First is a recipe courtesy of celebrity chef Ina Garten of the Food Network program Barefoot Contessa. It is a homemade recipe for “Boston Cream Pie” (click here for the original recipe). The recipe can also be found on pages 204-205 of the cookbook Modern Comfort Food: A Barefoot Contessa Cookbook by Ina Garten.
October 23 is National Boston Cream Pie Day – click here to learn more about the history of this observance. In 1856, at Boston’s Parker House Hotel, a French chef created this pudding and cake combination. It is a chocolate-frosted, custard-filled cake that is loved by millions.
The decadent dessert comprises two layers of sponge cake filled with vanilla-flavored custard or crème patisserie. The cake is then topped with a chocolate glaze (such as a ganache) and sometimes even powdered sugar and a cherry. On December 12, 1996, Massachusetts declared the Boston Cream Pie as their official dessert.
The second is a chili recipe from my good friend Donna. This is her favorite recipe for chili, courtesy of Redbook magazine – it is called “Black Bean Chili.”
October is National Chili Month – this is the ultimate comfort food for cooler weather, and it is also very healthy, containing a lot of protein from the meat and beans in addition, it is a great source of fiber and iron. Click here to learn more about the history of this observance.
The ingredients and directions for the chili are as follows:
- 1 lb. ground beef
- 1 cup chopped onion
- 2 tsp garlic paste
- 1 (14.5 oz) can fire-roasted diced tomatoes, undrained
- 1 (15.5 oz) can black beans, rinsed and drained
- 2 chipotle chiles in adobo sauce, chopped
- 1 tsp ground cumin (McCormick’s roasted cumin is recommended)
- In a large saucepan, heat some canola oil over medium-high heat. Add onion and garlic paste and cook, stirring often until softened, about 3 minutes. Add ground beef, breaking it up and cooking until it is no longer pink, about 2 minutes.
- Add tomatoes, black beans, chiles, cumin, kosher salt, and ground pepper to taste. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer for 10 minutes.
Top with whatever you’ve got, including diced onion, avocado, shredded cheddar cheese and sour cream.
Makes 4 servings.
Third is a recipe for “Apple Kuchen” (pronounced “koo-ken”) which is the German word for “cake.” Traditional kuchen is a delicious mash-up of cake, custard, and a topping of fruit.
In addition to being National Chili Month, October is also National Apple Month. This is the time that many apples are harvested in New York, Washington, and Michigan – three of the country’s largest apple-producing states. There are more than 7,500 different varieties of apples grown worldwide, with 100 apple varieties grown commercially in the United States – Honeycrisp, Gala, Fuji, Red Delicious, Smitten, McIntosh, Empire, Pink Lady, Granny Smith, Golden Delicious, and Cortland, just to name a few.
The ingredients and directions for the kuchen are as follows:
- ½ cup butter, softened
- 1 package Betty Crocker yellow cake mix
- ½ cup sweetened, flaked coconut
- 1 can (20 ounces) pie-sliced apples, well-drained; or 2½ cups sliced pared baking apples (3 McIntosh apples)
- ½ cup sugar
- 1 teaspoon cinnamon
- 1 cup dairy sour cream
- 2 egg yolks, or 1 whole egg
- Heat oven to 350°.
- Cut butter into cake mix (dry) until mixture is crumbly.
- Mix in flaked coconut.
- Pat mixture lightly into an ungreased oblong pan, 13x9x2 inches, building up slight edges.
- Bake for 10 minutes.
- Mix sugar and cinnamon; toss with apples. Place apple slices all over the top of the warmed crust.
- Blend sour cream and egg yolks; drizzle over apples (Topping will not completely cover apples.)
- Bake for 25 minutes or [until] edges are light brown. (Do not overbake.)
NOTE: Pictured is an apple kuchen I recently baked. I cut it into squares to serve while it was still warm (it slices much easier that way). Store the leftovers in the refrigerator.
Below are a few variations of the recipe, substituting different fruit…
PEAR KUCHEN: Substitute 2 cans (16 ounces each) sliced pears, drained on paper towels, for the apples, and 1 package Betty Crocker devils food cake mix or German chocolate cake mix for the yellow cake mix.
PEACH KUCHEN: Substitute 1 can (29 ounces) sliced peaches, drained on paper towels, for the apples, and 1 package Betty Crocker white cake mix or sour cream white cake mix for the yellow cake mix.
Fourth is a recipe for an easy dinner of protein, starch and vegetables which I call “Orange Marmalade Chicken over Basmati Rice with Root Vegetables.”
