Apple Cider Doughnut Cake + 5 Unique Fall Desserts

 

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Hail Mary, full of grace.  Hail Mary, full of grace.  Hail… 

Hazel rubs her rosary beads between her thumb and index finger, gently at first and then harder, much harder as if the act in itself will make her recall the prayer she has known since she was a child.  Russell, can you believe this?  She says to no one.  Oh Russell, when I need you the most…you disappointment me Russell.  She calls to the air.  She calls to the dust particles floating in the stale air, and the old cat riddled with tumors, purring near her feet.  She sets her rosary beads next to her mother’s bible which rests on a black marbled, plastic folding table circa 1970.  Water rings mark the table where Hazel’s nightly whiskey on ice with a splash of water once sat.  Hazel reaches for her walker and slowly pulls it towards her, clipping the cat’s tail.  The cat doesn’t seem to mind her carelessness, stares up at her lovingly, and quickly falls back asleep.

Hazel’s body is now turning against her, every step is a chance and yet she makes her way into the kitchen.  Just as determined now, as she was playing basketball many decades ago. Hazel stands at the counter hoping her knees won’t buckle or her legs betray her before she gets a chance to smell the apple cake her daughter left behind.  A peace-offering, a gesture of love, whatever her daughter tells herself to rationalize making decisions about Hazel’s life without much input from Hazel.

She inhales the cake deeply allowing the cinnamon, nutmeg and baked apples to fill her where she feels empty.  Hazels thinks of a fork.  Fork to cake, cake to mouth.  Chew.  Swallow.  Easy enough, and yet, Hazel’s hand fails to make the connection to the fork.  She plunges her long, skeletal finger into the cake.  It feels good being inside that cake, a bit of a relief having part of her body encased in something else.  Hazel pulls her finger out, grabs a chunk cake with her arthritic right hand, and free throws it into the cat’s bowl.  One point, she thinks.

Hazel’s legs feel weaker.  She must sit before she falls.  So, she slowly makes her way back to the living room, the cat just steps behind her, and plunks down into her chair, with bone-weary breath.  An old western plays in the background, like a friend carrying on with a conversation long after your mind has drifted elsewhere.  The western doesn’t reach Hazel, but the sound is comforting.  Hazel closes her eyes.  Rests.

Not today, Russell?  She asks to no one.  Then when, Russell?  She asks to to the air.  She asks to the dust particles floating in the stale air, and the old cat riddled with tumors, purring near her feet.       

Apple Cider Doughnut Cake

Serves 8-10

Recipe adapted from Martha Stewart

Ingredients:

2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted

2 cups unbleached, all-purpose flour

1 cup white whole wheat flour

1 + 1/2 teaspoons baking powder

1 + 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon

1/4 teaspoon nutmeg

1/4 teaspoon allspice

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

3/4 teaspoon kosher salt

1 + 1/2 cups sugar

1 cup apple cider

3/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil

3/4 unsweetened apple butter (store-bought or homemade)

2 teaspoons vanilla extract

3 large eggs at room temperature

Ingredients for topping:

1/4 cup raw sugar

1/4 teaspoon cinnamon

Directions:

Pre-heat the oven to 350F.  Generously butter and flour a 12 cup Bundt pan and set aside.  Grab a large bowl and add the flours, baking powder, cinnamon, nutmeg, allspice, baking soda, and salt.  Whisk together until combined.  Set aside.   In a medium-sized bowl, whisk together sugar, apple cider, oil, apple butter, vanilla, and eggs.  Add wet mixture to dry mixture and whisk until well combined.  Pour batter (it will be thick) into prepared pan, spreading the mixture evenly with a spatula.

Bake for about 50 minutes (check at 45 minutes), rotating the pan halfway through until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.   Transfer pan to a wire rack set inside a baking sheet and allow to cool for 15 minutes.  While cake is cooling, melt butter.  In a small bowl mix together raw sugar and cinnamon.  Invert cake onto wire rack.  Brush cake with melted butter and then sprinkle sugar/cinnamon all over the top of the cake.   Serve and enjoy!

