Blogger Kate Bowler shares favorite fall recipes from her new cookbook, “New England Invite”By Noelle Barbosa
Kate Bowler’s popular lifestyle blog domestikatedlife.com is ripe with mouthwatering recipes and Pinterest-worthy party tips. Since her first post in 2009, the Scituate resident has chronicled her adventures in home cooking, entertaining and DIY projects, showcasing her Martha Stewart-meets-Kate Spade style, but with a more casual approach. A collection of Bowler’s favorite dishes and tried-and-true entertaining tips are compiled in her first book, “New England Invite: Fresh Feasts to Savor the Seasons” (Globe Pequot, 2018).
“My book is about entertaining year-round, with a New England twist,” says Bowler who frequently hosts buffet-style gatherings (think savory smorgasbords, craft cocktails and contemporary tablescapes) at her home.
“I love finding ways to make everyday occasions feel special through home cooking and thoughtful details,” says Bowler. “I start by thinking about what would make my guests feel comfortable and enjoy the party. Sometimes that means building a menu around their likes and dislikes or highlighting local ingredients for out-of-town guests.”
“New England Invite” welcomes readers into Bowler’s charming home kitchen, with its handmade butcher-block island, decades-old electric stove and large bookcase chock-full of cookbooks. “You don’t need a perfect ‘chef’s kitchen’ or fancy tools to make these recipes,” she says.
The book reveals how it is possible to cook comfort foods and host casual fetes without too much fuss. “I didn’t feel like any of the books that I loved to look at for inspiration really reflected how I entertain at home,” says Bowler. “Most of the time when I’m entertaining it’s for family on Sunday night or a casual BBQ with a few friends and some toddlers running around.”
Bowler chose to include personal anecdotes alongside her recipes and entertaining ideas. “The stories are very reflective of how I write my blog posts, which tend to be about things that are actually happening in my life,” says.
A self-taught cook, Bowler’s interest in cooking was first piqued by watching her grandmother entertain. Her culinary interests increased when she was at college, where she would combat bouts of homesickness by cooking. A Northeastern University grad, Bowler worked in marketing for a time before deciding to pursue her blog full-time in 2017.
Bowler’s book is organized by season and includes menus for different types of occasions. Her Fall Harvest Porch Party Menu, for example, gives a nod to the type of outdoor gatherings she remembers her family hosting when she was growing up.
“I love an outdoor fall party,” says Bowler. “It reminds me of the parties my mom used to throw around Halloween. She would bring the bar outside to the porch and set up snacks and a pot of chili. I love to keep the tradition of entertaining outside in the fall alive with some of the same types of comfort food we had at those childhood parties.”
The following recipes are reprinted with permission, from “New England Invite: Fresh Feasts to Savor the Seasons.”
Autumn Root Vegetable Soup
Served with Toasted Pepitas
A hearty autumnal soup is pure comfort in my book, and often an unexpected item for guests when entertaining. If you’re hosting a more formal dinner party, I love the idea of starting with a soup because it’s so easy to make in a big batch and serve plated with eye-catching garnishes. For larger parties, a rich and filling soup is an inexpensive way to feed a crowd. You can keep the soup warm on the counter in a crockpot on the warming function or leave it on the stove at a low simmer in a large Dutch oven. Place a tray of all the fixings on the side, like roasted pepitas, a swirl of crème fraîche, a few fresh herbs and rustic bread.
1/2 butternut squash (about 3 cups)
2 medium parsnips (about 1 cup)
5–6 carrots (about 11/2 cups)
1/2 yellow onion
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon cumin
Salt and black pepper
3 sprigs fresh rosemary
3 sprigs fresh thyme
3 sprigs fresh sage
21/4 cups chicken broth
1/2 cup heavy cream
1/4 cup pumpkin puree
Pepitas and rustic sliced bread, for serving
Preheat oven to 425°F.
Prepare the vegetables: Peel and cube the butternut squash and parsnips. Peel and slice the carrots, and peel and quarter the apple and onion. Arrange the vegetables on a rimmed baking sheet, drizzle with olive oil and season with cinnamon, cumin, salt and pepper. Add the fresh herbs on top of the vegetables and roast at 425°F for 55–60 minutes, until vegetables are softened.
Remove fresh herb sprigs and transfer the roasted vegetable mixture to a blender. Pulse until the mixture breaks down and starts to become smooth.
Add chicken broth, heavy cream and pumpkin puree to the blender and pulse until smooth.
