Go Local Magazine - October 2016 Issue

The October issue of Go Local Magazine is out! Go Local is a local lifestyle magazine promoting life around the Massachusetts/Connecticut line. The magazine features nearby businesses where you can play, shop and eat, and showcases the citizens who make the region a great place to live. The newest issue is filled with all the things that make this the best time of year, Autumn traditions such as corn mazes, marching bands, fall excursions, and more.  

Of particular interest to our foodie followers might be A Couple in the Kitchen's own recipe for Onyx Moonshine Apple Cake (page 39) and the feature on Foster Hill Farm in Stafford Springs. ACK fans may be interested to know that Amy wrote the article on Sue Muldoon, who is reviving the art of seatweaving in Enfield, CT with her business Redux for You (page 41), and also wrote the article on Ellington High School's Marching Band (page 11), who recently performed at The Big E.

In the October issue are also articles on a special Special Olympics coach in East Longmeadow, stone carving experts from Longmeadow, and a Monson family who is doing cool things with twisted wood. Included in every issue are the Go Local Picks, Local Snapshots, the Local Einstein quiz, and the Final Countdown (this issue's is 7 Places to Watch Football), and as always, so much more.

You can read the current issue online here, or pick up your FREE copy today and Go Local!


Facebook Video Recipes - Like?

So I finally joined Facebook. I gave in and joined the 21st century. And instantly, I was hooked. The connections! The memes! The 30-second video recipes! Like! Like! Like!

Then I tried one of those recipes for the first time. It was this one (Apple Roses), and I decided to make them instead of the usual apple pie I make for Chris's birthday. This picture is one of twelve - the other 11 aren't nearly as pretty. (Insert heavy sigh here).

Mistake #1: Relying solely on the one video. While the ingredients appeared as captions within the video, there were no measurements or actual directions. What can I say? That video made it look REALLY EASY, and I have a lot of experience in the kitchen. I got cocky. 

Mistake #2: Ignoring my intuition. I kept wondering, how are these apple slices, even super thin ones, gonna' roll up so easily inside the pastry without breaking or making holes in the dough? Answer? They aren't. 

Mistake #3: Trying to bake puff pastry at 330F for 30 minutes. More like 375F for 35-40 minutes. Unless you like to eat soggy, slightly raw pastry dough. 

Lessons Learned:

1. Do more research. Poke around the Internet, get clearer directions and/or tips from other people who have tried the recipe.

2. Listen to your inner chef. Soften the apple slices by simmering them in water for a few minutes before trying to bend them without breaking them or the pastry. And definitely turn the oven up, preferably from the beginning of the cook, not 1/2 hour in when you realize they aren't cooking.

3. Get real. It never looks as pretty in real life as it does in the video. And that's OK.

To sum up: There's a lot of great stuff on Facebook. So, yes, I still LIKE! but I shall proceed with more caution in the future. I advise you to do the same.


"Frosty" Peach and Prosciutto Bruschetta

Mystic Cheese Company makes amazing cheese. Chris and I first tried their cheese while talking to company founder and cheesemaker Brian Civitello on a tour of Graywall Farm, a dairy farm in Lebanon, Connecticut. While we went crazy over that cheese, a satiny, buttery, wonderfully meltable concoction known as Melville, Brian was explaining that he makes all of Mystic Cheese's cheese in two "cheese pods," shipping containers that he has set up on the farm. It is a fascinating and innovative idea and if you want to read more about it, this article or Mystic's own website both do a better job than I ever could.

Anyway, we fell in love with their cheese that day and when we found out they recently came out with a new cheese, we bought it as soon as we found it (at the Coventry Farmers' Market). It's called "Frost," and it has the texture of spreadable fudge, it stinks to high heaven, and it is very, very earthy. I could barely eat it straight, so I knew any recipe I used it in needed to be well-balanced.

I thought on it for about a week and then it came to me, just in time for Chris's birthday. The recipe calls for a nice mix of basic ingredients - bread, meat, cheese and fruit - and only takes about 5 or 6 minutes to make. And look how pretty and fancy they are!