*Cake can be stored, covered, at room temperature for up to two days.*

5 Unique Fall Desserts

Looking for the best of two sweet worlds in one pie?  Check out Food & Wine’s apple cider cream pie.

Apple pie in cookie form?  Yes!  Head to An Italian In My Kitchen for the recipe.

Celebrating a fall birthday soon?  Head to Adventures in Cooking and make Eva’sapple spice cake with salted caramel frosting.

There is nothing I love more in the fall than apple crisp with a big scoop of vanilla ice cream and then I stumbled on this recipe.  Yes, please!

I am from New England and yet I have never made a New England Apple Cider Cake.  A Family Feast’s recipe is now on my must make list.  Check it out!

 

Apple Pear Pie with Oat Streusel + 5 Unique Fall Pie Links

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My mother was prettiest in the fall: her milky white skin, blue-gray eyes, auburn hair, easy smile and perfect profile more beautiful in the diminishing autumn light competing (unbeknownst to her) with the glory of the burgundy, yellow and copper leaves, both awe-inspiring and short-lived.  Like the leaves, the best part of her shown brightest before the dreary winter settled in.  She understood this cycle of her life, allowed it, succumbed to it.

And so, as a child, I breathed her in, filled my lungs with her happiness and carried it with me through the long, intense winters, wet springs and steamy summers.

I love fall, she said with her hands wrapped loosely around the steering wheel of our blue Ford Taurus station wagon, her long fingers and perfectly manicured nails dancing to a song on the radio.  The car window cracked a few inches allowing the crisp air to rush in and mix with her perfume.  (Mama’s best smell.)

Me too, Mama!  Her three ducklings cheered almost in unison, eagerly anticipating caramel apples covered in peanuts, bulbous pumpkins and warm cider.

She smiled, briefly checking herself in the rear-view mirror.  

What are you looking at Mama?  You haven’t disappeared…not yet.

The mother I clung to like a barnacle adhered to the hull of a ship, returned year after year, fall after fall, until she didn’t.  It wasn’t sad.  She made a choice.  Maybe we had outgrown her or she us.  The weight of a divorce, three children growing away from her too fast, a life she wasn’t sure how to repair.  And if I were to ponder why, why, why, the answer would still baffle me.  It is easy to choose happiness when you are not unhappy.

Occasionally, I see glimpses of the mama I remember in the mother I have now: an easy smile when we celebrate my older son’s October birthday as he delights in her perfect birthday gift (Air War Battle Drones! Cool, Mimi!); decorating paper bag Halloween lanterns for our front porch with our girl, happily accepting a sticky kiss from our chubby pumpkin costumed toddler.  I store these memories of her, hold on to the glimpses of happiness I see today, if only to retrieve them when winter comes again.

Apple Pear Pie with Oat Streusel            

Apple and pears, lightly sweetened and baked to perfection topped with a buttery, crunchy oat streusel 

recipe adapted from Epicurious

Pie Crust recipe adapted from Nothing In The House

Serves 8

Ingredients for filling:

3 pounds Cortland apples, peeled, cored and sliced into 1/4 inch thick pieces

2 lbs pears (I used Bartlett)

3/4 cup light brown sugar, packed

1/4 cup all-purpose flour

2 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1/2 teaspoon allspice

good pinch of kosher salt

Ingredients for pie crust:

2 cups unbleached, all-purpose flour

1 teaspoon cinnamon

1 teaspoon kosher salt

1 + 1/2 sticks very cold, unsalted butter, cut into chunks

1 large egg, cold, lightly beaten

1/4 cup ice-water

1/2 tablespoon cold apple cider vinegar

Oat Topping:

