Fall Finds

fall finds list

I love lists. I’m not particularly organized by nature, but I am frequently compelled make lists. This is a little collection of some of the things I’m glad to have stumbled on recently.

1. Savory pumpkin recipes. This mac and cheese is from Food 52, and I found another amazing looking pasta recipe with pumpkin, fried onion and sage from Cafe Johnsonia that made me mad that I didn’t think of it first. Can fried onions be the next big food trend please?

2. Tack studded pumpkins. I haven’t done much to celebrate Halloween the last few years, but I really like it as a holiday. The decorations are fun, you don’t have to stress about spending money on gifts, and there aren’t any rigid food traditions except for candy, so you can make something different every year. I’m tucking away this simple and cute pumpkin decorating idea from A Subtle Revelry for when I get my own place to fancify for halloween.

3. Fall fruits like apples and pears go so well with cheese. I especially adore them with aged goudas, and I’ve been obsessed with this brand for a couple of years now: it’s called Two Sisters Isabella and it’s unreal – buttery, sharp, nutty, and so rich it’s almost sweet. Plus it has those nice little crunchy crystals that all really good aged cheeses have. I’ve ordered it from Murray’s cheese shop in New York before and they did a great job shipping, but check your local cheese shop first!

4. This is old news that I just found out about, but Nick Offerman (Ron Swanson of Parks and Recreation) wrote a book, entitled “Paddle Your Own Canoe: One Man’s Fundamentals for Delicious Living”  and it looks like a gem (I mean, that title!). My favorite thing about Nick Offerman is that he basically IS Ron Swanson: expert woodworker, total man’s man, and married to the actress who plays Ron’s crazy ex Tammy, Megan Mullally. He did a little stand up routine at Tulane University a couple of years ago while promoting the book, and his act was really one sincere nugget of wisdom after another, delivered with his signature dry humor (and peppered with silliness here and there). I especially like what he had to say about pursuing hobbies. Not everyone has the luxury of a career they find personally fulfilling, so it’s important to find something you do for you that makes you feel alive. Deliciously so.

5. Coconut oil as a beauty product. I’m theeee worst about remembering to moisturize, and when the weather cools off, my skin likes to reward my forgetfulness by breaking out in little dry bumps on the backs of my arms (tmi? too bad). I’ve started using coconut oil as my after-shower body moisturizer and I love it. It smells amazing, it sticks around longer than lighter oils  (like Neutrogena’s sesame oil), and I keep it in the shower so it’s easy to remember to slap some on before I grab my towel. Apparently Dr. Bronner’s has a fair trade coconut oil, so you can take it a hippy step further and moisturize organically AND ethically if you like.

6. This sweater. I found it at Target and had to take it home. It’s chunky and long enough to cover my bum (which means I can wear leggings as pants in public!) and the pattern is graphic and interesting without being straight-up “tribal”. Don’t get me wrong, I really like tribal prints, but I have my doubts about the trend’s longevity. Not that this is a big investment piece – it’s $30 bucks – so go get one.

7. Rugged stones. I really like the masculine yet delicate thing that’s happening with jewelry lately, and I feel like raw stones are a great way to add a little sparkly impact without venturing too far outside the realm of the geometric. This quartz necklace is from SPARKLEFARM on etsy. I ordered one for my mother in law for mother’s day and I’m her new favorite daughter in law. Also her only daughter in law, but that’s beside the point.

8. Leather paneled leggings – because sometimes plain leggings won’t cut it, but full leather is scary.

9. Gems and chains – I love this little bracelet I found on etsy from ShopClementine, but i’m lobster-claw challenged (can anyone get them on with one hand?) so I’m thinking about making some of my own with the beads strung on stretchy plastic thread so I can look fancy while being lazy.

What’s on your brain this fall?

