Spicy devotion

20140303-203501.jpgI thought I was I lucky enough to have a friend who keeps me well stocked with my favorite Middle Eastern blend of allspice: She knows what’s cooking in my kitchen. Then I received a spicy gift box of Penzeys from my gardening inspiration. That welcome surprise was followed by a spice selection by mail from my favorite spice girl in St. Louis … more Penzeys including the kicky Balti seasoning. And the fresh zahtar that recently found its way home here in the Hudson Valley was hand carried from Lebanon and shared by one who can quickly identify zahtar wannabes. Thanks to all that, I’m on a new flavor trail with friends who know how to share the simple formula for preserving food and friendships. Keep those fresh spices on hand.

Snowstorm Survival Kit for You and Your Valentine

Snowstorm survival kit

Snowstorm survival kit

If you’re close to home thanks to this season’s latest snowstorm, sweeten the moment with these three things for you and yours this Valentine’s Day: Oreos, Philadelphia Cream Cheese and Baker’s Dipping Chocolate. Follow Shannon’s easy steps to make these truffles.

Eat better, live well

cropped-star_of_anise.jpgHaving spent a few more hours than planned in airports these past few days, I found it tempting to reach for sweets and entirely-too-salty snacks. I’m grateful to be out of range of the temptations and home in the Hudson Valley. Eat better and live well in your new year. Read more in my latest article on Health Matters.

Easy baked apples

Jane Manaster is sending us back to the apple orchards, or at least the produce section at her local grocery. Try these easy baked apples …
Choose a bag of sour apples. Run the knife around their waists. Core them. Set in a baking dish with, say, plenty of brown sugar (demerara is nicer, it crunches). Spoon some of the sugar into the cavity, fill up with raisins and a dash of cinnamon. Water almost up to the waists then bake until soft.

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Order up during Hudson Valley Restaurant Week

Dining RoomIf you’re remotely close to New York’s Hudson Valley, now’s the time to discover new and not-so-new restaurants offering tempting menus at prix fixe prices during Hudson Valley Restaurant Week. I visited the sparkling-clean kitchen at Valley last week and caught up with the culinary team. Check in with Executive Chef Vin Mocarski at Valley Restaurant at the Garrison to start sampling. Valley will also remain open this winter. Save a date with your favorite dinner partner and warm up with their seasonal contemporary American cuisine.

They’re what’s good this season: cranberries

It’s a good thing the cranberry crop is coming in strong for 2013 as I seem to be harvesting more than my usual take at the market. These cranberries won’t live a long shelf-life around The Cookery. They’re juicing up a loaf of pumpkin bread which just came out of the oven and is headed out the door to be shared.

Pumpkin bread recycled

Pumpkin bread recycled

Give this pumpkin bread recipe a go and fold in two cups of fresh cranberries to the batter.

Perfect Peel: Apple compote

Quick Pick

Quick Pick

If you haven’t been out to your nearest orchard for apples, pick soon. The apples have made their way into every dish and salad on our menu at home, and we cooked several pounds today resulting in a sweet apple compote.

This would be the time to find your apple slicer if you happen to have one. I love my apple slicer (most excellent 2012 Christmas gift) because it does all the work: peels, cores and slices.

Perfect Peel

Perfect Peel

Prep your apples by hand or with a slicer (8-10 medium apples) and toss them into a slow cooker. Add 1/4 cup sugar, 1 teaspoon pure maple sugar, and 1 teaspoon cinnamon. Stir to coat apples and cover. Cook on low heat for 3 hours. Try this chilled or enjoy a warm apple compote.

Apple Compote

Apple Compote