3/4 cup unbleached, all-purpose flour

1/2 dark brown sugar, packed

1/4 teaspoon cinnamon

1/2 teaspoon kosher salt

1/4 teaspoon allspice

7 tablespoons cold, unsalted butter

1/2 cup old fashion oats

Directions for crust:

*Pre-heat your oven to 400F*

Grab a large mixing bowl and whisk together the flour, sugar, salt and cinnamon.  Add the butter chunks and mix with your fingertips making sure pea-size chunks of butter remain.   Using a small bowl, whisk together the cold egg, water and vinegar.  Add the liquid to the flour/butter mixture and mix with a wooden spoon until the dough comes together.  It should be a bit shaggy.  Form into a ball, wrap in plastic wrap and chill for at least an hour before rolling out.  The longer you let it chill, the better.

When ready to bake, lightly flour a piece of parchment and place dough on paper.  Cover with another piece of parchment paper and roll to a 12 inch round.  Remove parchment paper and press crust gently into pie dish.  Turn dough overhang under and crimp the edges.  Chill in the fridge until ready to use.

Directions for the filling:

Toss all of the filling ingredients in a large bowl.  Set aside and prepare the topping.

For the topping:

Blend the flour, brown sugar, cinnamon, salt, allspice in a food processor.  Add the butter and pulse until a dough forms that resembles wet sand.  Add oats and pulse briefly.

Stir the filling and add it to the prepared pie crust.  Sprinkle the topping evenly over the pie.  Place pie on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper (to catch spills.)  Bake until top is golden brown, about 40 minutes.  Reduce the temperature to 350F and bake for another 50-60 minutes.  *If the top is browning too quickly, cover pie loosely with foil.*  Cool pie on a wire rack for at least an hour before serving.  Serve warm or at room temperature as is or with scoop of vanilla ice cream.  Enjoy!

*Pie will last loosely covered in foil at room temperature for a few days.*

5 Unique Fall Pie Links

Apples and fall go hand in hand, but why not switch things up and focus on pears for a bit? Head to Joy the Baker for her bourbon pear crumble pie.  I can’t wait to try this!

Looking for a twist on pumpkin pie?  Head to Love and Olive Oil for a s’mores pumpkin pie recipe that sure to make everyone smile.  Also, check out my pumpkin pie bars.  Pie in bar form = easy serving to guests.  Insert fist pump here.

Bruleed butternut squash pie.  Are you curious?  Me too.  Head to Lemon Fire Brigade for the recipe.  And while you are there check out caramel apple blackberry pie.

 

Pumpkin Chiffon Pie + 5 Unique Pie Links!

pcp1675She wore bright blue eye shadow and velour track suits.  She sprayed so much Aqua Net on her silver-white hair that she more than likely contributed to the hole in the ozone layer.  Quick with a joke that would make a priest blush, as frugal as an old Yankee, though hailing from the mid-west, Gram was…loved.

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I don’t remember much about her cooking.  Many miles kept us from seeing her much.  However, I do remember her introducing us to pumpkin chiffon pie despite our initial protests.  Sitting at the dinning room table stuffed with my mother’s delicious Thanksgiving feast, we sampled her pie.  Bite after bite quickly dissolved in my mouth leaving me wanting more.  I’m sure I ate too much.  My sweet tooth is usually more than my gut can handle. But, I was hooked.

 

Pumpkin Chiffon Pie with Graham Cracker Crust

Serves 8

Crust recipe adapted from Yankee Magazine Nov/Dec 2015

Filling recipe barely adapted from, Gourmet Nov 1995

**This pie requires 24 hours of chilling time.**

Ingredients for Crust:

2 cups graham cracker crumbs

1/4 packed light-brown sugar

5 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted

pinch of kosher salt

Directions:

Pre-heat your oven to 350F.  Using a food processor grind 16 graham-crackers (full cracker) into crumbs.  Add sugar and pulse a few more times.  Pour in melted butter and pulse again.  Dump the mixture into a 9-inch pie plate and press evenly on the bottom and up the sides.

