"You can't buy happiness, but you can buy chocolate, and that's kind of the same thing."-unknown
OMG-The holiday for me, I tell you! Chocolate is my middle name. I am not even sure why some of the other flavors even exist when there is chocolate to be had.Lemon is lovely, vanilla is nice, but chocolate is the food of the gods! That says it all, doesn't it?
Unfortunately for me, I didn't have much time to whip up anything really spectacular on such short notice. I did, however, have time to cook up a batch of the BEST hot fudge in the world, and so will you! I don't use superlatives lightly, so trust me when I say how good this is. A lot of well-meaning and normally credible people try to pass off ganache, a mixture of heavy cream and chocolate, for hot fudge. No, no- not having that. That is ganache and it has its place. Hot fudge, on the other hand needs to be thick, a tad sticky-chewy and taste like, well, fudge! There is a world of difference. So without further ado, may I present to you the BEST hot fudge sauce in the world! Make some now.
Hot Fudge Sauce
10 ounces semi sweet or bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped (NOT chocolate chips)*
4 ounces (1 stick) unsalted butter, cut into cubes
1/2 cup water
pinch kosher or sea salt
1/2 cup granulated sugar
tiny pinch instant coffee or espresso (optional, but I recommend using it)
1/2 cup light corn syrup (NOT high fructose corn syrup)
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1. In a medium, heavy-bottomed saucepan mix together chocolate, sugar, water, salt, instant coffee and butter. Cook over medium heat, stirring continuously, until chocolate and butter are melted and mixture is well combined.
2. Stir in the corn syrup, and bring the mixture to a full boil.
3. Reduce heat to low and continue to simmer, stirring occasionally, until mixture is thickened and glossy, about 10 minutes.
4. Remove from heat and stir in vanilla. Cool to room temperature and transfer to heat-proof containers.
5. Store hot fudge sauce in refrigerator for up to 10 days. To reheat, gently heat in microwave on 50% power setting for 30 seconds at a time until fluidity is restored, stirring between heatings.
"Listen! The winds are rising and the air is wild with leaves, We have had our summer evenings, now for October eves. " - Humbert Wolfe
The wind is most definitely rising here where I live, the leaves are flying off the trees, and the night-time temps are about to plummet. I am afraid the splendor of fall is quickly becoming a distant memory. Sigh....
In honor of this most beautiful time of year and what seems to be a collective love for all things pumpkin spice, I created this delicious milk shake. My son, who loves pumpkin pie, was my inspiration. He'll be home from college in a few weeks for Thanksgiving and I can't wait for him to taste these!
Just a safety warning, you will need to caramelize sugar. It is easy, but it can also be dangerous. Be very careful and pay attention to the safety tips below.
PS I never said a splash of rum would be a bad thing if you want to make them a bit more grow up! ; )
Praline-Pecan Pumpkin Spice Milkshakes
1/3 cup granulated sugar
2 tablespoons water
1 cup pecan halves
1/3 cup milk
6 tablespoons pumpkin puree (not pie filling)
1 1/2 cups premium vanilla ice cream
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon ground ginger
small pinch freshly grated nutmeg
For Praline Pecans:
1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Line a baking sheet with foil sprayed with non-stick cooking spray. put pecans on baking sheet in a single layer. Bake in hot oven for 8 minutes to lightly toast. Set aside to cool.
2. Combine granulated sugar and water in a small saucepan. Stir to combine. Cook over medium heat, stirring to dissolve sugar. Brush down sides of pan with a pastry brush dipped in water to help prevent crystallization.
3. Bring to a boil. At this point STOP stirring immediately or you will get a grainy result and have to start all over again. Also DO NOT leave the stove as it can go from good to burnt in the blink of an eye.
4. Continue cooking caramel, swirling pan occasionally to prevent uneven cooking. Once the sugar has taken on a medium-deep amber color (this will take several minutes) , remove from heat and immediately stir in pecans with a wooden spoon or heatproof spatula.
5. Stir pecans quickly until pecans are evenly coated with all that caramel goodness. Immediately dump pecan mixture back onto-foil lined tray. NOTE: caramel is hotter than Hades! Exercise extreme caution handling this molten sugar as it can burn severely.
6. Set pan aside and with wooden spoon or spatula...or 2 (DO NOT USE YOUR FINGERS!), un-clump the pecans quickly, trying to flatten into a single layer as much as possible. Set aside to cool for at least 10 minutes.
7. Once pecans have cooled, coarsely chop and set aside.
1. In your blender jar, place all remaining ingredients along with 2 tablespoons coarsely chopped praline pecans.. Cover tightly and blend until smooth and creamy. Pour into two glasses, top with whipped cream, a sprinkle of cinnamon and a few reserved chopped praline pecans, if desired.
Leftover pecans can be stored air-tight in a dry location. Use to make additional shakes or toss with a mixed leaf baby lettuces , chopped apples, diced celery and dried cranberries for a nice fall salad. Cheers!
"Delicious autumn! My very soul is wedded to it, and if I were a bird I would fly about the earth seeking the successive autumns." -George Eliot
I make no secret of my love for fall. There is something about it that reaches deep inside me and stirs up a lot of emotion for me. Here are some of my favorite photos from fall moments in Colorado, New Hampshire and North Carolina. I am obviously no photographer, but I try to capture the beauty I see the best I can, mostly with my iPhone (use what you've got, right?!).Someday I'll learn to use my DSL, I really will!
The last couple days here in Colorado have been colder and quite rainy. That's a signal that the glorious, yet fleeting, fall beauty will quickly be gone. Next year I'll get to fall in love all over again. Delicious autumn, indeed!