"Frosty" Peach and Prosciutto Bruschetta
(makes 12)

1 medium sized baguette, cut into 1/2-inch slices
1 package Mystic Cheese Co.'s Frost
6 slices prosciutto, torn in half
1 large peach, cut into thin slices
olive oil
balsamic glaze

Place the baguette slices on a cookie sheet and put under a high broiler to toast; remove from broiler when toasted to your liking. Spread each piece with a thin layer of Frost. Place 1/2 a slice of prosciutto on top of the cheese. Grill the peach slices on each side, just long enough to warm through and get grill marks, about 4 minutes total. Set the peach slices on top of the prosciutto. Drizzle the bruschetta with olive oil and balsamic glaze, and serve immediately.  


3 Times Thursday - Autumn Apples

For this week's 3 Times Thursday, enjoy autumn's best gift - apples! Fall in New England means it's time to head to your local orchard and do the "Twist and Pull!" And since it's cooler out, you won't mind turning on the oven to bake ones of these autumn apple favorites. 

3. Square Cider Donuts - Although this one doesn't use apples per se, it does use apple cider, and all the best local orchards will be selling theirs this month and next. Why square? Why not?!?

Makes 24 doughnuts plus 24 doughnut holes

canola oil for frying
1 egg
1 1/4 cup sugar, divided
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon, divided
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
1 cup apple cider
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup flour
2 cups baking mix (we used Bisquick)

Preheat oil in a large pot, skillet or deep fryer to 375 degrees, checking the temperature often using a candy thermometer. Whisk together egg, 1/4 cup sugar, 1 teaspoon cinnamon, nutmeg, cider and vanilla. Using a wooden spoon, stir in flour and baking mix. On floured surface, with floured hands, knead dough several times and roll to 1/2-inch thick.  Cut with a donut or biscuit cutter, and make holes in the center of each. Carefully drop into hot oil. Working in batches of six, cook until golden brown, flip, and cook other side until golden brown. Adjust the heat on the burner as necessary to keep the temperature steady at 375.  Drain on sheets of newspaper or paper towels. Mix together remaining 1 cup of sugar and 1 teaspoon of cinnamon; while doughnuts are still hot, coat in cinnamon-sugar. Eat while still warm!

2. Apple Pie - No apple dessert list would be complete without a recipe for classic apple pie. Or should we say, pie filling, since we cheat and use Pillsbury crust. 

1 package refrigerated pie crust, or homemade crust
10 apples, variety of your choosing, peeled, cored and diced
2 teaspoons lemon juice
1/2 cup flour
1/2 cup sugar
4 tablespoons apple pie spice
2 teaspoons salt
4 tablespoons butter
1 tablespoon milk

Preheat oven to 425. Place one pie crust in an ungreased pie plate and press firmly against the side and bottom of the dish. In a large bowl, toss the diced apples with the lemon juice. In a separate bowl, mix the dry ingredients well. Pour the dry ingredients into the bowl with the apples and mix well so that all the apples are coated. Spoon the filling into the crust-lined pie plate. Cut the butter into pats and place randomly on top of the apple pie filling. Top with the second crust and press the edges together to seal (if using refrigerated pie crust, see package directions for a two-crust pie). Brush the crust with the milk. Cut slits in several places in the top crust and bake for 45 minutes, until apples are tender and the crust is brown. Cool for at least an hour before serving.

1. Onyx Moonshine Apple Cake - We soak our apples in our favorite local moonshine for 24 hours, then use a friend's apple cake recipe to make this boozy confection.

Cake Ingredients:
5 medium apples, peeled and diced (feel free to soak them in Onyx Moonshine for a day or so, if you dare)
3 cups all-purpose flour
2 cups granulated sugar
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
3/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 cup vegetable oil
2 large eggs

3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
3 tablespoons granulated sugar
1 tablespoon ground cinnamon
1 tablespoon unsalted butter, room temperature

Preheat oven to 350 F. Combine all cake ingredients in a large bowl, and toss to coat apples. Place in a 9X13 pan that has been greased with butter or sprayed with cooking spray. In a separate bowl, combine topping ingredients and pat over top before placing in oven. Bake for 40-45 minutes, until bubbly. If desired, dust with confectioner's sugar before serving.


Simpaug Farms' Fall CSA

Amy's first writing assignment for Go Local Magazine was a feature on Simpaug Farms, a family-owned farm on 250 acres of preserved farmland in Suffield, Connecticut. You can read that article HERE (January 2016 Issue).

