Salted Caramel Apple Cookies

Wow. These cookies may be my new favorite autumn dessert. I knew that we would love them when they were described as if “a caramel apple and a snickerdoodle got together and created some seriously delicious magic.” 🙂

This recipe is from Bon Appétit, contributed by Kelly Janke. I used Kanzi apples. Apparently, any type of apple will work in these cookies.

The original recipe stresses the importance of cooking the apple caramel to the proper consistency. It was a little tricky, but the instructions were very helpful. All of the liquid from the apples is cooked down until it has evaporated, leaving behind a “tacky and pliable” caramel. This wonderful caramel is folded into the cookie dough to create swirls in the finished cookies- fabulous.

Yield: Makes 25 cookies

For the Apple Caramel:

  • 3 medium apples (about 1 1/2 lbs total), peeled, cored (I used 3 (1 lb 6 oz total) Kanzi apples)
  • 1 1/4 cups (250 g) granulated sugar
  • 1/8 tsp cream of tartar
  • 2 T chilled unsalted butter
  • 1 1/2 tsp Diamond Crystal or 1 tsp Morton kosher salt
  • 1 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp ground cardamom (I used freshly ground cardamom, sifted)
  • 1/4 tsp freshly grated nutmeg

For the Dough & Assembly:

  • 3 1/2 cups (438 g) all-purpose flour
  • 1 1/2 tsp Diamond Crystal or 1 tsp Morton kosher salt
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1 tsp cream of tartar
  • 1 cup (2 sticks) chilled unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
  • 1 cup (200 g) granulated sugar
  • 1/2 cup, packed (100 g) dark brown sugar
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 T vanilla extract
  • flaky sea salt (I used Maldon)

To Make the Apple Caramel:

  1. In a food processor with the grater attachment, coarsely grate apples (or use large holes of a box grater).
  2. Transfer grated apples to a clean kitchen towel and squeeze over a medium bowl to extract all the juice possible. (I just squeezed the grated apples with my clean hands!)
  3. Measure out 1/4 cup (4 T) apple juice and set aside (save any leftover apple juice for another use).
  4. Set grated apples aside (you should have about 2 1/2 cups).
  5. Bring sugar, cream of tartar, and reserved 1/4 cup (4 T) apple juice to a rapid boil in a large saucepan over medium heat, stirring just to dissolve sugar. Cook, without stirring but swirling pan often, until bubbles slow and caramel turns a deep amber color, 5–7 minutes.
  6. Remove caramel from heat and stir in butter, salt, cinnamon, cardamom, and nutmeg.
  7. Set pan over medium-low heat and add reserved grated apples, stirring quickly to combine (don’t worry if the caramel mixture looks like it’s seizing at first). Cook apple caramel, stirring constantly, until it’s noticeably stickier, the liquid has evaporated, and it almost forms a ball as you stir, 10–14 minutes. (Don’t be tempted to continue cooking- if the caramel becomes too dry it will be more of a fruit leather when it cools.)
  8. Scrape apple caramel onto a parchment-lined baking sheet and spread out in an even layer. Let cool, at least 30 minutes.
  9. Set 1/4 cup apple caramel aside for topping cookies.

To Make the Dough, Assemble, & Bake:

  1. Place racks in upper and lower thirds of oven and preheat to 375°. (I used the true convection setting.)
  2. Whisk flour, salt, baking soda, and cream of tartar in a medium bowl to combine.
  3. Beat butter, granulated sugar, and brown sugar in a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, starting on low speed, then increasing speed to medium, until combined, about 2 minutes total.
  4. Add eggs one at a time, incorporating thoroughly before adding the next, then add vanilla.
  5. Reduce speed to low; add dry ingredients and mix just until combined.
  6. Add apple caramel and pulse mixer two or three times to swirl caramel throughout dough or fold in caramel using a sturdy rubber spatula (take care not to overmix or else you’ll lose the swirled caramel effect as the cookies bake).
  7. Using a 3 T (#20) cookie scoop portion out 16 balls and divide between 2 parchment-lined baking sheets, spacing at least 2″ apart (you will have dough left over for a 2nd batch).
  8. Top each cookie with a few small pieces of reserved apple caramel and sprinkle with flaky sea salt.
  9. Bake cookies, rotating baking sheets top to bottom and front to back halfway through, until golden brown at the edges, 12 to 16 minutes.
  10. Let cookies cool 5 minutes on baking sheets then transfer to a wire rack and let cool completely.
  11. On cool cookie sheets, repeat process with remaining dough to make 8 (or 9) more cookies.

