panzanella salad from smitten kitchen, and then I made a sweet potato buttermilk pie, also courtesy of Deb. Seriously, when I feel too crap to go outside, sometimes whisking is the only thing that makes me feel better. This pie is incredibly light and fluffy, like a souffle. It’s tart and not too sweet thanks to the buttermilk, and the spices hearken back to my favorite of all pies, pumpkin. This is a great option for Thanksgiving, and the lightness would be an added benefit on a day when your stomach usually feels like it’s full of bricks by the time it’s all over.

I also FINALLY just watched Julie & Julia, so I am feeling a bit more motivated to blog (look, I’m under no illusion that Amanda Hesser is going to come knocking on my door any time soon, or that I’ll be in the New York Times, but a girl can dream about a book advance right?). I’m also not going to be deboning a whole duck either, but that’s ok. I’ve actually returned (mostly) to my vegetarian roots lately for a plethora of reasons that I won’t go into here, so this entire meal is vegetarian. And, did I mention, totally awesomely delicious?? The garlic parmesan croutons in the salad alone are enough to make me weep with joy. Recipe for the soup after the jump, salad here and pie here.

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I keep looking at the 10 day forecast on, and it keeps showing me these awful, awful things. Like 90+ degree days with horrible little graphics of clouds and lightning bolts. It’s enough to give me nightmares about hair frizz.

This, however, is a good little dessert recipe to have in your pocket if you are suffering from the “no central air” problem and live somewhere with an equally unbearable summer climate. Cheesecake without the oven. Now, this is no New York-style Junior’s cheesecake, I admit that. But it’s tasty, cold, and goes nicely with all that berryliciousness at the farmer’s market.

I found this recipe on Martha Stewart’s site, and it called for a 6″ springform pan. I could only find a 7″ one…and I’m one of those idiots that will buy a pan just to make one recipe. I’m positive you could double it and just make a regular sized cheesecake, but if you’re feeling like buying something useless, go for it. It’s also very cute in the small size, if that convinces you!

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Admittedly crappy lighting in this photo, but I hope you can appreciate how freaking delicious this pie was just by looking at it. Perhaps Deb’s photos on smitten kitchen will convince you (that link has the recipe as well, if you’re interested). You’ve got to try this crust — it was super flaky and crisp, such a nice contrast to the buttery texture of the fruit. The only changes I made to this recipe were to add about a cup of blueberries and a bit of extra crème fraîche (maybe 2 additional T.). This pie is really easy to make, and would be the perfect dish to bring to a summer bbq, chilled, room temperature, or still warm from the oven. It’s great any way you slice it.

It is May 11, and decidedly not popsicle weather. We were teased briefly a few weeks ago — I know, because I enjoyed a tangy rhubarb People’s Pop at the Brooklyn Flea in the gorgeous spring sun. But now we seem to have skipped straight to fall. Blustery, chilly…sweater weather, really. I know it’s only temporary, but I have popsicles on the brain.

Because popsicle molds are all so different, I can’t really give a recipe, but I can say: measure your mold (fill it with water and see how much it holds) and then just make your concoction. You can use anything from straight liquid to a more smoothie / milkshake consistency to make delicious popsicles. These were made from frozen strawberries, vanilla yogurt, and a touch of pomegranate juice I had sitting in my fridge. I was going to try strawberry and basil as a bit of an experiment, but chickened out.

In any case, practice your combos now — you’ll want a freezer-ful once the real hot weather hits!

OK look. I don’t particularly love cupcakes, and I would never wait a million hours outside of Magnolia to get one. I don’t ever make cupcakes. In fact, I had to buy a muffin tin just for these. I would like to lie to you and say that the dreaded Hallmark / diamond / chocolate industry holiday (you know of what I speak) did not inspire me to make a slightly more fantastic dessert than normal. But I can’t, it did inspire me. And you know what? I’m. Not. Sorry.

You can tell just from the texture of the batter how light and airy these will be. And did I mention the whipped cream is actually white chocolate mint whipped cream? Although I had to shell out $5.99 for peppermint extract, it was worth it. Now I just need to find some more pepperminty recipes to try, or just make this whipped cream once a week to satisfy my craving until it runs out. I’m seriously considering the latter option.

These are outrageously good, and for some reason I came out with not 9 cupcakes as the recipe said I would get, but 12+. Not that I’m complaining, but really, these are best consumed day-of, so do make them for any upcoming events where 12 cupcakes might be gobbled up immediately — birthdays, bar mitzvahs (I just watched ‘A Serious Man’ so I have Judaism on the brain), weddings, celebrations, etc.

Thank you, smitten kitchen, once again, for introducing me to greatness. Recipe here.

I love to bake in general, but my favorite recipes to bake are quick breads. Endless variety and so easy. Plus, since many of them contain either fruit or vegetables, I can fool myself into thinking they’re healthy! Aah, the power of denial. This recipe is more cake-like than bread-like, but since it’s made in a loaf pan, it’s pretty much a quick bread in my mind, and thus totally acceptable to eat as breakfast.

Since most fruits (or vegetables, for that matter) are not exactly in season right now, you should make this grapefruit cake — citrus is one of the things that gets me out of bed on these miserable, gray winter days, when the thought of fresh corn on the cob and giant bunches of basil at the farmer’s market will just about send me over the ledge. Soon enough I’ll be bitching about how I can’t walk anywhere without sweating profusely, and longing for the days of jeans and boots and turtlenecks. But such is life in New York, where we get about 10 days of absolutely transcendent weather during the year, and that measly quantity somehow fools us into tolerating months on end of misery. Today was more miserable than most, what with the torrential rain, but when you have a tangy, sunny piece of cake waiting for you, it’s not so bad. You can almost pretend spring is on the way.

I found this recipe, like many others I have so enjoyed, on Smitten Kitchen. I’ll just link to the recipe since I didn’t make any modifications. Enjoy!

Last Friday, my friend Melissa came over for a mellow ladies’ night in. It was a definite change of pace after our first week back at work after the holidays. We made some delicious fennel, tomato and white bean soup with gremolata and crusty bread with fontina melted on top. And for desert, an apple galette! ‘Twas delicious. We had a bottle of wine (though we could have easily drank two) and just listened to music and geeked out.

Recipe for the soup was improvised, and the galette recipe is courtesy of Alice Waters. The dough isn’t sweetened, the apples have no spices on them, and yet, it is so delicious. Something to be said for her simple approach. Recipes after the jump.

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