Many farms, including Simpaug, now sell shares of their crops. This is known as Community Supported Agriculture, or CSA, and is essentially a pre-paid subscription to a farm's seasonal produce (veggies, herbs, flowers), and sometimes, meat and eggs. There are many excellent reasons to purchase a CSA, such as getting to know the farmer, having confidence and trust in exactly where your food is coming from, and gaining the satisfaction of supporting a local business. You may even enjoy the benefit of eating healthier, as your fridge will be automatically stocked with fresh, local, seasonal food.

You may wonder why we bring this up now, when the farming season, at least in Connecticut, is nearly at its end. Well, that is because while most farms sell Summer CSAs, Simpaug Farms is one of the few farms that has a Fall CSA. If you have never tried a CSA, and you're not sure if it's right for you, it makes sense to start with one that is shorter, and therefore a smaller investment. 

Simpaug Farms offers a lot of options for their CSAs. Fall CSAs can be purchased as weekly or biweekly shares, with or without eggs. There are also a variety of pick-up locations throughout the state. Options, dates, prices, locations and all other pertinent information (including an order form) can be found HERE. You can pay online for added convenience or you can sign up online and have an invoice mailed to you so you can pay by check.

We just purchased ours, choosing a Fall half-share (since we're a two-person household), with a dozen eggs added in, which means we will be picking up our share at the Ellington Farmers Market every other Saturday starting October 1st. We are very much looking forward to our very first CSA, and to enjoying the bounty of Simpaug Farms. 

Look for our fresh produce-inspired recipes starting in a few weeks!


Go Local Magazine - September 2016 Issue

The September issue of Go Local Magazine is out! Go Local is a local lifestyle magazine promoting life around the Massachusetts/Connecticut line. The magazine features nearby businesses where you can play, shop and eat, and showcases the citizens who make the region a great place to live. The newest issue is filled with people and places that are invigorating the Go Local area. It's a wonderful celebration of the fall season. And, for the first time ever, Go Local is "perfect bound" which means it has a flat spine like so many of the magazines you are used to! 

Of particular interest to our foodie followers might be A Couple in the Kitchen's own recipe for Late Summer Harvest Pasta 'Primavera' on page 57, or the article in which some local nutritionists advise people on how to makeover their lunchboxes, or the feature on Johnny Appleseed's Orchards of Ellington, CT. Amy wrote the article called "Happy Herd at Windy Crow Farm" about an alpaca farm in Stafford Springs. For those whose mind has gone "Back to School," there's an article featuring a teacher at Heritage Academy in Longmeadow. For the crafters, there's a new feature called "Go Create," with a inspiring DIY project. There's also a list of autumn fairs and festivals, a feature on Suffield's Woods Hollow Leather Co., and much, much more, all in the September issue.

You can read the current issue online here, or pick up your FREE copy today and Go Local!


Spicy Peanut Noodle Salad with Broccoli and Grapes

Some time ago, we learned about the Fortune Asian Noodle Blogger Recipe Challenge and decided to participate. We emailed our interest to JSL Foods, and in exchange we received three packets of Fortune Thai Peanut Rice Noodles to experiment with.

We chose to enter the Cold Salad category because it's summertime and we knew we'd have several opportunities to feed a crowd at a picnic or potluck during the summer season. In fact, our recipe is a riff off of the ubiquitous Broccoli-Grape Salad, you know the one with the vinegary-sweet mayonnaise dressing that has broccoli, grapes, bacon and sunflower seeds that you can find all over America anytime in July or August? Yeah, that one. And we also loved the idea of playing with the idea of peanuts and grapes because we both have such nostalgia for peanut butter and grape jelly sandwiches.  

So this is what we made, and it was so very easy. First, it only has five ingredients (well, six if you include hot water). Second, the Thai Peanut Noodles can be microwaves in 3 minutes, so the whole dish is done in less than 10, and most of that is choppin' broccoli. Like Dana Carvey. And finally, the peanut seasoning packet just needs to be whisked with hot water to become its spicy, nutty self. So easy!

This salad tastes best with the noodles, grapes and broccoli allowed to chill slightly and then dressed with the sauce right before serving. You can buy Fortune Noodles at Shop Rite and Stop N Shop when you're ready to try this for yourself. To get more info on JSL Foods and their products, check out their Facebook or Twitter pages.