- NOTE: Pictured is a single serving, but you will want to prepare more if you are cooking for a large family or gathering. Also pictured are Hanover Foods seasoned root vegetables (but I will also explain how to prepare/roast fresh baby carrots, as an alternative).
- NOTE: For a vegan-friendly meal – omit the chicken and choose another protein option, such as tofu.
- NOTE: For those who love meat (and want additional protein ideas) – you may use various meats such as shrimp, fish, steak, pork, bacon, etc.
- Large glass bowl
- Paper towels
- Table salt
- Ground black pepper
- 2 cups water
- 1 Tbsp. olive oil
- 1 cup Basmati rice
Below are specific directions for the three main components: (Orange-Marmalade chicken, roasted vegetables, Basmati rice):
For the “protein” component of this meal, you may use any meat (or tofu, if you are vegan) you desire. I decided to use chicken because I like the taste, and I prefer chicken. If you also like chicken and want to know how I prepared it, here are simple directions:
- Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
- Place chicken in a glass or ceramic baking dish.
- Mix the last 3 ingredients (onion soup mix, orange marmalade and Kraft Creamy French salad dressing) and pour over the chicken.
- Marinate for at least 2 hours in the refrigerator, but no more than 24 hours.
- Bake until the chicken is tender, for approximately 1 1/2 hours.
- SARA’S TIP: This recipe makes a delicious sauce for rice.
For the “vegetable” component of this meal, you may use any vegetables you desire (but for convenience, I decided to use 1 package of frozen Hanover Foods Seasoned Root Vegetable Blend – which contains carrots, beets, sweet potatoes, and parsnips). However, you may decide to use fresh vegetables, such as baby carrots. I will provide directions for each option:
Hanover Foods Seasoned Root Vegetable Blend:
- Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.
- Line a 13 x 9 baking sheet with parchment paper.
- Spread the frozen vegetable blend onto the parchment paper and season with sea salt, pepper and olive oil.
- Bake for 25 minutes, taking them out and turning them over halfway through (at about the 12-minute mark).
- Once cool, garnish with balsamic vinaigrette (optional).
Fresh baby carrots:
- Preheat the oven to 425 degrees.
- Line a 13 x 9 baking sheet with parchment paper.
- Spread the baby carrots onto the parchment paper and season with sea salt, pepper, and olive oil.
- Drizzle with honey for honey-roasted carrots (optional). Carrots tend to get a concentrated sweetness when baked without honey.
- Bake for 15-20 minutes until carrots are tender.
For the “starch” component of this meal, you may use any rice you desire (but I decided to use Basmati rice, because I really enjoy its trademark earthy, nutty flavor). The specific brand I use (“Daawat”) is linked in this blog. If you also like Basmati rice and want to know how I prepare it, here are simple microwave directions:
- TIP: In the microwave, I put extra paper towels under the glass bowl while cooking, or fold up a paper grocery bag and place a couple of paper towels on top of the paper bag (and then the glass bowl) and cook it that way. This is because the rice water tends to bubble up, and a little squeezes out from under the cover. This saves you from cleaning up a big mess.
First, pour 1 cup of Basmati rice in a colander and thoroughly rinse it under cold running water to remove the extra starch. Sprinkle salt and pepper into a large glass (microwaveable) bowl to taste. Then add 2 cups of water (for every 1 cup of rice). Add 1 Tbsp of olive oil and the rinsed rice, and let the entire mixture sit for 15 minutes.
Whisk together and microwave, covered, on full power (#10) for 8 minutes. Then microwave, covered, on low power (#3) for another 8 minutes. Uncover and cool for about 20-30 minutes. The rice comes out perfect every single time. *This makes enough for 4 servings.
Once the rice is completely cool, depending on how large you want your meal, consider setting aside a smaller portion for a different meal (or leftovers) in a separate bowl – as shown here. You may cover it with plastic wrap if you are still preparing the other two components.
- NOTE: Once all three components are prepared, plate everything however you desire (as per the main photo, I decided to put the chicken breast and root vegetable mix over top of the Basmati rice). It will keep well overnight and tastes great as a leftover meal the next day.
Fifth is a recipe for homemade banana bread called “Mister Rogers’ Favorite Banana Bread” (click here for the original recipe). I have been baking this particular banana bread for many years, and this recipe is truly my favorite, for banana bread. It is the best one I have ever found.
- NOTE: Pictured are two banana bread loaves I recently baked, one with chopped walnuts and one plain.