Monday, November 5, 2012

A Glance at October

It seems as if October was one of extremes, with good weather to kick off the month and bad weather to end it.  For two full weeks or so we enjoyed such beautiful days of comfortable temperatures, plenty of sunlight and some of the most spectacular colors in the landscape.  It was fortuitous of me to have photographed the surrounding areas of our home when I had the chance, because I was able to compare and contrast the dramatic changes we go through every fall season in the Northeast.  I hope you enjoyed viewing those photographs.  Those days are nothing more than wonderful memories & images now that the weather has turned much colder and most of the trees have lost their copious foliage.  I live for those few weeks every single year, which to my mind, are unlike any other the rest of the year.  Keep reading and click on the links to revisit those days I'm referring to if you haven't done so yet.

Photographing the outdoors wasn't the only thing I did for the blog this past month.  There was plenty of cooking and baking throughout those glorious weeks with new recipes for all of you try at home.  A flavorful vegetable broth was simmered to golden perfection and a tasty rice pilaf was made using this 'liquid gold'; simmer a large pot of it now that the weather is getting cold!  My signature pumpkin custards got revamped with different proportions in spice and were sweetened with the most delicious pure Vermont maple syrup, which resulted in a scrumptious dessert worthy of any special occasion.  For The Monthly Cookie, I decided to explore adding a favorite nostalgic treat of mine into a soft cookie dough redolent of molasses and butterscotch.  Those caramel popcorn cookies chock-full of Cracker Jack were given to a few people who were unaware of what was in them.  Needless to say, those cellophane bags were ripped open and not a crumb was left at the end of the day.  Who can blame them?  Read further and go through the other recipes I showcased this past month, because I think you're going to like them.

A few items from my personal collection of Martha by Mail were rediscovered for you collectors out there who can't get enough of the former catalog.  I absolutely love it when a reader approaches me with an email or note asking specific questions about certain collectibles, because it helps me develop future stories for the blog or it gets my mind thinking in another direction.  I try very hard to be precise when answering people's queries regarding the subject of collecting and when I don't know the answer, I will tell you.  I also like people's questions about cooking & baking!  Keep them coming.

Speaking of collecting, I am so happy now that I have my yellowware out of storage and in my kitchen.  The bowls & molds make the space feel cozier with such rich browns, reds, creams and yellows that this pottery is known for.  

Let's go through October here on the blog! 

Mixing the custard base is the easiest thing in the world.  This is essentially a pumpkin pie filling which gets baked into individual crust less servings.  Perfect for those who are on gluten-free diets, they're also marvelous for those of us who can't get enough of pumpkin during the fall.

 
Of course it comes as no surprise that every last one of these custards was eaten.  At our house pumpkin is a key ingredient for many weeks during the season.  Try making some soon.

This is such a fragrant & beautiful cookie dough to put together.  I give you the option to mix the caramel popcorn either by hand or by mixer.  The former gives you large pieces of crunchy popcorn & peanuts, and the latter gives you broken down bits.  To each his own.  They're delicious either way.
One of the things I love about these little nibbles is how the caramel breaks down into little pools throughout each bite. 

How do I enjoy eating them?  With a cup of my favorite coffee from La Colombe, called Corsica.  It's roasted here in Philadelphia.  Famed Chef Daniel Boulud says it's "the most reliable and consistent coffee we have ever served."  Actually, I'm not surprised.  I've been drinking this coffee for over 10 years now and nothing compares to it.

The basics are all washed and ready here on this large cotton flour sack cloth.  There is something so comforting and wonderful about simmering a large pot of stock no matter what it is.  Knowing that one is making a delicious & healthy liquid which can be used for a number of things is one of life's little pleasures.  
Chef Thomas Keller always stresses the point: strain, strain, strain!  I agree with him 100%.  In order to get the clearest broth one has to strain through a fine mesh sieve lined with cheesecloth, just like I'm doing.  Look at the vegetable stock that's emerging into that bowl.  Delicious!

The essentials for a quick & easy rice pilaf are a mere handful.  I don't like to use a lot of onion or shallot, but in order to make a good rice pilaf one should add some for flavor.

A well done pilaf will have absorbed all of the cooking liquid and every grain will separate from one another.  Make some for dinner tonight.

These tiny cutters meant for marshmallows are wonderful for cookie doughs.  I love the spooky Halloween shapes, especially the little kitty that is arched into a frightful stance. 

Here was a little tour of our surroundings mid-October.  As I was walking through this area I was inspired to collect leaves in the most beautiful fall colors to show you.  The paths that are cleared make walking through here such a pleasure.
It was on this day that I finally took my yellowware out of storage.  Do you see why I love it so much?  The variations in hues and the many impurities in the clay make each bowl & mold unique.  Many of these collectibles were not marked when they were made in the late 19th to early 20th century, but a few were.  If you happen to find any that are stamped with a potter's mark expect to pay more for the piece. 
A nice view as I'm standing halfway up the long driveway shows you the foliage as it began to change.  Go through this nice entry one more time.

Among my favorite Martha by Mail cutters are the Chubby Pumpkin & Tom Turkey.  It's hard to imagine two other images that are more iconic during the months of October & November.  Get inspired and decorate some whimsical cookies for your next gathering!

As I write this I'm craving one of these apple muffins full of good things.  The best apples, some brown sugar & butter, lots of spice & buttermilk, along with a few other basics make a very moist muffin.
A wonderful thing for breakfast spread with a lightly sweetened cream cheese, the muffins are also perfect to have in the afternoon with a cup of green tea.  Tempted?

And then all of sudden one gorgeous morning we woke up to this.  I stayed outdoors for several hours just enjoying the weather and scenery on this particular day.  Even the birds were enjoying themselves.

The hill which gently slopes downward is a favorite spot of mine to take photographs.  Every single time I walk up toward the field I can't wait to see what's going on in the meadow.  It is never the same from day to day.

Looking down onto the leaf-covered driveway, the view was just as breathtaking.  I hope you can understand why I love the fall season so much here in the Northeast.

Ah, my little ones.  I'm talking about my niece & nephews of course.  I wanted to surprise them one day with a box of treats and presents, because I know how happy they get when I send them anything.  Just to make sure the cookies were up to snuff, uncle had to try a few of them with his tea before packaging them up for shipment.  Rest assured I gave them the seal of approval!

Delicious caramel poured onto the bottom of a pan awaiting a delicious custard was made on this day from a recipe that was given to me by a dear friend.  I first tasted this delicious flan on one of my travels and to this day, it remains among my favorite versions of creme caramel.  
 
Flipping the caramel may seem a bit daunting to some of you, but it really isn't.  Just make sure the plate or cake stand can hold all of the drippy caramel that is bound to come out.

A perfect slice of creme caramel is served on an antique British lusterware plate.  I love using these plates for special desserts.  The fork is antique silver.


This photograph was taken the morning after Hurricane Sandy ripped through our area.  Thankfully our house was intact.  You can see how dreary everything seemed that day, but little did we know that many other people had it a lot worse. 

With all of the destruction and damage to the Northeast as a result of the storm, our fifteen trees that were snapped or uprooted throughout the landscape seemed a minor inconvenience.  It was a mess to clear up let me tell you, but all in all we were very fortunate to have been spared.  Many of you sent me notes & emails from around the country asking how we were, so I thank you for your kindness.  I'm thankful, grateful and appreciative right now for many reasons.  Here's to better days ahead everybody!   

~David

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