Bake for about 10 to 15 minutes.  Cool and set aside.

Ingredients for Filling:

1 envelope unflavored gelatin

2 tablespoons of rum

1 cup of milk

3/4 cup of packed light brown sugar

4 large egg yolks

1- 15 ounce can of pure pumpkin

1 teaspoon cinnamon

1/2 teaspoon ground ginger

1/4 teaspoon nutmeg

1/2 teaspoon salt

3/4 cup heavy cream

Optional but delicious- fresh whipped cream

Directions:

Grab a small bowl and add 2 tablespoons of rum.  Sprinkle gelatin over the rum and let stand.

Using a heavy saucepan whisk together milk, brown sugar, yolks, pumpkin, spices and salt.  Cook over low heat, whisking constantly until a candy thermometer registers 160F.  Remove from heat and immediately add gelatin mixture.  Whisk until gelatin is completely dissolved.

Transfer filling to bowl set inside a larger bowl of ice water.  Cool and stir for a few minutes.  Remove from ice water.

Using a stand mixer with a whisk attachment (or an electric mixer) beat cream until it forms stiff peaks.  Whisk one fourth of the whipped cream into the filling.  Gently fold in remaining whipped cream until it is completely incorporated.  Pour filling into prepared crust and refrigerate uncovered for 1 hour.  After an hour, cover with plastic wrap and chill for 24 hours.

Slice and serve with fresh whipped cream.  Enjoy!

5 Unique Pie Links

Gotta have pumpkin pie on the dessert table? Switch up this year and try David Lebovitz pumpkin pie with toasted marshmallow topping.

Your aunt  wants to bring her famous apple pie, again, this year.  You can’t stomach another apple pie. What to do? Kindly suggest she branch out and make Fix Feast Flair’s pear and nutmeg pie.  Better yet, make it yourself!

Go rogue and bring Adventure in Cooking’s butterscotch pie to your host this Thanksgiving.

Need a bright and slightly tangy pie to cut through all that heavy food? Food 52 has a recipe for a lemon chess pie that looks delicious.

My favorite pie might just be ricotta pie.  I don’t usually have it on Thanksgiving, but that may change this year.  If your on same page head to Buttercream Bakehouse for their chocolate chip ricotta pie recipe.

 

Overnight Oats with Pumpkin Granola and Apple Crunch + 5 Overnight Oats Recipes

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oats1605Three months ago I carved out one morning a week for myself and volunteered as a chef’s assistant at the Boston Public Market. The kids were up, fed and dressed by 7am; bright-eyed, sort of, for our saint or, rather, sitter who agreed to come at such an ungodly hour.

Showered and caffeinated by the time our sitter walked into the house, I was ready for my morning.  Bubba and I drove into the city together, alone.  Sometimes we chatted. Other times there was nothing left to say so we just sat, quietly, listening to the radio, his hand reaching for mine while I stared out the window.  The traffic which normally would stress me didn’t phase me at all.  We were together and still.  Nothing left to do but wait..for the next part of our day to start.  A quick kiss and we parted for the day.  He off to his world I know nothing of and me running to the kitchen.

I spent my time at the market prepping food, discussing recipes and chatting with other volunteers.  I didn’t reach for my phone or check the clock. I was present, in the moment, happy to be away from favorites, my one and only(s) for just a few hours.

When my shift ended I walked straight to my favorite vendor: Mother Juice.  Every week, without fail I ordered the same damn thing: overnight oats with almond milk, banana and dates, topped with almond butter, granola and fresh fruit.  Being someone who likes food, you would think I would try something new each week.  Nope.  I craved the oats.  Licked the spoon when I was done.  I couldn’t get enough of them.  If someone offered me an another bowl, I would say yes without a bit of hesitation in my gut.

The banana and dates made the oats slightly sweet.  And then a surprise as I swirled my spoon around: bits of almond butter covered oats!  I was as delighted as a child who finds the hidden marzipan in the holiday cranberry stollen.  Yet, the texture blast that followed is what really sold me on the oats: crunchy granola topped with fresh, bright berries.  Amazing!

