Halloween Candy Recipe

Candy (1 of 6)

Looking for a fun Halloween project? Forgo the artificial flavors and wax coating of store-bought candy corn and candy pumpkins by making your own. This recipe from Gapers Block produces great results.

Halloween is one of my favorite holidays. One of the perks of living in a university town is that it isn't hard to find costume parties. It seems like it's been years since I've been around people interested in dressing up.  I'm looking forward to celebrating tonight and tomorrow in my homemade Rosie the Riveter costume.

Candy (3 of 6)Candy (5 of 6) 

Candy making is not my strong point in the kitchen, but I followed Shanna's recipe exactly and it worked out very well. I wound up with quite a bit of extra green dough after dividing it in the quantities the recipe calls for. This gave me the opportunity to make some green pumpkins and candy snakes. Though, if you want all of your candy to look more traditional, I'd recommend making slightly less green dough.

Have a great Halloween!

(Post topic from the archives.)

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Tim - Fantastic! LOVE this!

Tim - Fantastic! LOVE this!

Gemma - Thanks Tim! I hope you and your family have a fun Halloween weekend.

Gemma - Thanks Tim! I hope you and your family have a fun Halloween weekend.

Erin - The candy turned out amazing! Beautiful photos. <3 I must admit that I'm a bit too lazy to make candy, but I would definitely love to try some - I have the biggest sweet tooth.
Festive post. :) Enjoy your Halloween weekend!

Erin - The candy turned out amazing! Beautiful photos. <3 I must admit that I'm a bit too lazy to make candy, but I would definitely love to try some - I have the biggest sweet tooth.
Festive post. :) Enjoy your Halloween weekend!

Gemma - Thanks Erin. I hope you and Matt had a fun weekend!

Gemma - Thanks Erin. I hope you and Matt had a fun weekend!

Apple Cake Recipe

My brother gave me a lovely bike for my birthday. While it has only been a month, I've been on it nearly every day. This gorgeous fall has been a real treat for a new rider. There are few things better than biking home from an early morning at the market with a week's worth of produce strapped to my back. I know today's wind and rain will soon become the normal state of things and I'm debating whether I'm adventurous enough to look into winterizing my bike commute. (Probably not. Though, I do run outside all winter.)

One of my courses this fall, Rare Books and Special Collections Librarianship, was a half semester course that just ended. I enjoy having some extra time during the week, but I miss the class.  We met in the the University of Illinois Rare Book & Manuscript Library and had the opportunity to view items like Shakespeare's First Folio, Beatrix Potter early editions, and even the first few versions of the Blade Runner screenplay. (Trivia: The term "replicant" only appears in later drafts). Aside from observing neat old documents, I also learned a lot about special collections security issues, preservation, and acquisitions. One of the other perks was enjoying the vast halls of old card catalogs in the main library building. 

Chicago news reports sounded the alarm last week that orchards are running out of apples. We have plenty down in central Illinois. If you are able to get your hands on some, I suggest you bake this apple cake some evening this week.  It is even better the day after it bakes and it makes a wonderful breakfast with a dollop of plain yogurt. 

I followed this recipe from sixoneseven, though I reduced the sugars to half a cup each of white and brown and I omitted the glaze. 

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Erin - I think that winterizing your bike commute is a great idea. I biked in rather cold/rainy conditions in Chicago (never in the snow) and it wasn’t so terrible with the proper apparel and lights for the bike.
Love the middle photo!

Erin - I think that winterizing your bike commute is a great idea. I biked in rather cold/rainy conditions in Chicago (never in the snow) and it wasn’t so terrible with the proper apparel and lights for the bike.
Love the middle photo!

Gemma - Thanks for the motivation Erin! The cold doesn’t bother me, but snow sounds scary. We’ll see how I feel in a month or two.

Gemma - Thanks for the motivation Erin! The cold doesn’t bother me, but snow sounds scary. We’ll see how I feel in a month or two.

Terry at Blue Kitchen - Beautiful photos, as always. But the card catalog shot really knocks me out. As much as I love computers, I miss card catalogs in libraries.

Terry at Blue Kitchen - Beautiful photos, as always. But the card catalog shot really knocks me out. As much as I love computers, I miss card catalogs in libraries.

Gemma - Thanks Terry. I love that hallway in the old library building here. The walls are lined with them and there is great natural light. Makes me miss them too.

Gemma - Thanks Terry. I love that hallway in the old library building here. The walls are lined with them and there is great natural light. Makes me miss them too.

Herb-Roasted Squash Recipe

I always seem to wind-up lugging the heaviest pieces of produce home from the farmers market. Heads of cabbage, melons, or bags of apples. When Nick came to visit last weekend, I was grateful for the extra set of hands — It’s squash season.

