Falling for Pumpkin

Fall is here! Fall is here! The wind and leaves are rustling outside, and autumn festivals are upon us. The changing of the season is most certainly underway, as are the recipes I have been adding to my to do list. Butternut Squash, pumpkins, apples, and fall leafy greens are dominating my current recipe repertoire.

I was really planning on not baking anything this week as Jack and I are moving apartments, and I needed to use time for packing, rather than baking, butttt the lure of pumpkin and chocolate called my name, and I succumbed to the desire to bake.

My go-to pumpkin recipe is typically pumpkin cookies with brown butter frosting, but I really wanted cake and chocolate, so I found a great, 2 bowl recipe for Pumpkin Cake (easily made into pumpkin chocolate chocolate cake). It was so easy to put together, and only took 25 minutes to bake. To make a sweet cake even sweeter, I added cinnamon sugar topping to it, and the cinnamon really enhanced the flavor of the pumpkin. If you have some canned, or real, pumpkin around, be sure to give this recipe a chance!

Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Cake
adapted from "The Bake-Off Flunkie"

1 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
3/4 cup wheat flour
1 cup sugar
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/8 teaspoon ground cloves
1/2 cup miniature chocolate chips
1 cup canned pumpkin (not pumpkin pie mix)
1/4 cup milk (I use 1%)
1/4 cup applesauce (I use no-sugar added)
2 eggs
2 tablespoons canola oil
1 teaspoon vanilla (I used 1.5 teaspoons)

I also added in a few shakes of pumpkin pie spice to the batter for extra pumpkin flavor.

Heat your oven to 350, and spray the sides and bottom of a 13x9-inch baking pan with non-stick spray. Combine all of the dry ingredients in a medium bowl, and mix to combine. In a separate medium bowl, combine all of the wet ingredients and whisk well. Add the wet ingredients to the dry and mix with a rubber spatula until well combined.Transfer the batter to the prepared baking pan and spread it evenly. Bake for 25-30 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted near the center comes out clean. Cool completely before cutting into squares or bars.

Cinnamon Sugar Topping
1 tbsp cinnamon
1/3 c sugar
1 tbsp of butter

Combine cinnamon and sugar and stir until incorporated. Melt butter and pour over cake, immediately followed by cinnamon sugar mixture.


Pretty Pears

Pears are at about their peak season this time of year in Massachusetts. While I don't love the fruit typically, I do love it in desserts. Poached pears are one of my favorite fruit desserts, though I have never made them due to time constraints and the like. I found this great recipe for vanilla caramelized pears online, from one of may favorite blogs, Smitten Kitchen, though while searching for an easy pear sweet treat. I had a few on hand that I wanted to use before they went bad.

Deb from Smitten Kitchen always has terrific recipes with ingredients the normal cook would have on hand. She also incorporates many local foods into her menus, which is a topic that I subscribe to. Her pear recipe was exteremely easy to make, and involved about four or five ingredients. I was able to pop the pears into the oven just as I was sitting down to dinner, ensuring that I had a delicious warm dessert for right after the meal. Deb suggested pairing the fruit with ice cream, which I did not have on hand the first night. However, it was still very tasty. When I had the leftovers though, I was sure to have some ice cream, which I added a sprinkle of cinnamon to, and it really enhanced the flavors.

Try this recipe out with a few pears, for an easily justifiable "healthy" dessert! :)

Vanilla Roasted Pears
adapted from Deb at Smitten Kitchen

1/4 cup sugar
1/2 vanilla bean
1 1/2 pounds slightly-under-ripe, fragrant, medium pears, peeled if desired, halved though the stem and cored (I used Bosc but will be giving this recipe a spin with Bartlets later today; Schneider says all varieites work)
2 tablespoons lemon juice
2 tablespoons water
2 tablespoon unsalted butter
Sprinkle of cinnamon at serving

Preheat oven to 375°F. Place the sugar in a small bowl. With a thin, sharp knife, split the vanilla bean lengthwise in half and scrape out the seeds. Stir the seeds into the sugar. (Use the pod to make vanilla flavored sugar!)

Arrange the pears in a large baking dish, cut-side up. Drizzle the lemon juice evenly over the fruit, then sprinkle with the sugar. Nestle the vanilla pod among the fruit. Pour the water into the dish. Dot each pear with some butter.