My weekly shift in the Kitchen ended two weeks ago, but my craving for overnight oats remains strong, just as my need for some time away. The delicious, creamy oats satisfied my hunger.  But the time just sitting with Bubba and then, alone soothed and sustained my soul. I made my version of overnight oats with some inspiration from a few fellow food bloggers. It’s a start, it’s a step, it’s something.

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Overnight Oats with Pumpkin Granola and Apple Crunch

Oats recipe from Oh She Glows

Apple Crunch adapted from Green Kitchen Stories

Pumpkin Granola adapted from The Sprouted Kitchen

Serves 4, 2 generously

Ingredients for Oats:

2 large bananas, mashed until smooth

4 tablespoons of chia seeds

1/2 teaspoon cinnamon

1 cup old-fashion rolled oats

1 + 1/2 cup milk of your choice

1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

Directions:

Using a small bowl, mash the bananas until smooth.  Add the chia seeds and cinnamon and stir until well combined.

Add the oats, milk and vanilla.  Stir.  Store in an air-tight container and refrigerate overnight or for at least 2 hours.

When ready to use, stir the oat mixture.  If the mixture is too thick, add a little milk.  If it is too soupy, add 1 tablespoon of chia seeds and refrigerate until it is thicker.  Oats, stored in an air-tight container and refrigerated, will last up to 2 days.

Ingredients for Pumpkin Granola:

2 + 1/2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

Sea salt

1/4 teaspoon nutmeg

1/4 teaspoon ginger

1/4 teaspoon cinnamon

1/3 cup maple syrup

1/3 pumpkin puree

2 cups old-fashion oats

1/2 cup raw almonds, chopped

3 tablespoons pumpkin seeds or pepitas

1/2 cup dried cranberries, chopped

Directions:

Pre-heat oven to 325F.  Using a large mixing bowl, whisk together olive oil, 1/2 teaspoon of salt, ginger, nutmeg and cinnamon, maple syrup and pumpkin puree.  Add the oats, almonds and pumpkin seeds and stir until well coated.

Spread the oats on a baking sheet, leaving some of the clusters intact, so you will end up with yummy, crunchy clusters.  Bake granola for until golden brown, about 40-45 minutes. **Be sure to stir the granola once or twice during baking time.** Remove from the oven and allow the granola to cool completely.  Add cranberries and a sprinkle of sea salt.  Mix and store in air-tight container for 2 weeks.

Ingredients for Apple Crunch:

1 large apple, small dice

1 tablespoon coconut oil

1 tablespoon maple syrup

1/4 cup pumpkin seeds

1/4 cup raw almonds

1/2 teaspoon cinnamon

pinch of ginger

pinch of cardamom

sprinkle of sea salt

Directions:

Chop apple and set aside.  Heat coconut oil and maple syrup in a skillet.  Add apple, pumpkin seeds, almonds and spices.  Cook, stirring often, until the apple are soft and the nuts and seeds crunchy, about 8 minutes.  Remove apple crunch from pan and store in an air-tight container at room temperature until ready to use.

Assembly, Finally!!

Grab a jar or bowl, whatever suits you and add the oats.  Next add a dollop of almond butter (optional, but yummy) followed by a handful of granola.  Lastly, top this bowl health with heaping spoonful or two of apple crunch.  Sit down and enjoy!

*I like my oats at room temperature.  They taste great cold, room temperature or warm.  You decide!*

5 Overnight Oats Links!

New to overnight oats for breakfast? Head to the Food Network’s blog for a tutorial by Min Kwon of the food blog The Adventures of MJ and Hungryman.

Peanut butter lovers everywhere must check out Minimalist Baker’s recipe for peanut butter overnight oats.  Yum! Have a nut allergy? Use Sunbutter instead!