Do ahead: Cookies can be made 5 days ahead. Store airtight at room temperature. (True! Still delicious the next day.)

Roasted Lemon Chicken over Garlicky Greens & Rice with Cucumber-Yogurt Sauce

This full-flavored weeknight dish was healthy and delicious. The yogurt sauce was an essential element for my family. Any combination of greens could be used in this dish- I used the ingredients that had just arrived in my CSA box. 🙂

This recipe was adapted from The New York Times, contributed by Melissa Clark. I incorporated sautéed collard greens, bok choy, and leeks. I served the chicken and greens over brown Basmati rice drizzled with pan juices. We also had warm naan on the side. Great.

Yield: Serves 4 to 6

For the Chicken:

  • 2 1/4 to 2 1/2 pounds boneless, skinless chicken thighs (I used 7 thighs)
  • coarse salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 4 large garlic cloves, finely grated, minced or passed through a press
  • 1 T finely chopped fresh thyme and/or oregano leaves (I used 1/2 T each) (can substitute 1 teaspoon dried thyme or oregano)
  • large pinch of red-pepper flakes
  • 3 T extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 lemon, cut lengthwise into 8 thin wedges

For the Garlicky Greens:

  • 3 T extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 bunch of collard greens, ribs removed, halved lengthwise
  • 2 baby bok choy
  • 1-2 leeks (I used 1 1/2 large leeks), sliced into 1/4-inch half moons and soaked
  • 5 large garlic cloves, thinly sliced
  • coarse salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • large pinch of red pepper flakes, or to taste
  • 1 T sherry vinegar

For the Cucumber-Yogurt Sauce:

  • 1/2 cup plain Greek or other strained, thick yogurt (or substitute labneh or sour cream) (I used 2% Greek yogurt)
  • 1/2 cup coarsely grated seedless cucumber, such as Persian or hothouse cucumbers
  • 1 large garlic clove, finely grated, minced or passed through a press

To Serve:

  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh mint, parsley, and/or cilantro, for garnish
  • brown Basmati rice, for serving
  • warm flatbread, such as naan, for serving, optional

To Prep & Roast the Chicken:

  1. Heat oven to 425 degrees. (I set my oven to convection roast.)
  2. Pat the chicken dry with paper towels and season generously with the salt and pepper.
  3. In a large bowl, combine 4 of the grated garlic cloves, thyme and/or oregano, red-pepper flakes, and olive oil.
  4. Add chicken and lemon wedges, and toss until well coated. (If you want to work ahead, you can refrigerate the chicken for up to 12 hours before roasting.) (I marinated the chicken in the refrigerator for 6 hours prior to cooking.)
  5. To Prep the Greens: Cut the ribbed collards into 1/4-inch ribbons. Slice ribbons in half; set aside. Cut the leafy portion of the bok choy into 1/2-inch ribbons. Rinse and dry the collards and leafy bok choy. Cut the bok choy stems into 1/8-inch pieces, cutting larger pieces in half to make relatively equal-sized pieces. Soak separately from the leafy greens to clean; rinse, dry, and set aside.
  6. Arrange chicken and lemons on a parchment paper-lined, rimmed sheet pan in a single layer.
  7. Roast until chicken is cooked through, 20 to 25 minutes in a convection oven, or up to 27 to 35 minutes in a standard oven. The internal temperature should be 165 degrees on an instant read thermometer.
  8. After placing the chicken in the oven, cook the rice, the greens, and make the sauce. (see below)

To Cook the Garlicky Greens:

  1. In a large skillet, heat the olive oil over medium to medium-high. Add the soaked and strained leeks, sliced garlic, and chopped bok choy stems. Season with salt, pepper, and red pepper flakes and cook until beginning to soften, about 5 minutes.
  2. Add the washed leafy greens, 1 to 2 handfuls at a time, and stir until wilted. Continue until all of the greens have been added to the pan. Cook until tender, 3 to 5 minutes.
  3. Season with the sherry vinegar as well as salt and pepper, to taste.

To Make the Cucumber-Yogurt Sauce:

  1. Stir together yogurt, grated cucumber and clove of minced garlic in a small bowl.
  2. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Cover and keep in refrigerator until ready to serve.

To Serve:

  1. Layer the sautéed greens over the rice on a platter or other serving dish.
  2. Top with the roasted chicken. Squeeze roasted lemon wedges all over chicken, and sprinkle with mint/parsley/cilantro and more red-pepper flakes, if desired.
  3. Drizzle some of the accumulated pan juices over the top of everything.
  4. Serve chicken accompanied by cucumber-yogurt sauce and warm flatbread.