Spicy Peanut Noodle Salad with Broccoli and Grapes

3 packages Fortune Thai Peanut Rice Noodles
1 cup hot water
2 cups small broccoli florets
3 cups halved grapes
2 tablespoons toasted sesame oil 
1 cup chopped peanuts

Prepare the 3 packages of noodles according to the directions (microwave for three minutes). Combine the cooked noodles, broccoli florets, grape halves and sesame oil in a large bowl. Cover and set in the refrigerator to chill for 20-30 minutes. Then open the three seasoning packets into a small sauce pan and whisk in the cup of hot water to make the peanut sauce. Gently stir the peanut sauce into the noodle mixture. Serve garnished with chopped peanuts.

Disclaimer: This recipe was created as an entry into the Fortunate Asian Noodle Blogger Recipe Challenge. We received free samples from JSL Foods to create the recipe, as stated above. However, all thoughts and opinions stated here are our own and we were not paid to publish this or to post only positive comments.


A New Spin on Shrimp 'n Grits

Having lived in New Orleans for several years, Amy loves her some Southern food. One particular favorite is shrimp and grits. The other night, though, we decided to play with it a little and try a new spin on this Louisiana classic. 

We married Amy's other favorite -- New Orleans-style barbecue shrimp -- with grilled polenta cakes. For what is polenta but Italian grits, right? To boost the corn flavor, we roasted fresh corn and sprinkled it on top. This could be how we eat shrimp 'n grits from now on! 

Tip: Leaving the shells on the shrimp allows the sauce to get trapped inside and keep the shrimp juicy. Serve this dish with lots of napkins because these shrimp will have to be peeled to be eaten by diners.

New Orleans Barbecue Shrimp over Grilled Polenta

2 ears fresh corn
1 roll pre-cooked polenta 
1-2 tablespoons olive oil
1 lb. raw shrimp, shells on
8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter
2 teaspoons ground black pepper
2 teaspoons cracked green peppercorns
1 tablespoon fresh chopped rosemary
5 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
3 cloves minced garlic
1 large lemon, sliced, seeds removed

For the corn: 
Heat your grill to medium-high. While the grill heats, soak the corn, still in the husk, in a bowl of cold water for 10 minutes. Shake off the excess and place the corn on the grill. Close the grill and cook, turning often, about 20 minutes, or until the kernels are tender. Cut the kernels off the cob and set aside.

For the polenta: 
Slice the polenta into 1/2-inch slices and drizzle with olive oil. Place on the grill and cook, flipping once, until heated through.

For the barbecue shrimp:
Preheat oven to 450F. Cut the butter into pats and place in baking dish large enough to hold the shrimp in one layer. Add pepper, peppercorns, Creole seasoning, rosemary, Worcestershire and garlic. Place in oven until butter is melted, stirring to combine ingredients. Place lemon slices in one layer over the sauce, then lay the shrimp on top, also in one layer. Return to the oven. Cook approximately 3 minutes. When shrimp start to turn pink, turn shrimp over and cook another 3 minutes. 

To assemble: Arrange the polenta on a plate, place the shrimp on top and around the polenta. Drizzle entire plate with the shrimp sauce and sprinkle with corn kernels. 


Cherry-Fig Chutney

Amy's mom recently made a comment that our recipes were getting a little crazy. She briefly mentioned fish sauce as a particularly odd ingredient. Well, Mom, you're not going to like this one, we expect. So let us start by restating something we've said before, which is that we feel recipes are mostly suggestions, not meant to be followed to the letter. We write about what we did and encourage you to try it your way. 

That said, on a recent summer motorcycle ride out to Brooklyn, Connecticut, we stopped at the Creamery Brook Bison Farm (see also our old post here). If you are ever in the area on a weekend, you should go check it out. Besides bison, they have emus and many different birds. They offer farm tours and wagon rides, host seasonal events, and have a store in which they sell their meat along with an astounding array of bison-themed products. Plus, there's ice cream! It's a small, family-run farm, so definitely check their website before you go for their hours and other pertinent information.

