Tag Archives: autumn

Italian Beef Stew

1 Dec

Welcome to December, everyone. While the weather has still been pretty unseasonably warm (well, off and on) here in Kansas, as the days slowly become shorter and I become more busy and tired from the impending end of the semester, I find myself craving soups and stews more often. So I thought this week I’d share with you all this recipe for Italian Beef Stew to warm your bones as winter sets in.

This is one of those traditional, hearty, slow-roasting stews that’s best given the full three hours of time. I also made sure to prep all my ingredients in advance: trim the meat into cubes, chop the vegetables, have a peeled clove of garlic ready, and the olive oil on hand.

I read a few months back in Cooking Light that the secret to a really good stew is to follow the first step to brown the meat in the pan with savories (like onion and garlic) and then remove it to create the broth base with the browned roux left behind. When pressed for time, I often skip the step of browning the meat first, but it really does add a nice depth to the flavor and a thickness to the base of the stew.

But if you take the time to prep all your ingredients in the first place, once you’ve gone through the first sequence of steps and all the pieces are together in the pot, you just get to walk away for a few hours. Return to stir a few times, or to appreciate the fogged windows of the kitchen, but otherwise, relax and enjoy as your house fills with the scent of stew.

Serve, of course, with crusty bread. And maybe an afghan around your shoulders…

If you like this recipe, check out some of my other soup/stew posts:

Or leave a comment and share your favorites!

Thanksgiving Carnage

28 Nov

Back to regularly-scheduled posting tomorrow, but for now, I thought I’d leave you all with some Thanksgiving aftermath photos.

Every year, we laugh about how long it takes to prepare the meal versus how long it takes to eat it, so this year, I thought I’d pay my respects to the dinner table disrepair…

To the leftovers…

To the dishes left to wash…

To the turkey carcass to be gutted…

And leave you all with a little mini-excerpt from the book, a Thanksgiving carnage prose poem:

On Thanksgiving, after the turkey was carved and gutted, after we’d sliced through one half of the twenty-pound bird my mother insisted on ordering, though there were seven of us for dinner only, my father and grandfather would return to the half-spent carcass and harvest the rest. They would dig their thick hands into the ribcage and pull out shards of meat, darker than a roux, dripping with bone grease, and toss them, by whole handfuls, into my mom’s biggest saucepan, where she would boil it in a stock to freeze as turkey soup for later, for the winter nights.

Turkey Links Roundup

23 Nov

Sorry for the hiatus in posting, all, but travel for the holidays, combined with the fact that for a college professor, Thanksgiving “break” = buried under a deluge of work that must get done before the last two weeks of the semester hits has made the weekend and week thus far a complete blur. I honestly thought today was Sunday until about 3PM.

To make up for lost time, but also account for the fact that I know most of you all will be stretching your belts out this week and too sleepy for the computer anyway, I thought a Thanksgiving-themed links roundup post would be a good idea.

Civil Eats covers the reality that turkey is just as factory-farmed as any other meat, and Barry Estabrook reminds us that the double-whammy Carghill recalls of this summer and fall were of salmonella contamination in ground turkey.

But all hope is not lost (though this is probably late for this year): Slow Food USA has a comprehensive guide for a slow, sustainable, heritage-focused Thanksgiving.

Some out-of-the-box ideas for Thanksgiving recipes: Tom Philpott with easy curry side dishes, and a leftover recipe for spicy turkey tacos from the cb2 blog.

And to keep us in the holiday spirit, Mark Bittman with a truly moving and comprehensive list of what a food activist has to be thankful for.

I’ll update with T-Day food porn later this week, and share some family thankfulness and recipes, but for now, enjoy some holiday reading, and share: What are you thankful for this year, friends?

Mom’s Apple Snacking Cake

8 Nov

Since I haven’t shared a baked-goods recipe with you all for awhile, I decided to devote this week’s recipe post to a sweet snack. And this one comes, not from a magazine or cookbook, but from my very own recipe box!

Well, ok, from my mom’s recipe box, where I coped this down from. Don’t worry, I got her permission to share this one with you. Mom’s Apple Snacking Cake.

In New England, where I grew up, autumn looks like this.

Yeah. And we celebrate fall like nobody’s  business — state fairs, haunted hay rides, pine needle houses (this is where there are so many pine needles in your front yard, that when tasked with helping your father rake the leaves, you have to learn how to separate out the sticky needles, and you and your sisters shape them into the outlines of houses to play in. Multi-room pine needle mansions, complete with pine needle beds to lay on).

One of my family’s most treasured fall rituals is apple picking. Now plenty of people will hit up a U-Pick orchard in fall, but there were seven of us, which meant we left with BUSHELS of apples of five or six varieties, and had to come up with a lot of things to do with them.

(Note: I definitely did not ask my little sister’s permission to use an old photo of her wearing braces in this post. File under hazards of knowing a nonfiction writer. Love you, Caitlin!)

We’d have apple crisp, of course. My parents would invite their friends over for cider-pressing parties. My mother has developed an epic applesauce factory. But my favorite treat was always apple snacking cake.

We call it “snacking cake” because it serves many purposes: you can eat this sweet but fruited cake for breakfast, an after-school snack, or for dessert. Versatile and delicious.

It’s not burdened with the syrupy-sweetness of a caramel apple, but neither is it overly tart. The apples melt away into the cake, leaving it incredibly moist, even after weeks in the refrigerator or freezer. The best part is the secret ingredient — rice krispies! –  leave these little crystallized pockets of chewiness in the cake without adding too much sweetness.