Transfer soup to a dutch oven on the stovetop and simmer to keep warm for serving. Garnish with pepitas and fresh herbs and serve with rustic bread, for dipping.
Apple Cider Bourbon Punch
A big batch cocktail is one of my favorite ways to serve a specialty drink. For starters, it’s a good excuse to buy a festive drink dispenser to dress up your bar cart. It’s also a great way to let guests serve themselves without the work of mixing a complicated cocktail. My favorite perk of a punch, though, is that you can mix all of the ingredients together before the party (minus the ice) and have it ready to serve and refill without much effort.
This punch is packed with seasonal flavors. Fresh apple cider is such a treat to use in a drink like this. (I like that picking up cider from an orchard is an excuse to grab a few warm apple cider donuts.) The cider and ginger flavors mix with the bourbon for a core-warming cocktail that is perfect to enjoy on a chilly fall afternoon while sitting on the porch.
If you don’t have a drink dispenser, use a large trifle dish as a punch bowl or divide the punch into smaller batches and serve in pitchers or carafes. I also like to leave a bit of extra apple cider and ginger beer on the side, without bourbon in it, as non-alcoholic options for guests.
6 cups apple cider
2 cups bourbon
Juice of 1/2 lemon
1 (12-ounce) bottle ginger beer
Pour apple cider, bourbon, lemon juice and ginger beer over ice in a large drink dispenser or punch bowl. Stir the ingredients together to combine.
Thinly slice one apple horizontally to create apple discs and float them in the drink dispenser on top of the ice.
Serve punch over ice with whole cinnamon sticks as a flavor-infusing garnish.
Mason Jar Apple Pies
With Homemade Pie Dough
Apple picking is a must in New England. Once my quilted barn coat comes out of the closet for the season, I feel a gravitational pull toward the apple orchards. We pull on our boots and head down long rows of trees, branches bowing under the weight of their shiny red and green fruit. Once we’ve gotten our share of family pictures in the orchard and have a heaping bag of freshly picked apples, we head home and scratch our heads about what exactly we’re going to do with them.
Applesauce for the kids, apples stuffed with mac and cheese for dinner, apples sliced and nibbled on with cinnamon and peanut butter—and of course, apples baked into the dessert of the season: apple pie. My grandmother’s apple pie might be the first recipe I ever cooked alongside her. It’s a childhood rite of passage to roll out homemade pie dough with grandma while balancing on a step stool to reach the counter.
For a modern spin on the classic apple pie, bake the filling inside small mason jars. Each jar gets a whole crisp Granny Smith apple, cooked down with spices and sugars, and then is topped with flaky fresh pie dough discs. You can get creative with the pie dough toppings and cut out letters to assign a pie to each guest on the guest list or add seasonal shapes like fall leaves with cookie cutters. I opted for a simple pie dough heart on top of these, to let my family know they were baked with love (and lots of butter).
For Pie Dough
21/4 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon granulated sugar
1 cup (2 sticks) cold butter
1/3 cup cold water
For Apple Filling
8 Granny Smith apples
1 cup granulated sugar
11/2 teaspoons cinnamon
1 teaspoon nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon mace
1 teaspoon cornstarch
1 teaspoon flour
2 teaspoons lemon juice
To make pie dough, sift together flour, salt and sugar in a large bowl. Cut the cold butter into small pieces (or shred on a large box cheese grater while it’s still very cold). Add the butter to the flour mixture and work the two together until crumbly. Add the cold water slowly and continue to work with your hands until the dough is crumbling and starting to come together.
Don’t overwork the dough; as soon as it starts to come together, divide into two portions and roll into discs. Cover in plastic wrap and transfer to the fridge to chill for at least 1 hour.
To prepare the filling, peel, core and slice eight Granny Smith apples and transfer to a bowl. Toss the apples with sugar, spices, cornstarch, flour and lemon juice. Transfer to a saucepan and cook the apple mixture for about 5 minutes, until the apples start to soften.
Preheat oven to 350°F. Divide and spoon the filling evenly into eight 8-ounce wide-mouth mason jars on a rimmed baking sheet.
Remove the pie dough from the fridge and roll out to 1/2-inch thickness; cut out eight 4-inch round discs. Place the discs over the top of the mason jar openings and press down around the sides of the rim. Use any leftover dough to create decorative toppings to finish the jar pies.
Bake at 350°F for 25–30 minutes, until you can see the apple filling bubbling and the piecrust finish to a golden brown. Let the jars cool before serving, as the glass will be hot coming out of the oven.