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September 2013

Best Apple Peeler Slicer Corer Gadget

Apple slicer

Growing up in New England, fall usually meant a trip to a nearby orchard to pick a bushel or two of locally grown apples. Most orchards sold more than just apples, they also had jugs of fresh Apple Cider (the official beverage of my home state, New Hampshire) which, until recently, was nearly impossible to find in California. The have plenty of apple drinks labeled “cider” but because most cider is pasteurized, which is quite different in taste and texture than unpasteurized cider.

Pasteurization is a result of health and safety concerns, primarily due to E. coli outbreaks from unpasteurized apple cider, and now all apple cider sold in the United States, other than sales directly to consumers by producers - such as juice bars, farmers’ markets, and roadside farm stands, must be pasteurized. If good sanitation practices are followed, the risk from unpasteurized cider is negligible, so I prefer to seek out unpasteurized cider at my local farmer’s market. I use it quickly as it has a limited shelf-life, although it can be frozen for use throughout the year.

I love using apples and apple cider in many of my recipes. There’s no better way to celebrate fall season than baking some homey apple desserts – anything from classic pies and crisps, to quick breads, muffins and layer cakes. Slicing and peeling apples can be a bit of a chore, and I have two utensils that I can’t live without. The first is a good peeler and my favorite is the Messermeister Pro-Touch Fine Edge Swivel Peeler, which is lightweight, super sharp, and comfortable to hold. (http://bit.ly/18znHC5)  Once you have your apples peeled, The Williams Sonoma Dial-A-Slice Apple Divider (http://bit.ly/196KwRq) makes slicing and coring a breeze. This handy gadget will plunge through the apple and make neat, uniform sections and the adjustable blades make eight or 16 recipe-ready slices.

Swivel Peeler


Williams Sonoma Adjustable Apple Slicer

Farm Stand Apple Cider


Classic Pecan Sandies Shortbread Cookies

Pecan Sandies 1

When I growing up my Dad often had a bag of Keebler’s Pecan Sandies stashed away in an upper cupboard, reserved for when he was craving a crunchy cookie with hot cup of coffee. Unfortunately for him, the kids usually managed to find the bag and polish off what was left with some tall glasses of cold milk. Keebler still makes their famous cookie, but this homemade version is a much better choice. Melt in your mouth nutty shortbread cookies that are incredibly flavorful, making it impossible to eat just one.

Download Classic Pecan Sandies Shortbread Cookies recipe

1 ½ cups pecan halves, plus about 32 pecan halves for pressing onto unbaked cookies

1/3 cup confectioners' sugar (1.25 ounces)

½ cup packed light brown sugar (3 1/2 ounces)

1½ cups unbleached all-purpose flour (7 1/2 ounces)

½ teaspoon kosher salt

12 tablespoons unsalted butter, 1½ sticks (chilled), cut into 1/2-inch cubes

1 large egg yolk

1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Spread the 1½ cups of pecans out in one layer on a baking sheet and bake them, stirring occasionally, until fragrant and lightly toasted, 5-7 minutes. Transfer the pan to a wire rack to cool.

2. Process the cooled toasted 11/2 cups of pecans with both sugars in food processor until nuts are ground, about twenty 1-second pulses. Add flour and salt and process to combine, about twelve 1-second pulses. Scatter butter pieces over dry ingredients and process until mixture looks like damp sand and rides up sides of bowl, about eighteen 1-second pulses. With machine running, add yolk and process until dough comes together into rough ball, about 20 seconds.

3. Turn dough (it will look scrappy and uneven) onto clean, dry work surface and gently knead until it is evenly moistened and cohesive. Using palms of your hands, roll dough into even 12-inch log; cut log in half and wrap each half in plastic wrap. Freeze dough logs until very cold but still malleable, about 30 minutes. Remove from freezer, unwrap, and roll on work surface to round off flat sides. Rewrap logs in plastic wrap and refrigerate until thoroughly chilled and completely firm, about 2 hours.

3. Adjust oven racks to upper-middle and lower-middle positions and heat oven to 325 degrees. Line 2 large baking sheets with parchment paper or spray with nonstick cooking spray. Unwrap dough logs and, using sharp chef's knife, slice logs into coins 1/4 inch thick, slightly rotating logs after each slice so that they do not develop markedly flat sides. Place slices on prepared baking sheets, spacing them about 3/4 inch apart. Press pecan half in center of each slice.