On this particular day, we picked up a gorgeous bison tenderloin at the farm's store. When we got home, Chris trimmed it to remove the extra fat and silver skin. We tossed some small potatoes in olive oil with fresh herbs and Chris set out to the deck to put those on the grill. Once they were nearly cooked, he put on the meat, first searing it on all sides, then turning down the heat to cook it to medium rare. It didn't take long, and he was very careful not to overcook it, because it was a beautiful piece of meat. (If you're not sure how to cook bison, the farm has handout to guide you).

While Chris was grilling, Amy made this cherry-fig chutney to serve over the meat. In case you don't know, besides being the most annoying character in Legally Blonde, a chutney is a spicy condiment made of fruits or vegetables with vinegar, spices, and sugar, sort of like a savory marmalade. We had fresh cherries in the house (see also Cherry-Lemon Clafoutis) and thought they would work nicely with the bison, although we think this sauce-of-sorts would also be great with beef or pork. 

Chutney in Legally Blonde

The "strange" ingredient Amy's mother might not like here (besides the bison, that is) is the fig-infused balsamic vinegar, a gift from our neighbors D and J. It really gave the chutney a deeper, darker, sweeter, less acidic flavor than a regular balsamic vinegar would. If you can't find it at your grocery store, they would certainly carry it at one of those specialty olive oil/vinegar shops that seem to be all the rage lately. Williams-Sonoma has one as well. In other words, while it may take more effort, it will be well worth it. 

Cherry-Fig Chutney
makes 3-4 servings


1 tablespoon olive oil
1 medium onion, chopped
1/4 cup demerara sugar (or light brown sugar)
1/4 cup fig-infused balsamic vinegar
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
a dash of cayenne pepper
1 cup black cherries, pits removed
kosher salt
freshly ground black pepper

Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the onions and cook until caramelized, about 10 minutes. Remove the onions to a small bowl and set aside. Put the sugar, vinegar, cinnamon, cloves, and cayenne in the skillet and stir to combine. Bring to a boil, then immediately reduce heat to low. Add the cherries and allow to simmer for 10 minutes. Return the cooked onion to the skillet and season to taste with salt and pepper. Serve over bison, beef, pork, or whatever you wish. 


Summerin' Succotash!

Summerin' Succotash

Huzzah, it's corn season! This year, we even tried to grow our own, and while we have a few very small ears, they certainly aren't ready for harvesting. Around here, the typical corn varieties we find are Butter and Sugar (alternating kernels of sunflower-yellow and butter colors), and Silver Queen (white-blonde kernels). We love them both and eat as much as we can from late July until the end of September when our local farmstands abound with ears.

A Couple in the Kitchen's own corn patch and Thai pepper plant

Straight off the cob is the perfect way to eat corn, in our estimation. But now and again we buy or cook too many ears and like to experiment with the leftovers. Some recent market finds mingled with our own garden veggies in our latest favorite side dish - succotash. 

Fresh mise en place for Summerin' Succotash

The recipe is simple and the result, summery fresh goodness. From the farmers' market, we shelled whole lima beans and sawed the corn off of two freshly shucked ears. From our own garden, we dug up a couple of shallots, shredded a few basil leaves, and chopped two tiny Thai hot peppers (love how they grow end-up!). We ran across the street and "borrowed" a beautiful red tomato from our neighbor which we diced. A little bacon grease leftover from that morning's breakfast, some time over medium heat, and a dash of seasoning and we had a side dish worthy of the season, perfectly paired with smoked pork chops.

Cooking process - so easy!

Substitution tips: You can use olive oil instead of bacon grease to keep it meat-free. If you can't find fresh lima beans, use about a cup's worth of frozen. Jalapeno would work instead of the Thai pepper as well.

Summerin' Succotash

1 tablespoon bacon grease
2 shallots, peeled and sliced
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
2 ears corn, shucked, kernels removed
1 quart fresh lima beans, shelled (yielding about a cup) 
1 large tomato, diced
2 Thai peppers, finely diced
kosher salt, to taste
freshly ground black pepper, to taste
1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar
13-15 basil leaves, shredded

Heat the bacon grease in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the shallots and garlic powder and cook until they start to soften, about two minutes. Stir in the corn and beans and allow to cook until they are warmed through, about five minutes. Add the tomato and peppers and cook another 2-3 minutes. Season with salt, pepper and the cider vinegar. Remove from heat and toss in the basil leaves. Serve warm.

Grilled, smoked pork chop and "summerin' succotash"