"I'm so glad I live in a world where there are Octobers," -Anne of Green Gables
Do you love fall as much as I do? I look forward to fall all year long. There is something about the way the character of the natural light changes, the cooler weather, the beautiful colors of fall foliage, the earthy smell that just makes me happier than any other time of the year. Although I am not crazy about the dark mornings fall brings, the dark evenings make me happy to have candle-light once again which adds a certain coziness to out home. It just says welcome. And it's apple season! To a girl raised in Upstate New York where there are orchards galore, this is indeed cause for celebration. I can't wait for the local apples to appear at the farmer's market because as good as some apples are year round, ones fresh-picked have a certain quality to them that trumps all others- extra crunchy and juicy and many more varieties to choose from than I typically can find at a local supermarket. Best of all? No icky waxy finish!
Fall makes me want to nest more, too. I am eager to cook stews and mostly, soups galore. I make really big batches of Bolognese and marinara sauces along with turkey chili to have on hand in the freezer for cozy cold weather meals. Now really is the most bountiful time of the year at farmer's markets, too.. There are still plenty of tomatoes and warm weather produce and the winter squash are now in. The smell of roasted chiles is always inviting at our markets, and I stock up for my freezer and then use them all year long.
Recently I was smitten with some butternut squash, yellow cherry tomatoes and beautiful yellow bell peppers at my local farm stand and came up with a gorgeous soup we will happily eat all season long. Here's the recipe if you care to try it . It can be made with red tomatoes and bell peppers too, and even mushrooms, but let's just say the color won't be as appetizing!
Golden Harvest Soup
1 medium butternut squash, halved and seeded (Carefully!)
1 large yellow bell pepper, halved, seeded and cut into chunks
1 medium onion, skinned and sliced into wedges
1 cup yellow cherry tomatoes (or 1/2 pint approx)
1 1/2 cups baby carrots, or carrot chunks
4- 4 0unce links, sweet italian sausages with fennel
3 cloves garlic, peeled and minced
fresh thyme sprigs
1/4 teaspoon poultry seasoning
1/2 cup dry white wine
6 cups chicken stock, plus additional for thinning soup, if desired
kosher salt and coarse ground black pepper
Preheat oven to 425 degrees F. Brush baking sheet with olive oil. Place butternut squash, cut side down on baking sheet. Place prepared yellow bell pepper, onion, tomatoes and carrots on same baking sheet.
Drizzle everything generously with olive oil, sprinkle with salt and pepper and toss gently to coat. Scatter fresh thyme sprigs on top.
Place tray in oven on middle rack and roast for 30-40 minutes until tender and slightly caramelized. Remove from oven and let cool until squash is cool enough to handle.
Meanwhile, heat 2 tablespoons olive oil in a heavy bottomed soup or stock pot over medium heat. Once oil is hot but not smoking squeeze little balls of sausage out of the casing into the oil. Saute all the sausage in the oil until evenly browned. With slotted spoon remove sausage to paper towels to drain.
In remaining oil in pot, saute garlic gently until soft and translucent, being careful not to burn. Add in all the vegetables from tray, scooping out all the soft squash flesh with a spoon, being careful not to get any skin. Crumble thyme leaves into pot, discarding stems.
Stir vegetables continuously while adding in wine. Cook, stirring until wine is evaporated. Stir in a pinch of salt and pepper , poultry seasoning and chicken stock. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer, stirring occasionally , for 20 minutes.
Using an immersion blender, puree soup right in the pot until as chunky or as smooth as you would like. Add in more broth, as desired.
Stir in browned sausage. Simmer soup for another 20-30 minutes. Taste for seasoning and adjust to suit your taste.
Serve immediately, sprinkled with a few fresh thyme leaves for garnish. Serves 4-6. Doubles easily. Freezes beautifully!
Variation: For vegetarian version, omit sausage and substitute vegetable stock for chicken stock.
"...there is a crack in everything, that's how the light gets in." -Leonard Cohen
It's a grey, rather somber kind of day here in northern Colorado. Rain appears to be threatening, and that would be a blessing in an all too dry state like Colorado. If the weather should stay this way for many days I start to feel really blue. I am completely solar-powered, as I like to joke. However, once in a while, a day like today gives me the space to be more quiet, introspective and to reflect on things a bit more deeply.
We have weathered through a pretty rough patch these last 5 months. We are just now starting to work our way back towards normal or maybe something even better (it will take time for sure). I always have hope for something better while fully appreciating a lot of the wonderful already in place. It's easy to forget all about that wonderful part when we go thought rough patches. Several years ago, I was introduced to a little book by a local author, Ilan Shamir, called Simple Wisdom: A thousand things went Right Today.It gives sweet reminders about how when usually one thing is going wrong in our lives, we often forget about all the many, many things going right. The one that always sticks with me is "my fork performed beautifully today"! I find myself saying that more often than not and it usually makes me chuckle to myself.
This hasn't been the first rough path we've weathered, and I'd love to think it will be our last, but there are no guarantees. I maybe am a little (or a lot) more grey -haired than I would have been had things gone smoothly all along, and I sometimes beat myself up for choices made even with the best of intentions (all the shoulda, woulda, couldas, that serve no real purpose). But to quote Oprah Winfrey, "what I know for sure" is that a whole lot of personal growth occurs in tough times if I allow the lessons to come and use a modicum of self-awareness in the process (in the meantime I have profusely thanked the universe for all the intensive learning and graciously asked to pass on future lessons-lol!). That's where the light comes in- the cracks in my judgement, my personality, my self-confidence, fears I harbor, the beliefs that no longer serve me that I cling to...so many cracks I should be lit up like a star-filled sky! I do welcome those enlightened moments when I get them. and try not to look back with regret for not seeing the light earlier. It's a process to be sure.