  1. nice finds! love the sweater and necklace! and am happy to hear a report from somebody who has actually used coconut oil as a moisturizer. when i heard that for the first time i thought it was a little strange. but good to know your thoughts on it.

    miranda — October 24, 2013
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  2. nick offerman has never steered me wrong. i love him.

    hannah — October 25, 2013
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My Family's Famous Spiced Beef Stew

Every family has a few recipes they are famous for – that they get asked to bring to potlucks and write down on notecards over and over. In my family, three in particular come to mind: pumpkin pie, hot fudge sauce, and beef stew.

I’m pretty confident in the kitchen and don’t usually like to tether myself to recipes – trusting my tastebuds above all else – but in this case, I pull out the cookbook. This stew has a lot going on, and it has to be just so.


The foundation of any good stew is meat, browned enough to coat the pot in caramelly brown “fond” and anchor the dish in succulent complexity.


Next come aromatics – onion and garlic, cooked in fat while scraping important brown bits back into the mix.


A dusting of flour will give the liquid some body.


The main reason I need to look at the recipe when I make this dish – there are lots of spices. Especially cloves and paprika – but also pepper and sugar and worcestershire and lemon juice and bay leaves and you get it.


My favorite part of the recipe: walking away for a couple of hours.


And while you were away, stew happened.


spiced beed stew


The Recipe: Spiced Beef Stew

serves 4 (at least)



1 lb stew beef

1 T. vegetable oil

1 onion, chopped into large chunks

2 cloves garlic, minced

1/4 cup flour

1-1 1/2 qt. beef broth


2 tsp. lemon juice (more doesn’t hurt)

2 tsp worcestershire sauce (I tend to be generous here too)

2-3 bay leaves

1 tsp. ground cloves

1 tsp. sugar

1/2 teaspoon black pepper

1/2 teaspoon paprika

salt to taste (at least a teaspoon, probably more)


2 cups carrots cut in large chunks

2-3 cups cubed potatoes



-Coat meat in oil, brown over medium high heat, working in batches (at least two or the meat won’t brown properly), set aside.

-Add another tiny bit of oil to the pot, and cook onions and garlic until slightly browned (throw in a little beef broth if things start looking burny instead of brown).

– Add meat back to the pot, dust with 1/4 cup flour and stir while cooking for a minute or two.

-Add 1 qt beef broth and all ingredients from lemon juice down to salt. Bring to a boil and reduce heat to low. Simmer one hour.

– Add carrots and potatoes and additional beef broth if necessary to cover vegetables. Cook 30-40 minutes or until potatoes and carrots are tender.

-Taste for seasoning and serve.

  1. That looks delicious. I'm bought some stew meat this week so I'm giving this a shot. The spices are an interesting combo. When do we get to see the pumpkin pie and hot fudge sauce? Fall weather bring out the best recipes! Thanks for sharing~

    Lisa — October 18, 2013
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  2. […] my family’s famous spiced beef stew – sweet salty tart […]

    Stew-tasticness . . . ! | Reagan's Originals — October 27, 2013
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  3. Making this tomorrow!

    Miranda — November 4, 2013
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  4. PS. You may want to keep your phone on you. :)

    Miranda — November 4, 2013
    1. Mir, I'm at your disposal :)

      courtney — November 4, 2013
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  5. Looks wonderful! Please tell me what beef broth brand you use!

    Judy — December 24, 2013
    1. Judy, thanks for comment! My mom uses Knorr bullion, so thats the flavor I'm most familiar with, but I usually use boxed Swanson or Wegmans brand broth and the end result is just as good. Use what you can get and taste for salt before you serve it. The biggest difference I notice between bullion and different boxed broth brands is the salt level.

      courtney — December 24, 2013
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  6. looks very delicious!!! make me hungry!! oh! Is knife made from Tanegashima?

    itsumi — April 8, 2014
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  7. Could I use baby carrots if that is what I have in the Frig? If so, would I still just measure out 2 cups?

