Flash Back to Apple Crisp Slices

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It all started with the squirt of an aerosol whipped cream can. You know the sound….shirrrrrrrrg. The memories flooded in. Back to the days when the kids would scream with laughter as they filled their mouths with the sweet pillowy stuff and William would impersonate the famous John Belusi Animal House cafeteria scene. Duck for cover, I sure miss that goof-ball.

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Will: Hey mom guess who I am Me: Who? Will: I am a sugar cookie

But where was the shirrrrrrrg coming from? I haven’t bought whipped cream in a can in years. Enter husband and daughter. I find them in the kitchen filling their mouths like back in the old days. They are delighted and I am cracking up that husband smuggled in a can without me knowing.

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The kitchen antics remind me that many years ago I represented Connecticut in a recipe contest sponsored by a company that makes aerosol whipped cream. As a winner I was given a set of recipe cards that included all the state winners and their recipes. I dug those out and looking back I am so pleasantly surprised to see some of my dearest contest friends among them. We’ve come a long way and am so humbled to be in your company.

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Moving on and creating new memories I took Annabelle to  Barnard’s Orchard to pick up some fresh apples. The farm is 74 acres of preserved land that has been in the Barnard family for 4 generations. It’s a real gem of a place open all year long.

f2f2c1af-0b5e-45b6-ad08-88d466ab6873Annabelle loved her first farm visit with Kiki (I think) and we were delighted to find some of my favorite heirloom varieties.  This grandma will probably have Annabelle cooking before she can even eat solid food let alone stand at the counter, but she watches me in action and you know the best food memories have to do with the aroma of the kitchen.

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So, let’s bake some apples and create some warm memories. I love baking with a Stayman apple. These apples are crisp, juicy, spicy and tart, but best of all bake up tender and still hold their shape. This seasonally delicious and memorable recipe is just as easy to bake for two as it is for a whole crowd.

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Apple Crisp Slices

2 baking apples, peeled, cored and each sliced into 4 rings

3 tablespoons butter, melted

6 Stauffer’s Apple Pie Snaps*

¼ cup pecan halves

2 teaspoons turbinado or demera sugar

Aerosol whipped cream

Heat oven 450F. Line a rimmed baking sheet, just large enough to hold the 8 apple rings in a single layer, with heavy-duty foil. Brush foil with a little of melted butter. Place cookies and pecans in food processor; pulse until mixture is just crushed. Place cookie mixture on a flat plate. Brush apple slices all over with melted butter and then press each side into cookie mixture to coat. Place apples in prepared pan. Mix any remaining butter with any remaining crumbs and sprinkle over apples. Top apples evenly with sugar. Bake for 15 to 18 minutes or until apples are tender. Watch carefully to make sure crumbs don’t burn during the last few minutes. Serve with your favorite whipped cream. Serves 4.

*Note: if you can’t find Snaps then substitute cinnamon graham crackers

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The Best Pumpkin Harvest Torte

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Pumpkin. It’s everywhere this time of year including your appetizer, entree, dessert and coffee. Americans are obsessed with it. Not just limited to canned pumpkin, grocery store aisles are filled with a variety of pumpkin flavored products. It brings to mind falling leaves, cool nights and the smell of warm spices wafting through the kitchen.

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Recently, I tried these cookies called pumpkin spice snaps. Made in Pennsylvania, (love the USA) they are brand new to the market and I got a sneak peak taste. Filled with warm spices like cinnamon, ginger and cloves and sweetened with molasses these cookies have the perfect crispy snap that one would expect from the name. While simply delicious on their own I could not help but want to play with them in some dessert recipes. The first recipe I tried was a cookies and cream pumpkin cake. It was a hit with crispy cookie bits adding a textural contrast to the creamy frosting, but I could not stop there…….

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See those cookie bits on the edge of the cake? I greased my cake pans and then dusted them with finely crushed cookies instead of flour

……because as of today I have harvested 7 sugar pumpkins and there are at least another dozen lying in wait. I only planted 4 seeds! Plant some seeds people! For fresh pumpkin all one needs to do is roast them whole (400F. for about an hour) on a foil lined baking sheet until they feel soft. Cool, peel, seed and puree the orange flesh in the food processor and then drain for an hour or two in a paper towel lined sieve with a weighted plate on top. It’s amazing how much liquid drains out leaving silky concentrated fresh pumpkin behind. It freezes well, so please, completely skip the canned stuff. No garden? Pick up sugar pumpkins at the local farmers’ market.

In today’s featured recipe I really wanted to show these beautiful cookies off and there is no better way than my signature cookie crust. I first featured this idea many years ago in a Southern Living Magazine cook-off. It was such a big hit that even a restaurant out in Colorado asked my permission to use it on their menu. It works with any crisp, wafer like cookie and creates a lovely edge to the dessert.

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Bake off the crust and let it cool. Then fill with the most luscious fresh pumpkin mousse which in my case is “spirited” (I love you, William). If you don’t like the alcohol feel free to substitute fresh OJ or apple juice or even maple syrup in its place. Feel free to play with the spices too, but for me there is nothing better and easier than a quality pumpkin pie spice mixture like this one from King Arthur Flour.