4. Bake until edges of cookies are golden brown, about 24 minutes, rotating baking sheets front to back and top to bottom halfway through baking time. Cool cookies 3 minutes, then transfer to rack and cool completely.

Toasted pecans

Nuts flour food processor

Pecan sandies sliced dough 
Pecan sandies cookie sheet 
Keebler pecan sandies

Perfect Roast Chicken with Pan Gravy

James Perfect Roast Chicken

Roast Chicken is one of the simplest things to make, and when done correctly, becomes an all time home comfort food favorite. I find that Kosher chickens are the most flavorful and juicy, particularly Empire Kosher Chickens (http://www.empirekosher.com/). If you can’t find a Kosher chicken, then make a quick brine solution by dissolving a ½ cup salt in 2 quarts of cold water in a large bowl. Immerse the chicken in the brine and place in the refrigerator for 1 hour (no longer!) Remove the chicken and dry thoroughly with paper towels. 


Download Perfect Roast Chicken


1 Kosher roasting chicken, 4-5 pound

2 tablespoons unsalted butter, room temperature

Salt and freshly ground black pepper

2 medium onions, peeled and sliced crosswise 1/2 inch thick

1 lemon, quartered

1/2 head of garlic, cut in half crosswise

4-5 sprigs fresh thyme

1 sprig fresh rosemary

1 tsp. Herbs de Provence

1 cup low-sodium chicken broth, (or homemade)


1. Let chicken stand at room temperature for 30 minutes. Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Remove and discard the plastic pop-up timer from chicken if there is one. Remove the giblets and excess fat from the chicken cavity. Rinse chicken inside and out under cold running water. Dry chicken thoroughly with paper towels. Tuck the wing tips under the body. Sprinkle the cavity of the chicken liberally with salt and pepper, and set aside.


2. In the center of a heavy-duty roasting pan, scatter onion slices over bottom of pan.  Insert garlic half, thyme sprigs, roseamary and lemon quarters into cavity. Place chicken in pan, on onion slices. Cut about 18 inches of kitchen twine, bring chicken legs forward, cross them, and tie together.


3. Spread the softened butter over entire surface of chicken, and sprinkle liberally with salt and pepper and then herbs de Provence. Place in the oven, and roast until skin is deep golden brown and crisp and the juices run clear when pierced, about 1 1/2 hours. When chicken seems done, insert an instant-read thermometer into the breast, then the thigh. The breast temperature should read 170 degrees and the thigh 180 degrees.


4.Remove chicken from oven, and transfer to a cutting board with a well. Let chicken stand 10 to 15 minutes so the juices settle.


5. Meanwhile, pour the pan drippings into a shallow bowl or fat separator, and leave onions in the pan. Leave any brown baked-on bits in the bottom of the roasting pan, and remove and discard any blackened bits. Using a large spoon or fat separator, skim off and discard as much fat as possible. Pour the remaining drippings and the juices that have collected under the resting chicken back into the roasting pan. Place on the stove over medium-high heat to cook, about 1 minute. Add chicken stock, raise heat to high, and, using a wooden spoon, stir up and combine the brown bits with the stock until the liquid is reduced by half, about 4 minutes. Strain the gravy into a small bowl, pressing on onions to extract any liquid. Discard onions, and stir in the remaining tablespoon of cold butter until melted and incorporated. Untie the legs, and remove and discard garlic, thyme, and lemon. Carve, and serve gravy on the side.

Butter herb rubbed chicken


Best Fall Harvest Apple Cinnamon Cake

Fall Harvest Apple Cake

It’s hard to believe summer is nearly behind us, and as apple picking season approaches, I’m reminded of this all-time family favorite cake. My sister Ann has been making a version of this cake for as long as I can remember. It’s often referred to as “Jewish Apple Cake” (probably due to the fact that the recipe is completely dairy-free - it uses orange juice instead of milk and oil instead of butter) and there are hundreds of recipes on the internet for it, however this is my favorite version. It makes an excellent coffee cake and freezes well too.