Steel cut oats can also be made the night before for a healthy and hearty breakfast.  Head to the Lemon Bowl for overnight refrigerator steel-cut oats. 

The kitchn’s recipe for blueberry pie overnight oats is on my must make list.  Pie crust topping, fresh blueberries, oatmeal? Yes, please!

If you don’t want to follow a recipe, head to Food 52 for their tips on how to make overnight oats without a recipe.

Apple Yogurt Cake + 5 Quick Cake Links!

ayc1252An apple a day keeps whatever ails you away.  A good red wine, chocolate anything, salty something, cold beer and cupcakes also help..me.  Apples are abundant now and I can’t get enough of them.  I eat one everyday after lunch, as well as, whatever slices the kids leave behind.  In an effort to consume as many apples as possible before they go out of season, I added them to a traditional yogurt cake.

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I tore the original cake recipe out of a Bon Appétit magazine almost 4 years ago and taped it inside my little black book recipe book.  (Before Pinterest or this blog I used a pen, a real pen, and wrote down recipes in a little black notebook. Crazy, I know.)  I made the original cake a few times, mainly because my daughter requested it.  She calls it the plain cake which is a perfect description.  Plain and simple.  Perfectly moist and the just right kind of sweet.  So, why mess with a good thing?

The damn apples were begging me to use them.  On this cake…with some raw sugar sprinkled on top.  A little cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger and lemon zest season the deliciously basic batter.  Oh and lets not forget about the Greek yogurt.  I couldn’t taste it, but knowing it’s in there made me feel healthy.  Really, it’s ok to have a third piece of cake.  The 3/4 cups of whole milk Greek yogurt, that’s protein girl!  Eat up!

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So I did.  Or we did.  Either way, the cake was gone in less than 48 hours.  I call that a hit.  Enjoy!

Apple Yogurt Cake

serves 8

recipe adapted from Bon Appétit June 2012

Ingredients:

1+ 1/2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour

2 teaspoons baking powder

1 teaspoon cinnamon

1/4 teaspoon nutmeg

1/4 teaspoon ginger

3/4 teaspoon kosher salt

3/4 cup sugar  (The original recipe calls for 1 cup of sugar.  If you prefer a sweeter cake add 1 cup of sugar.  The 3/4 cup of sugar made the cake plenty sweet.  It’s really up to you!)

1 tablespoon lemon zest

3/4 cup whole milk Greek yogurt

1/2 cup canola or vegetable oil

2 large eggs

1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

1 baking apple of your choice, sliced thin

1/4 cup raw sugar to sprinkle on sliced apples

Directions:

Pre-heat your oven to 350F.  Spray a standard loaf pan with non-stick vegetable oil spray.  Dust with flour and tap out the excess.

In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder, cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger, kosher salt.  Set aside.  In a large bowl rub sugar and lemon zest together with your fingers until the sugar feels like damp sand.  Add Greek yogurt, canola oil, eggs and vanilla extract.  Whisk until well blended.  Fold in dry ingredients until just combined.  Pour batter into prepared pan and smooth over the top.  Add sliced apples, pushing them just slightly into the batter so they will stick.  Arrange apple in a pattern or something pretty.  Sprinkle with raw sugar.

Bake until the cake is golden brown and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean, about 50-55 minutes.  Cool in the pan on a wire rack for 15 minutes before removing the cake.  Remove and allow to cool completely on a wire rack.  Slice and serve.  Cake will last stored in an air-tight container or covered in plastic wrap, at room temperature,  for up to 3 days.  Enjoy!

5 Quick Cake Links!

Looking for an easy lemon cake recipe? Head to Willow Bird Baking for Julie’s quick lemon-iced yellow cake.  I really wish this cake would just appear on my kitchen counter.  Magic!

Chocolate cake in the less than an hour? Sounds great.  NYT has the recipe for you.

Apple cider doughnut cake? Yes, it exists! Katie at the Kitchen Door has the mouth-watering recipe for you.