Pumpkin Cupcakes with Maple-Cream Cheese Frosting

In the fall, my daughter would love to eat some sort of “pumpkin spice” item every day to celebrate the season. 😉 She loved these cupcakes!

These super moist cupcakes were delicious but it was the maple-cream cheese frosting that really put them over the top. The frosting was fabulously creamy with the perfect amount of sweetness.

The recipe was adapted from David Leite via smittenkitchen.com. I modified the method and used fine sea salt.

Yield: 18 cupcakes (with leftover frosting)

For the Cupcakes:

  • 1 stick unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 1 cup firmly packed dark-brown sugar
  • 1/3 cup granulated sugar
  • 2 cups cake flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda, sifted
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt
  • 1/8 to 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1/2 cup buttermilk, at room temperature
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 1 1/4 cups canned solid-pack pumpkin

For the Frosting:

  • Two (8-ounce) packages cream cheese, softened
  • 1 stick unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 2 cups confectioners’ sugar, sifted
  • 4 T (1/4 cup) pure maple syrup
  • pinch fine sea salt

To Make the Cupcakes:

  1. Heat oven to 350° (175°C), preferably on convection. Line a cupcake pan with 18 liners.
  2. In a stand mixer, beat the butter and sugars on medium speed until fluffy, about 5 minutes.
  3. Meanwhile, whisk the flour, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, cloves, salt, and pepper into a medium bowl.
  4. Add eggs, one at a time, to the mixer, scraping down the sides after each addition.
  5. Combine the buttermilk and vanilla extract in a liquid measuring cup.
  6. Alternate adding the flour and buttermilk mixtures to the mixer, beginning and ending with the flour.
  7. Beat in the pumpkin until smooth.
  8. Scoop the batter among the cupcake liners — you’re looking to get them 3/4 full. (I used a cookie scoop.)
  9. Bake the cupcakes until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean, rotating halfway through the baking time, about 19 to 20 minutes on convection or up to 20 to 25 minutes in a standard oven.
  10. Cool the cupcakes on racks completely before topping with the frosting.

To Make the Frosting:

  1. In a stand mixer, beat the cream cheese and butter to combine.
  2. Add all of the additional ingredients and continue to beat on medium speed until fluffy.
  3. Frost the tops of each cupcake, swirling decoratively. (I used a pastry bag and decorative piping tip.)
  4. Refrigerate cupcakes for 30 minutes to set up frosting prior to serving.

Pesto-ish Risotto

Every fall, black swallowtail caterpillars takeover my backyard basil plants. I needed to make this basil-loaded dish before sharing my plants with them. :/

This risotto was rich, creamy, and hearty. The absolute highlight of the finished dish was the crispy garlic and pan-toasted pine nut topping. Loved it.

This recipe was adapted from Bon Appétit, contributed by Christian Reynoso. I adapted the original recipe to prepare it in a pressure cooker. Easy and elegant.

Yield: 4 to 6 Servings

  • 4 T unsalted butter, divided
  • 2 cups arborio or carnaroli rice
  • 5 to 8 large garlic cloves, thinly sliced, divided
  • 6 cups chicken or vegetable stock
  • 5 T extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1/4 cup (4 T) raw pine nuts
  • 1/2 tsp ground turmeric
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
  • 4 1/2 cups (loosely packed) basil leaves (from 1 large bunch), torn into 1″ pieces
  • shaved or finely grated Parmesan, for serving (I used Parmigiano-Reggiano)
  • Parmesan rind, optional
  • juice of 1/2 large lemon
  1. Melt 2 tablespoons of butter in a 5 or 7 quart pressure cooker over medium heat.
  2. Add the rice and increase heat to medium-high. Cook, stirring, until grains are partially translucent, about 1 1/2 minutes.
  3. Add 2 cloves of garlic slices and cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds.
  4. Add all of the unheated stock; stir.
  5. Lock the lid in place and bring to high pressure over high heat.
  6. Adjust the heat to maintain high pressure. Cook for 7 minutes.
  7. Release the pressure according to the manufacturer’s instructions or place the pot under running cold water. (I used a quick release method.)
  8. Carefully open the lid, being careful of the steam. The stock should be almost completely absorbed but the rice will be covered with a thick layer of milky broth. (more stock can be added at this point if the risotto appears too thick)
  9. Meanwhile, cook the remaining 6 cloves of garlic slices, olive oil, and pine nuts in a small saucepan over medium-low heat, stirring occasionally, until garlic starts to turn golden around edges. Reduce heat to low and continue to cook, stirring often, until pine nuts and garlic are golden, about 5 minutes.
  10. Remove from heat; stir in turmeric and season with pepper, to taste. Set aside.
  11. Stir in remaining 2 tablespoons of butter, the Parmesan rind, if using, into the risotto. Season with salt, to taste.
  12. Stir the freshly squeezed lemon juice into the risotto and add freshly ground black pepper, to taste.
  13. Stir basil into risotto.
  14. Ladle risotto, discarding the Parmesan rind, into shallow bowls. Top with garlic–pine nut oil and Parmesan. Serve.