We bought acorn, buttercup and butternut squash to roast for lunch, along with a Mirabelle baguette and Prairie Fruits Farm chevre — two of the culinary perks to life in Champaign-Urbana. 

As much as I miss the city, this is the place to be for fall foliage. The reds, oranges, yellows, and greens make morning runs or evening bike rides a visually stunning experience. I feel lucky that I am only trapped in an office half of the week these days. This is the time of year I can’t stand to miss.

Roasted Squash

Happy Thanksgiving to my Canadian friends. Squash bakes at the same temperature as many turkey recipes.  Throw a few of these in the oven, with or without the bird, and your home will smell amazing. 

Herb-Roasted Squash

Ingredients

1 acorn squash
1 buttercup squash
1 butternut squash
6 Tbl brown sugar*
6 Tbl butter
Fresh rosemary leaves
Fresh thyme leaves
Salt and pepper

Method

Preheat oven to 400F. Cut squash in half and remove the seeds from the cavity with a spoon, leaving only the smooth flesh. Arrange the squash halves face-up on a heavy baking sheet. Add one tablespoon of butter and one tablespoon of brown sugar to each cavity. Add the rosemary to the butternut squash and the thyme to the buttercup and acorn squashes. Season with salt and pepper.

Roast the squash for about 70 minutes. Periodically spoon the butter-sugar mixture over the rest of the squash surface to season and prevent the squash from drying out. When you can easily pierce the flesh with a knife, the squash is done. Allow to cool slightly and serve warm. Any leftovers can be tossed with pasta and parmesan for a simple dinner.

*Real maple syrup is a great alternative. 

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Clare - I love that fall/autumn photo…it really does get you in the mood for that tasty squash. Looks lovely.

Clare - I love that fall/autumn photo…it really does get you in the mood for that tasty squash. Looks lovely.

gemma - Thanks Clare. It’s such a lovely time of year. I wish it lasted as long as winter seems to.

gemma - Thanks Clare. It’s such a lovely time of year. I wish it lasted as long as winter seems to.

Nishta - Gemma–I’m in love with that first shot.

Nishta - Gemma–I’m in love with that first shot.

LimeCake - i love the warm flavours in this! roasted squash is so delicious!

LimeCake - i love the warm flavours in this! roasted squash is so delicious!

Gemma - Thank you Nishta, it is a great time of year for natural light!
Thanks LimeCake. I agree, roasted squash is wonderful.

Gemma - Thank you Nishta, it is a great time of year for natural light!
Thanks LimeCake. I agree, roasted squash is wonderful.

Panzanella Recipe

The farmers at my local market are selling the last of their tomatoes, our basil plant is spending the night indoors for fear of frost, and the days are getting rapidly shorter. I realize that fall is already in full swing, but I hope you will humor me as I sneak in one last summer recipe. I've made this simple panzanella a few times over the last two months and it continues to provide a lovely balance between fresh and comforting, even as the temperature begins to drop. 

I celebrated my 29th birthday recently with a weekend visit from my parents and Nick. We enjoyed good food and drinks and spent ample time outside — my favorite things. We made a trip out to Allerton Park to picnic, hike, and explore the estate — and we were mesmerized by the giant Osage Apples.

Once the weekend plans were over, the visitors left, and I settled back into writing papers — I felt a bit lonely when my actual birthday came and went without much fanfare. I've always been the type to throw a birthday party, and it felt odd to let a year go by without doing so.

Though, sometimes it is nice to be alone – to stop and be grateful for long walks, new thrift store scarves, and the opportunity to be back in school – even if I don't currently have the kind of life that is conducive to Tuesday-night-birthday-dinner-parties.

Panzanella
Adapted from Saveur

Ingredients:

1/4 C plus 2 Tbl olive oil
2 Tbl butter
3 cloves garlic, sliced
3 C of good quality, crusty, slightly stale bread cut into 1/2 inch cubes
3 C of cherry tomatoes, sliced in half
1/2 a medium shallot, thinly sliced
1/2 a medium red bell pepper, thinly sliced
2 Tbl balsamic vinegar
Salt and pepper
1 handful of fresh basil, thinly sliced

 

Method:

Preheat oven to 350F. Heat 1/4 cup of olive oil and the butter in a large ovenproof skillet. When the butter has melted, turn off the heat, add the garlic and bread cubes, and mix well. Place the skillet in the oven and bake for 10 to 15 minutes, stirring occasionally. When the bread is golden brown and toasted, and the garlic is fragrant, remove from the oven and set aside to cool.  

In a medium bowl, mix together the tomatoes, the remaining two tablespoons of olive oil, and the vinegar. Add salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste. 

In a large bowl, combine the bread, tomatoes and basil. Serve immediately. 