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Make it one day in advance, so the cookies will soften slightly for easier cutting and take the edge off of your party planning. Anything I can make in advance of a holiday like Thanksgiving is a godsend. In fact, it can even be prepared 2 days in advance. Topped with sweetened whipped cream or Greek yogurt, oh, yes, this recipe is waaaaay better than the usual pumpkin pie. You are welcome.

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Pumpkin Mousse Torte

33 Stauffer’s Pumpkin Spice Snaps, divided

4 tablespoons (¼ cup) unsalted butter, melted

2 tablespoons water

2 tablespoons bourbon or orange juice (for non-alcohol version)

1 (1/4-oz) package unflavored gelatin

½ cup packed light brown sugar

¼ cup cornstarch

2 teaspoons pumpkin pie spice (I use King Arthur Flour brand)

¼ teaspoon salt

1 cup heavy cream, divided

2 egg yolks

1 ½ cups whole milk

1 cup unseasoned fresh or canned pumpkin, drained on paper towels

1-teaspoon vanilla

Heat oven 350F. Place 18 cookies in food processor fitted with blade. Process until cookies are finely crushed to make 1 cup of cookie crumbs. Add butter; pulse until crumbly. Press cookie crumbs over bottom of 9-inch springform pan. Place remaining cookies around edge of pan slightly overlapping and rounded side out. Gently press each cookie into the bottom crust. Bake for 8 to 10 minutes or until toasted. Cool crust in pan on a wire rack. In small bowl, combine water and bourbon or orange juice; sprinkle gelatin over the top. Set mixture aside to let gelatin soften. In medium saucepan, whisk brown sugar, cornstarch, pumpkin pie spice, salt and ½ cup heavy cream until smooth. Add egg yolks and milk; whisk until well blended. Cook over medium heat, whisking, until mixture comes to a boil. Reduce heat to low and continue cooking another minute being sure to scrape the sides of the pot with a heat-proof spatula. Whisk in gelatin mixture until it is fully dissolved. Remove from heat. Whisk in pumpkin and vanilla. Press a piece of plastic wrap to pumpkin mixture to prevent a skin from forming. Chill in refrigerator for 2 hours. Whip remaining ½ cup heavy cream to soft peaks; fold into pumpkin mixture. Pour filling into prepared crust; smooth top. Cover and chill at least 4 hours or as long as overnight. Cut into wedges and top with sweetened whipped cream or Greek yogurt.

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My absolute favorite sweet pumpkin

BTW-I receive no compensation for endorsing any products. Last year I won a contest sponsored by Stauffer’s and my prize is a monthly cookie gift package for a year.

What Is the Greatest Gift?

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Chocolate Espresso Lemon Crusted Tart

What is the greatest gift?

by Mary Oliver

What is the greatest gift?

Could it be the world itself — the oceans, the meadowlark,

the patience of the trees in the wind?

Could it be love, with its sweet clamor of passion?

Something else — something else entirely

holds me in thrall.

That you have a life that I wonder about

more than I wonder about my own.

That you have a life — courteous, intelligent —

that I wonder about more than I wonder about my own.

That you have a soul — your own, no one else’s —

that I wonder about more than I wonder about my own.

So that I find my soul clapping its hands for yours

more than my own.

Will & Cait

My children will always be my greatest gifts and forever Valentines. Here is a recipe for the love in your life.

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This tart is rich and brings me back to a most wonderful trip to Italy and another reason to indulge in the exotic Fiori di Sicilia flavoring. Chocolate-lemon-espresso seems strange, but strangely it works in a most complimentary way.

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Chocolate Espresso Lemon Crusted Tart

2 cups lemon snap cookie crumbs (I use Stauffer Brand)

6 tablespoons melted butter

¾ cup sugar

¼ cup cornstarch

2 teaspoons instant espresso powder

1/8 teaspoon fine sea salt

2 cups milk

4 egg yolks

2 ounces 90% cocoa chocolate squares (I used Lindt)

2 tablespoons unsalted butter

¼ teaspoon Fiori di Sicilia

Garnish: fresh whipped cream, chocolate covered coffee beans, lemon zest strips

Heat oven 350F. Mix cookie crumbs and melted butter. Press thickly up sides and then onto bottom of a 9 to 10-inch tart pan with removable bottom. Bake 10 minutes. Cool to room temperature and then place in freezer. Prepare filling. In medium saucepan, whisk sugar, cornstarch, espresso powder and salt. In a bowl, whisk milk and egg yolks until well blended. Pour milk mixture into saucepan whisking well. Bring mixture to a boil over medium heat, whisking constantly. Boil for 1 minute. Remove from heat. Drop chocolate squares on to surface of hot filling; let stand 30 seconds. Add butter and flavoring and whisk until chocolate and butter are melted and mixture is smooth. Pour into well-chilled pie shell. Cover surface of pie with plastic wrap to avoid skin formation. Chill. Garnish as desired.

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Happy Valentine’s Day and thank you to Doreen who so kindly found me and shared this most beautiful poem.