Cheesy Baked Pasta with Butternut Squash & Greens

My kids love the Butternut Squash Mac and Cheese from Trader Joe’s. (It sells out daily- so they are clearly not alone!) This vegetarian comfort food dish seemed reminiscent enough to be a crowd-pleaser. 😉 I liked that it incorporated leafy greens too.

This recipe was adapted from The New York Times, contributed by Yasmin Fahr. I modified the method and proportions. I also added a poblano chile, red onion, garlic, and cilantro. Nice.

Yield: Serves 6

  • Kosher salt
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 medium or 1/2 large red onion, diced
  • 1 poblano chile, seeded, ribbed, and diced, divided (or 1 jalapeño, sliced into rounds)
  • 6 large garlic cloves, thinly sliced
  • 1 medium butternut squash (about 2 1/2 pounds), peeled, seeds removed and cut into 1/2-inch cubes (about 6 cups)
  • 1 tablespoon ground cumin
  • 1/2 teaspoon red-pepper flakes, plus more to taste
  • 1 pound rigatoni, penne, or other tubular pasta
  • 3/4 cup freshly grated Parmesan (I used Parmigiano-Reggiano), divided
  • 4 packed cups greens (I used 2 cups turnip greens (sliced into 1-inch ribbons) and 2 cups baby spinach)
  • 8 oz (1/2 pound) fresh mozzarella, torn into bite-size chunks
  • 1/3 cup cilantro or flat-leaf parsley and tender stems, roughly chopped, for garnish
  1. Bring a large covered pot of heavily salted water to a boil. Cook the pasta until not quite al dente, 3 to 4 minutes less than the package instructions. (It should be a little too firm to the bite.) Reserve 2 cups of the pasta water and drain. Set aside.
  2. Meanwhile, in a 12-inch ovenproof skillet with high sides and a tight-fitting lid (or a Dutch oven), heat the oil over medium-high until shimmering. (I used a large and wide enameled cast iron pan.)
  3. Add the diced onion and half of the diced poblano chile, season with salt, and cook until beginning to soften, about 2 minutes.
  4. Add the sliced garlic and continue to cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds.
  5. Add the cubed squash and season with salt, cumin, and red-pepper flakes. Cook, stirring every minute, until squash becomes browned in spots and feels just tender, 6 to 8 minutes.
  6. Meanwhile, heat the oven to 400 degrees. (I set my oven to convection.)
  7. When the squash is just tender, add 1 cup of the reserved pasta water. Bring to an active simmer, cover and cook, stirring occasionally, until the squash is soft and easily mashable, 10 to 12 minutes.
  8. Turn off the heat, then use the back of a wooden spoon to crush about half of the butternut squash and leave the rest chunky. Season the squash to taste, keeping in mind that salty Parmesan will be added soon.
  9. Add the cooked pasta to the skillet along with the remaining 1 cup of reserved pasta water and 1/2 cup grated Parmesan. Stir vigorously to combine.
  10. Stir in the greens one handful at a time until each addition wilts slightly.
  11. Sprinkle the top with the remaining 1/4 cup Parmesan, the mozzarella, and the remaining diced poblano chile. Place in the oven and cook until the top is melted and browned in spots, 12 to 15 minutes.
  12. Top with minced cilantro and serve.

Roasted Spaghetti Squash

When I recently received spaghetti squash in my CSA box, my farm newsletter included a link to this Food 52 recipe. I had to make it after reading the first line of the article- “When you think spaghetti squash do you think snoozefest?” Maybe? I definitely hadn’t cooked or eaten spaghetti squash in recent memory.