Roast the pears 30 minutes brushing them occasionally with the pan juices. It helps to use a turkey baster as well. Turn the pears over and continue roasting, basting once or twice, until tender and caramelized, 25 to 30 minutes longer


Very Berry Leather

Last week when Jack and I were in Portland, we made a quick stop or two at various farmer's markets throughout the city. Portland has at least one everyday, but the largest one is on Saturday, which we happened to miss. With the different climate than New England, I was hoping to score some Northwest Cherries to make boozy cherries, alas, I had to settle for my favorite Red Raspberries instead as cherry season was over. I purchased the raspberries (and strawberries) on our last day there, and then had to transport them cross country, on a red eye, and on public transportation until I arrived home. Needless to say, the berries were no longer in berry form. While disappointed, I had a back up plan.

Let me back up a second and tell you about this glorious bookstore in Portland- Powell's books. The store is literally a city block long and wide, and about four floors tall. I made it about two steps in the door and had a minor anxiety attack while grabbing at least four books within 10 minutes flat. Jack literally had to drag me out of the store with enticements of a good brew and some Portland style Reuben sandwiches. I did manage to purchase a new canning recipe book that went well beyond canning, and contained recipes that were more modern in design. While reading on the plane, I luckily happened to stumble upon a recipe for Berry Leather- you know, like grown up, healthy fruit roll-ups. The recipe contained three ingredients, including mashed berries (thank goodness!). It was very simple, and the results were terrific. The leather was exactly like the fruit leather you can purchase at Trader Joe's or at Target in the Archer Farms brand. It also lasts a long time. The book, called "Put 'em Up!"is written by Sherry Brooks Vinton, and as mentioned before, contains updated recipes that are easy to make, and more like foods that our current culture eats on a regular basis. I encourage any home canners to purchase the book as an addition to the Ball canning book, or your cook book of choice.

Portland certainly offered so much for Jack and I as well. It is a terrific city with loads of foodie activities, as well as biking, hiking, and walking. I suggest you all add it to your West Coast iteneriaries.

Berry Leather, adapted from Put 'em Up!

1 cup of berries
1/4 sugar
1 tsp of lemon juice

Combine all ingredients in sauce pan. Bring to boil. Take off stove and spread into a prepared 9x9 pan (use parchment paper for easy cleanup). Bake in preheated oven at 175F for 2 hours. Please note that it actually took me a little longer than 2 hours, and I left it uncovered out of the oven for at least 24 hours.


West Coast Food Fun!

Jack and I just returned from a vacation on the west coast in Berkley and Portland OR. The theme of the trip wasn’t necessarily all about food, but it certainly turned into a trip that had quite a few food tastings and samplings, which was not a bad thing at all.

Jack’s sister played host for us, and took us to quite a few places in both Berkley and San Francisco. A bit of a foodie herself, she was very easily able to guide us to all of the fun and delicious places in town, such as The Cheese Board, which was totally overwhelming, but awesome nonetheless, Zachary’s Pizza, and the House of Curry. In San Francisco, we visited Ghirardelli, Boudin Sourdough bread, the Cowgirl Creamery, Humphry Slocombe Ice Cream, and the original Irish Coffee bar. Needless to say, the belt buckle had to be loosened a notch after that visit.

I loved all of the places that we saw and ate at in San Francisco, but I think what I liked best was being able to cook a meal together with fresh ingredients purchased at a farmer’s market, and lots of delicious cheese bought at the Cheese Board. We also went to a fabulous little Italian restaurant in Sonoma while wine tasting, that had to have been one of the best pasta eateries I have been to in a long time.

Our destination for the second half of the trip was Portland, OR. We had no specific plans for the city, other than to rent bikes to ride around, but we were very pleasantly surprised. The city had loads of farm to table restaurants, including Wildwood Restaurant, which was outstanding. I had a clay pot roasted chicken with garlic mashed potatoes, sautéed leeks, and chanterelles. Another awesome place was the Deschutes Brewery, which had some good brews, but even better food.

The highlight of the visit there though was Voodoo Doughnuts. I had been recommended to go there by the flight attendant we had on our trip there, and it was certainly not disappointing. They had the weirdest flavors, and all were delicious. The best one, hands down, was the maple bacon doughnut. I never could understand the desire to mix bacon with anything sweet, but my goodness, I totally get it. It was like a pancake and bacon breakfast all in one doughnut.

Overall our West Coast visit was a success, and by the time we returned home, we never wanted to eat again, until we heard a rumble in our stomach and saw a million tomatoes ripened in our garden. I am looking forward to returning sometime in the future, but for now, I need to recover from eating like a queen!