Download Best Fall Harvest Apple Cake 

Apple Filling:

4 apples - peeled, cored and thinly sliced

2 teaspoons ground cinnamon

¼ cup sugar



3 cups all-purpose flour

1/2 teaspoon salt

1 tablespoon baking powder

½ teaspoon soda

½ teaspoon cinnamon

1 ¾ cups sugar

1 cup vegetable oil

4 eggs

1/3 cup orange juice (freshly squeezed is best)

2 teaspoons vanilla extract



1. Preheat oven to 350F. Grease and flour a 10-inch tube pan. Combine the ground cinnamon and the ¼ cup sugar together. Toss the sliced apples with cinnamon sugar and set aside

2. Combine the flour, salt, baking powder, baking soda, and ½ teaspoon of cinnamon in a medium bowl and set aside.

3. In a large mixing bowl, beat the eggs and sugar at medium speed for 5 minutes until thick and pale yellow.  Add the vanilla and mix to combine.

4. Whisk the oil and orange juice in a small bowl and set aside.

5. Add 1/3 of the dry ingredients to the egg mixture and beat until just combined. Add half the oil and juice mixture to the egg mixture and beat until just combined. Repeat with another 1/3 of dry ingredients, then the oil/juice, and finish with remaining 1/3 of dry ingredients. Do not overmix.

6. Pour 1/3 of the batter into the prepared pan. Top with 1/2 of the sliced apple mixture.. Pour another 1/3 of batter over apples and spread batter with rubber spatula. Add remaining apple slices, and top with remaining batter. It’s OK if a few apple slices poke through, the batter will cover the apples as the cake bakes.

7. Bake at 350 degrees F for 60-70 minutes. Garnish with a light dusting of confectioners’ sugar if desired.

Fall Harvest Apple Cake apple layer 1

Fall Harvest Apple Cake cooling

Roasted Zucchini Filled with White Beans, Tomato and Basil

Stuffed Zucchini Tomatoes Beans Basil

This is a great way to use up zucchini from your garden and is an easy recipe for vegetarians. I made it recently for lunch, but it would also make a great first course for dinner.  This will serve two as a main course, or four as an appetizer. You can easily double the ingredients. 

Download Roasted Zucchini Filled with White Beans, Tomato and Basil


3 tablespoons olive oil

2 zucchini (about 8 ounces each) halved lengthwise

Sea salt and pepper

1/3 cup panko bread crumbs

1 shallot, minced

3 garlic cloves, minced

¾ cup cannellini beans, drained and rinsed

1 large tomato, cored, seeded and diced

½ teaspoon dried oregano

1/8 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes

¾ cup Monterey Jack cheese, shredded - about 3 ounces (reserving ¼ cup)

¼ cup fresh chopped basil


1. Adjust rack to upper-middle position, place a rimmed baking sheet on rack and preheat oven to 400 degrees.

2. Using a small spoon, scoop the seeds from the zucchini halves. Brush 1 tablespoon of olive oil over cut side of zucchini and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Place zucchini halves, cut side down, on hot baking sheet. Roast until slightly softened, about 10-12 minutes. Remove from oven and flip zucchini halves over and set baking sheet aside while preparing filling.

3. Heat 1 tablespoon of olive oil in a 10 inch skillet over medium heat until shimmering. Add panko and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Cook panko, stirring frequently, until the crumbs are golden brown, about 3-5 minutes. Transfer panko to a small bowl and wipe out skillet with a paper towel.

4. Heat remaining 1 tablespoon of olive oil in wiped skillet over medium heat until shimmering. Add shallot and cook until softened 3-5 minutes. Add garlic and cook for 30 seconds. Add beans, tomato, oregano and pepper flakes and cook until heated through, about 3 minutes.

5. Off heat stir in ½ cup shredded cheese and season with salt and pepper to taste. Divide filling evenly among squash halves and pack lightly. Sprinkle with remaining ¼ cup cheese and then cover each with toasted bread crumbs. Return pan to oven, and bake stuffed zucchini until heated through, about 6 minutes.

Stuffed Zucchini roasted

Stuffed Zucchini filling

Stuffed Zucchini prep pan

Stuffed Zucchini pan