This recipe was adapted from Food 52, contributed by Checker. I modified the proportions and method. The results were cheesy, buttery, and subtly sweet. Easy and simple to prepare and no longer a snoozefest! 😉

  • 1 medium-sized spaghetti squash
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
  • 4 tablespoons turbinado sugar
  • 4 to 6 T freshly grated Parmesan cheese
  • 1 pinch coarse salt, plus more to taste
  1. Preheat your oven to 400° F. I set my oven to convection roast.
  2. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or foil. 
  3. Halve the squash lengthwise and scoop out the seeds.
  4. Brush the inside of the squash liberally with the melted butter and sprinkle sugar all over the insides. 
  5. Place the squash cut side down on the lined baking sheet. Brush a little of the butter over the skin. (I used the residual butter that was left on the basting brush.)
  6. Bake for 45 minutes to an hour, or until the skin of the squash is starting to show some brown blisters.
  7. Use a fork to scrape out the strings of squash, loosening it so that it’s a spaghetti-like consistency. 
  8. Toss with grated Parmesan, season with salt, and serve. 

Kale & Spinach Spanakopita Pie

This savory pie gobbled up all of the kale from my CSA box. Kale is more appetizing to my crowd when it’s paired with lots of salty cheese. 🙂 We ate it as a main course with sliced heirloom tomatoes and green salad on the side. It would be wonderful served for brunch or a special lunch too.

This recipe was adapted from The Washington Post, contributed by G. Daniela Galarza. I modified the method and incorporated my CSA purple kale and Toscano kale along with baby spinach. Swiss chard and/or collard greens could also be used in the filling.

The original recipe notes that sheep’s milk feta is traditional in spanakopita but any salty, crumbly or grated cheese such as cojita, chevre, extra-sharp white cheddar, paneer or pecorino would also work. The pie can also be made without the crust as a gluten-free option. Healthy and delicious.

Yield: Serves 4 to 6

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil, plus more for brushing
  • 1 bunch (about 4 ounces) scallions, white and green parts, thinly sliced
  • 8 to 10 cups (about 10 ounces) baby spinach (whole) and/or other greens (I used stemmed purple and Toscano kale, sliced into 1/4-inch ribbons)
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 8 ounces phyllo dough, about half a box, defrosted
  • 1 bunch (about 1 heaping cup leaves) fresh dill or parsley leaves, chopped
  • 1/2 cup plain breadcrumbs
  • 6 ounces feta, crumbled
  • 1/8 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 3 large eggs, whisked well
  1. In a large skillet over medium-high heat, heat 2 tablespoons of olive oil until shimmering. (I used a 14-inch stainless skillet.)
  2. Add the scallions and cook, stirring occasionally, until they start to brown, about 1 minute.
  3. Add the spinach/greens and salt, and cook until the greens wilt, release their liquid, and dry out, about 5 minutes.
  4. Scrape the mixture into a large bowl and let it cool while you prep the other ingredients and prepare the crust.
  5. Position a rack in the middle of the oven and preheat to 400 degrees. (I set my oven to true convection.)
  6. Brush a 9-inch pie plate with olive oil or coat with cooking spray. (I used a ceramic deep dish pie plate.)
  7. Crumble the feta in a medium bowl. Add the breadcrumbs, black pepper, and chopped herbs. Set aside.
  8. Whisk the eggs in a separate bowl. Set aside.
  9. Unravel the phyllo dough onto a clean, dry work surface. (I cover the stack with damp paper towels, topped with plastic wrap to prevent the dough from drying out.)
  10. Working quickly, gently brush the top sheet of phyllo with some olive oil. There’s no need to oil every spot; the oil will spread as you work. Pick up the first three or four sheets of phyllo in a stack and lay them, oil side up, in the pan, allowing one narrow end to cover the bottom of the pan and the other end to climb up the side of the pie plate and hang over the edge. (I layered the sheets one by one but would group them next time!)
  11. Repeat, brushing the top of the remaining stack of phyllo sheets, and placing the next three or four sheets into the pan, oil side up. Continue oiling and fitting the oiled phyllo into the pie plate, rotating the pan so that the bottom is covered and a roughly even amount of phyllo is hanging over the circumference of the pie plate. This will not look perfect; if the phyllo tears, patch it and keep going. Set the pie plate aside.
  12. Add the chopped herbs, breadcrumbs, feta and black pepper to the cooled spinach, stirring to combine.
  13. Add the eggs, mixing well to combine.
  14. Pour the filling into the phyllo-lined pie plate and, using your fingers, crinkle the phyllo overhang partially over the top of the pie, leaving a 5- to 6-inch diameter in the center exposed. The more crinkled the top is, the nicer it will look once baked, so don’t worry about making this look neat.
  15. Lightly oil any dry spots of phyllo before baking, if needed.
  16. Bake for 22 to 35 minutes, or until the filling is set and the phyllo is deep brown in places, like the color of an almond skin. Serve hot or at room temperature.

Note: The filling can be made one day in advance.

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