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Erin O'Brien - Happy belated birthday – sounds like you had a nice pre-birthday celebration.
I don’t miss summer until autumn is in full-swing… thanks for sharing the recipe (and photo) of a bright summer dish. :)

Erin O'Brien - Happy belated birthday – sounds like you had a nice pre-birthday celebration.
I don’t miss summer until autumn is in full-swing… thanks for sharing the recipe (and photo) of a bright summer dish. :)

gemma - Thanks, Erin. My birthday weekend was a lot of fun. The autumn colors are amazing here! I hope there is a bit of seasonal color in your part of the country.

gemma - Thanks, Erin. My birthday weekend was a lot of fun. The autumn colors are amazing here! I hope there is a bit of seasonal color in your part of the country.

Ruthie - Happy birthday! Love your blog!

Ruthie - Happy birthday! Love your blog!

Gemma - Thank you Ruthie. That is very nice to hear!

Gemma - Thank you Ruthie. That is very nice to hear!

Tomato Tartine Recipe

A magnificent harvest moon ushered in autumn last night. Though, with today's 93-degree weather forecast, you'd hardly know it. I'm still reveling in late summer produce and sunny afternoons. The Urbana farmers market is one of the great benefits to my new town. It feels like more of a community event than the hurried Chicago markets I am familiar with. Strangers stop to say hello, there are nutrition education games for children, and booths with information on various community services.  It has been nice to run into professors and classmates, and even an old friend from Chicago who works on a local organic farm.

I have to admit I had forgotten how busy an academic schedule can be. It is certainly a nice reprieve from the monotonous daily grind of the last few years, but free time is scarce. I am taking four classes and working 22 hours a week – so to be fair it's not just coursework on my plate. A few readers have emailed to ask about the courses I am taking this semester. I am currently enrolled in Information Organization and Access, Reference and Information Services, Administration and Use of Archival Materials, and Rare Books and Manuscripts. I have also started as a technology volunteer at the Urbana Free Library and I was recently elected (without stiff competition) the Vice-President of the ALA Student Chapter.

It is in my character to thrive when slightly over-extended, though my days rarely feel calm. I am woefully behind on correspondence and photo editing, and I'm embarrassed to admit that I have over 1,000 posts waiting idly in Google Reader.

While I have made some wonderful meals over the last month, my most frequent has been this simple open-face sandwich that barely needs a recipe. It is a quick lunch for a busy afternoon and a great way to enjoy the unique character of different heirloom tomato varieties. I used green zebras in the photo posted here.

Tomato Tartine

Ingredients:

1 medium, flavorful tomato
2 slices of thick, crusty bread
2 Tbl mayonnaise*
good quality sea salt*
fresh ground black pepper
fresh thyme leaves

Method:

Toast the bread slices and spread with mayonnaise.  Slice the tomatoes 1/4-inch thick and arrange in an even layer over the mayonnaise. Add salt and pepper to taste. Finish with the leaves from a few sprigs of fresh thyme (or any other herb you have on hand). Serve while the toast is still warm.

*This is a great lunch to make in a pinch with ingredients you have on hand. But it is extra special with homemade mayonnaise. If you are new to making your own mayonnaise, I would recommend Molly's lovely recipe.  This is also a great dish to use any fancy finishing salts you have stocked away.  My dear friend Harold gave me a box of Ilocano Asin sea salt recently and this was the perfect way to use some of it.

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heather - open-face fresh tomato and mayo sandwiches are certainly a summer standby. never eaten one with a green tomato — is that a green zebra? i have another variation that i like: toasted bread, ricotta cheese, thick tomato slices, salt and za’atar. both are delicious!
cheers,
*heather*

Erin O'Brien - I’m not quite the foodie that you are, but I can appreciate a good sandwich when I see one.
Lovely photo. <3

Lisa - I just spent the morning at our lovely farmer’s market here in Oak Park. Along with the produce they have a local folk instrument group that plays and invites anyone to join, and fresh homemade donuts as part of a weekly fundraiser for non-profits. It’s the perfect reprieve to a week full of studying and lectures.
Now I know exactly what to do with my heirloom tomatoes! Thank you.

Nishta - I have been eating a lot of a similar kind of sandwich lately–usually with goat cheese or really good butter instead of mayo. it’s the breakfast of champions!

Caroline - Those green tomatoes are gorgeous!

Gemma - Heather, yes it is a green zebra. The farmers market near my house has an amazing array of tomatoes. It has been fun to try different varieties over the last several weeks.
Thanks Erin! I have to say, your photos are always impressive as well.
Lisa, I’ve heard the Oak Park market is wonderful, but I have never made it out to visit. One day!
Nishta, I have been snacking on these sandwiches with goat cheese instead of mayo at you suggestion. Delicious!
Thank you Caroline, the last few sighs of summer!