    Heidi — October 6, 2015
    1. Absolutely! I sometimes cut my baby carrots in half at a diagonal, but it's just for presentation.

      courtney — December 6, 2015
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  8. […] Beef stew – freeze it without the potatoes and simmer a spud or two after it’s thawed and reheated. […]

    Freezing Fundamentals for Foodies | Sweet Salty Tart — February 23, 2016
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  9. […] or opt for an additional teaspoon of paprika for a little extra simmer of spice.Recipe adapted from Sweet Salty Tart.3.5.3208 […]

    Spicy Beef Stew - PepperScale — April 17, 2016
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Down With Pumpkin (but not really)

pumpkin everywhere

I adore the fall season and the foods that usher it in. There are apples for apple pie and cider, acorn and butternut squashes for roasting, and pumpkin for, well, basically everything else.

I have a small semantic beef with the fact that there is a pumpkin version of everything this time of year. Pumpkin coffee, pumpkin beer, pumpkin cake, pumpkin cream cheese, pumpkin cookies, and ETC – most of these things are probably delicious, but most of these things also do not contain pumpkin. You are not drinking a squash-flavored latte; you are drinking a latte that is spiced in a way that reminds you of the flavor of pumpkin pie. Credit where it’s due: Starbucks calls theirs a “pumpkin spice latte” which is basically not lying.

Where my issue gets a little more intense is with baked goods. Pumpkin pie and other custard-based desserts aside, pumpkin doesn’t do anything good for the texture or flavor of most bakery items. Adding pumpkin to a cake is like adding cement – you could maybe pull it off in a pound cake but you’ll be lucky to achieve a texture lighter than banana bread. I sort of dislike the density of muffins to begin with, but adding actual pureed pumpkin to the batter basically guarantees a heavy muffin the day it’s baked, and a pumpkin hockey puck the day after.

The absolute worst offender in my opinion is the so-called “pumpkin chocolate chip cookie”. Friends, cookies are supposed to be crispy on the edges, chewy in the middle, and full of butter. It’s impossible to actually add pureed pumpkin to cookie dough and end up with a cookie that fits those requirements. In fact, most “recipes” for pumpkin “cookies” require three things: pumpkin, chocolate chips, and cake mix. That “recipe” makes a sad, dense, small, free form cake. Do not call it a cookie.

What I’d like to do is divorce the word pumpkin from it’s associated spices. The noble pumpkin has more to offer us if we think outside the realm of sweets. There’s curried pumpkin soup, pumpkin stuffed with cheese and bread (um, yes), roasted pumpkin with sage or chipotle, even pumpkin filled ravioli. The pumpkin possibilities are nearly endless, and inevitably delicious.

That said, pumpkin pie is one of the greatest pies ever invented. And my mom’s is probably the best in the world (as is, I’m sure, your mom’s). There are a handful of other desserts I will allow to contain actual pumpkin, and they are: cheesecake, ice cream, mousse, any custard, maybe soufflé, and the occasional pumpkin roll. Beyond that, I’d recommend playing with other spice-heavy holiday flavors, like maybe gingersnap. A gingersnap is a fine cookie.

So, now you know. Proceed in pumpkin consumption responsibly.

  1. I'm glad someone had the gumption to finally say it. ps - perrrrrmpkerrrrrrrn

    Caitlin — October 10, 2013
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The Last Scone Recipe You'll Ever Need


When I cook, I’m always trying to boil a recipe down to it’s most fundamental parts. Not because I’m some kind of food nerd chemist, but because I’m a chronic questioner with no respect for authority, and I’m also lazy. Maybe my personality flaws have made me a little bit of a food nerd – but I solemnly swear that my purposes are ignoble. Recipes for baking are always so bossy – I like to limit their space in my cookbook. Does anyone need more than one recipe for pound cake, when the only difference between one and another is the addition of cocoa? What about muffins? Are the differences between blueberry muffins and lemon poppyseed so vast as to require two separate pages? I say no. I think these recipes can be simplified and condensed.