Here’s the recipe…

Mom’s Apple Snacking Cake


  • 3 eggs
  • 1 c. oil
  • 2 c. rice krispies
  • 2 c. apples, peeled and sliced not too thin
  • 1 3/4 c. sugar
  • 2 c. flour
  • 1 tsp. baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 1 tsp. cinnamon
  • 1 tsp. vanilla


  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
  2. Beat the eggs with an electric mixer. Add sugar and continue to beat until fluffy.
  3. Add flour, cinnamon, baking powder and salt, and mix.
  4. Add oil, vanilla and apples, stirring gently.
  5. Fold in rice krispies
  6. Pour batter into a 13 x 9 – inch pan (glass, ceramic or aluminum will do, but I prefer glass) coated with cooking spray.
  7. Bake 45-55 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean.

Enjoy with tea, milk or fresh whipped cream. Cake will keep in freezer.

Autumn Food Poetry — Workshop

13 Oct

Last week, I wrote from Montana a little about the merging of food history and personal nostalgia. While not a new topic on the blog, it opened up for me an old pathway of thinking about the relationships between food and memory and geography, something that’s particularly helpful for me in moving through revisions on my book.

Autumn is the only season during which I experience homesickness, and I experience it for so many homes. But I was born in New England, the temple of autumn, and nothing will ever compare to that, so somehow, whenever the leaves try to turn or don’t quite turn, in whatever time zone I currently live, I start to miss the great Northeast. And I often turn to food as a means to substitute memories — baking apple snacking cake or brewing cinnamon tea or carving pumpkins.

All this has been on my mind recently, and then yesterday, my friend Lisa (a fellow nonfiction environmental writer) and I were talking about how much we admire poetry and wish we had the capabilities to work in that genre. I love the acrobatics of language that poetry demonstrates, the ballet of nuance and brevity that leads to some of the most gut-punching lines I’ve ever read.

Somehow, in the spirit of all this, autumn and nostalgia and poetry and revision, I had an idea to dig out an old poem I wrote about food rituals in autumn, a poem that was a wild failure of sentimentality and prose, but that has in its core somewhere an idea close to my heart.

And I thought I’d let you all, my loyal readers, workshop it for me.

A strange blog experiment, to be sure. But why not share with you some of my writing in it’s earliest, most raw, most terrible stages? Many of you are writers, and even more of you are readers. So have at it. Let me know what you think — what’s working, what’s not, where to cut or pare down or make more poetic.

Or just enjoy the autumnal apple references. Whichever.

Finger Lakes

I stand inside my pantry in Iowa and
Pull the door shut, my eyes shut and
Smell deeply the wooden box of
Apple cinnamon teabags I bought
From a boy scout in California.

Waiting for the arrival of autumn in the Midwest.
My fingers search for the brown crumbs of
Dead leaves in my hair; red tips fiddle discontentedly with
Farmer’s market apple bushels something
Different about the season here and I miss

Childhood in New Hampshire
Eating the tendrils of apple peel my mother discarded before baking crisp
And serving it with tea and whipped cream after school. And
Pushing the wheelbarrow full of dead needles
Into the woods and making
Leaf angels on my back getting
Sap in my braids.

Next week I’ll go back to New York to see two
Of my friends get married and I will buy them
Kettle corn from the street vendors as a wedding gift and the
Sun will stay over the Finger Lakes for them.
Cayuga Lake is the index, long and pointed and
Golden with autumn.

I can’t think of a better time for a wedding than the same weekend as
Apple Fest, in late September, with
Sugar-sweet maple syrup smells and
Slanting rays of dusty yellow light over the lake and
Sweaters over our party dresses.

Eating apple brown betty with our mouths off paper plates.

Autumnal Buffalo & Bourbon Stew with Crusty Wheat Bread

20 Sep

Fall has arrived (if perhaps briefly) in my neck of the woods, and I hear from my people all over the country that autumn’s warm flannel sheets have spread themselves across most of the country this week. Between coming down with a cold last week, and then having temperatures drop into the 40s, sweater weather and my favorite season both seem finally upon us.

I spent the weekend huddled inside, under a hand-knit Nana blanket, sniffling and grading student papers, wearing cashmere socks. A stew seemed only appropriate for my nice, leisurely Sunday cooking ritual. And I bought a plane ticket this week for an uncoming trip I’ll be taking to Missoula, Montana, so the buffalo stew meat in my freezer was calling to me.  I’m in a Western, autumnal state of mind.

I decided to get some crusty, no-knead wheat bread going on Saturday night. For those unfamiliar with the no-knead crusty bread craze, here’s a great explanation and recipe from Mark Bittman who lit the fuse five years ago. Knowing that the bread would be rising for a good 18 hours made me anticipate this stew just about as long. And it did not disappoint.

Sunday morning, I found this buffalo stew recipe online. The Buckhorn’s recipe seemed perfect for several reasons. First, it’s from a restaurant in Denver, and I’d imagine the Coloradoans knows how to cook their buffalo. Second, it included bourbon.

I won’t keep you all in suspense. Four stars. Consider this recipe in the regular rotation. The tomatoes and bourbon added a delicious complexity to the traditional brown stew gravy, which was beautifully thick (perfect for mopping up with crusty bread). The cooking time was manageable — for a stew to last only about an hour including prep time is pretty impressive — and the flavor was well-developed. And because I hadn’t cooked buffalo sirloin tips before (only buffalo burgers, a summer yum!) I appreciated having a recipe to follow that produced really tender, flavorful meat.

The temperatures got back up into the 80s in Kansas today, but the weatherman says back to the 50s by the weekend. I don’t think I’ll wait until then to enjoy the leftovers.


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