After some trial and error, I’ve landed on a formula for scones that makes all others unnecessary. You can make it sweet or savory – like a pick your own adventure story, but edible.


The cardinal rule of scone making is not to over mix the dough. When you are making something you want to be flaky or crumbly, or tender (which these scones are) over-mixing is the enemy. So when you cut the butter in to the flour, use a pastry cutter or your hands – you want those butter chunks to stay pretty big.


For these scones I went savory and did two versions: cheddar chive and black pepper parmesan. You can really add anything you want as long as it isn’t going to add any moisture to the dough. So no pumpkin puree or applesauce or soft cheeses (unless you freeze them first).





When it comes to add-ins, the sky is the limit – just keep the pieces fairly small. I like to have at least two additions, just to make things interesting. Some of my favorite combinations are dried cranberries with orange zest, blueberries with brown sugar, blue cheese with bacon, and diced apple with cheddar. These cheddar chive scones with a dash of cayenne and paprika were pretty great too.


Once you select your additions and get them prepped, add them to the dry ingredients and mix them in until everything is evenly distributed. Then pour in your cream.


Fold the cream into the dough gently until things are roughly homogenous (very roughly). You want everything to sort of clump together, but there will likely be  a few dry spots. Be especially careful if you’re working with something fragile like blueberries – those things like to burst during the stirring process – do your best to prevent it. This is why I think making scones in a mixer is a bad idea.


If you have any giant clumps of butter, break them up gently with your hands.


When you finish, it should look something like this.



Pack the dough into a disk, wrap it in plastic, and chill it in the fridge for at least 20 minutes – longer if you want.


Brush the scones with cream and sprinkle with sugar if they are sweet, salt or cheese or spices if they are savory.


Bake them for 20-25 minutes at 400 degrees.



So as a special present to my readers I experimented with photoshop and made a little recipe/flow-chart for these scones. I’m still getting used to using a tablet, as evidenced by my handwriting here. Anyway, it’ printable, so yay!



Print This Recipe

  1. i love your blog so much!! great writing, great pictures, and of course, great recipes. i'm with you on not needing a billion muffins recipes, etc. when i end up altering the recipes almost every time anyway. nice to have a solid scone recipe. pinning this!!

    miranda — October 8, 2013
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  2. Thank you!!!! Baked goods are not just for salted caramel crap and pumpkin buns. Those cheddar and chive ones look amazing. Also, I love the printable recipe. You rock.

    Caroline — October 8, 2013
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  3. I love you guys.

    courtney — October 8, 2013
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  4. Beautiful blog!

    Amy — October 8, 2013
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  5. Thanks Courtney for the scone tutorial. You made it look easy and delicious!

    Lisa — October 13, 2013
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  6. AH-MA-ZING... I just made cheddar ones and they are to die for!!

    Roxanne — November 6, 2013
    1. Roxanne, I'm so glad you liked them! I have to admit, I'm partial to cheesy scones myself. Thanks for the feedback!

      courtney — November 6, 2013
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  7. This is about the only scone recipe I use since finding it. I make it with Pamelas artisan blend gluten free baking mix and change nothing else. Except I'm lazy and use my food processor to cut in the butter. People rave! My usual are cinnamon chip topped with a bit of cinnamon sugar, bacon cheddar, lemon blueberry topped with sugar mixed with lemon zest. The variety is endless. This morning I'm thinking of blackberry basil. Thanks for this amazingly simple and super tasty treat.

    Lisa Skibenes — August 1, 2015
    1. Lisa! That comment made my weekend. I've never tried to make them gluten free but I'm so glad to hear it works. Blackberry basil sounds like a particularly revelatory combo. My latest favorite (as a Marylander) is making a red lobster biscuit knockoff/upgrade with old bay, cayenne, cheddar, and garlic. Blueberry lemon is also a regular in my kitchen. Thanks again for the report!

      courtney — August 3, 2015
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  8. Can I use milk instead of heavy cream? How does it taste?

    Jonathas — February 15, 2016
    1. Substituting milk would change the texture of the scones a lot. Cream has a much higher fat content and lower water content than milk, so the scones will not be as crumbly or tender. I don't think it's worth it to fundamentally change that rich and crumbly texture, because then the scone just kind of becomes a dense, triangular muffin. There are probably scone recipes out there that use milk instead, but I haven't tried any personally. I'm all about scones with heavy cream.

      courtney — February 17, 2016
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Going to Japan


Cody and I have been teased by the prospect of an extended trip to Japan for months and months and months. But our tickets are booked and it’s 99% official (barring month-long government shut down): we’re going to Japan.

I’ve been dreaming about getting out of the states for years, but the farthest I’ve gone is Bermuda – a lovely place, but not so foreign. I’m beside myself with excitement over our impending three-month trip, but I’m also terrified.


Of all the places I could have chosen to go, Japan was towards the bottom of my list. The highly-structured, honor-bound culture is way outside my comfort zone, and even though I call myself a foodie, the prospect of all that raw fish doesn’t really excite me. I’m more of a tartine or moules frites kind of lady. If life made sense, I would be going to France for my first time in a truly foreign country.

But Cody’s work is sending him to Japan for three months to launch a satellite, and I’m not an idiot, so I’m going with him. Honestly, it’s not that I’m not excited about going to Japan, I’m planning on having the time of my life, but I’m also intensely intimidated.


Contributing to my fear is the fact that we aren’t going to be staying in Tokyo or even mainland Japan. We’re staying on the tiniest spit of land in the region – a little island called Tanegashima. It’s going to take us two days to get there, and once we do, we’re going to get to practice our Japanese a lot, because the locals don’t speak English.


That picture above is a rice paddy on Tanegashima. This place is rural – the restaurants aren’t on Yelp, the hotels had to be arranged by a local fixer, and the only attraction is the space center. I think the airport has a McDonalds (correction – Cody just told me it doesn’t!), but the island is largely untouched by western culture, which is going to be so fascinating and so uncomfortable.


The photo above is a panorama of Cody’s hotel room from his last trip – tatami mats and sleeping on the floor.


The beaches look gorgeous, and supposedly Tanegashima is a little bit of a surfing destination.


Cody says the people are friendly and respectful and patient, but I haven’t been studying my Japanese so I’m sure I’ll test them in all areas.


This is a Japanese breakfast. Shriveled fish anyone? I’m sure it tastes better than it looks.


Rain, mist, green.


Some Tanegashima sushi!


Models of rockets launched from the Tanegashima Space Center.


Water and trees on the grounds of a temple in Kagoshima, the nearest big city (you have to cross ocean to get to it). UPDATE: just kidding, that temple is in Narita, but Kagoshima is the nearest city.



Did I warn you that this was going to be a huge photo dump?


That weirdness above is inside a medicine shop. UM. I’ve decided to not get sick while I’m there.





I know there’s a lot more to Japanese cuisine than sushi. I’m really looking forward to broadening my palate and eating some real ramen.


And lastly, the famous Hotel Chapel Christmas. Your one and only destination for all-Christmas, all-the-time, hourly “sleeping” accommodations in Narita. Not kidding.

Pinch me! And then give me some advice. I’m anticipating a mind-blowing trip, and I don’t know how to begin to prepare.

  1. You will probably feel like an alien visitor to another planet, but that's okay! Soak it all in. You will come home richer.

    Carrie — October 4, 2013
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  2. That is going to be an adventure! Sounds like learning surfing and Japanese would be some good moves. It'll be fun just to see the scenery though! Looks beautiful. I'm excited for you guys.

    miranda — October 5, 2013
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  3. Love the pictures. You'll come home with lots of stories about food no doubt! What a fantastic chance to soak in Japanese culture.

    Lisa — October 8, 2013
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