Cake or quick bread? Why decide? Make one that tastes like both!  Head to Not Without Salt for Ashley’s chopped apple cake recipe.

Cranberry season is on the way.  Check out my cranberry maple breakfast cake: a cake that is delicious anytime of day.

Pumpkin Cupcakes with Chocolate Cream Cheese Frosting + 5 New Pumpkin Desserts!

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“Mama will you sing me a lullaby?” G.

“Sure buddy.” Me.  The lyrics to You Are My Sunshine come imperfectly out of my mouth.  I hear Johnny Cash in my head. He hears my exhausted, grating voice attempting to coax him to sleep.  Unconsciously, I rub his back.  His eyes are heavy, any minute now he will be dreaming. Dreaming of home?  Perhaps.  For now he makes his nest in a sterile hospital bed, his blankies, froggy and me, little bits of home, remain with him.  

I stare at his sweet, peaceful face, more obvious to me now with his head tightly wrapped in gauze. Beneath the gauze, a constellation of small metal probes stick securely to his head, a rainbow-colored array of wires spill from the top of his head, all connecting to small a computer, recording his brainwaves.  Where do you go when you disappear, buddy?  Maybe this test will tell us.  

I attempt to sleep in the tiny bed/chair they provide.  I can’t get comfortable, my mind races and morning can’t come soon enough.

Morning breaks.  The sky turns from gun-metal gray to overcast ocean blue.  Lights in the building across from us become less obvious as the sky brightens.  I stare out the window, not fully awake, despite nursing my second cup of hospital coffee. I gaze 9 stories down to the Healing Garden, a small bit of nature growing between two buildings, providing a bit of respite for the sick and their caregivers.  A mother and son play with a soccer ball.  The boy, maybe 7, no hair, runs for a bit, but he tires quickly.  Mom picks him up.  He finds the perfect spot on her lap and snuggles.  Her body sways gently back and forth like a cradle.  They attempt normalcy.

G eats breakfast in bed while watching TV.  This is, by far, his favorite part of this visit.  Today we go home with no real answers.  Today after a short drive home, fingers crossed, we attempt normalcy, again. pcccf1119pcccf1169

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Shortly, after our hospital stay I made these pumpkin cupcakes with chocolate cream cheese frosting because it felt good to bake.  It felt good to give Bubba and kids cupcakes for no reason at all.  After a long few days, we all needed to feel normal, less stressed.  This cupcake brought us back.

Pumpkin Cupcakes with Chocolate Cream Cheese Frosting

A moist pumpkin cupcake with subtle hints of ginger, nutmeg, cloves and cinnamon topped with a rich chocolate cream cheese frosting makes a perfect dessert for fall.

Makes 12

Cupcake recipe barely adapted from Brown Eyed Baker

Frosting recipe adapted from the Cupcake Project

Ingredients for Cupcakes:

1⅓ cups unbleached all-purpose flour

1 teaspoon baking powder

1 teaspoon baking soda

½ teaspoon kosher salt

½ teaspoon ground cinnamon

Pinch of ground nutmeg

Pinch of ground cloves

Pinch of ground ginger

¾ cup canned pumpkin

½ cup sugar

½ cup dark brown sugar

½ cup canola oil

2 eggs

Directions:

Pre-heat your oven to 350F.  Line a muffin pan with paper cupcake liners and set aside.

Using a medium bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt and spices.  Set aside.

Using a large bowl, whisk together pumpkin, sugars and oil until well combined.  Add the eggs one at a time, whisking well after each addition.  Pour half of your dry ingredients into your wet ingredients and fold gently.  Add the remaining dry ingredients and fold gently until no flour streaks remain.  Do not over mix!

Fill each lined muffin cup with batter, about two-thirds to three-quarters the way full.  Place the muffin pan on the center rack of your oven.  Bake for 18-20 minutes, but check at 18 minutes.  The cupcakes are done when the centers spring back when lightly touched or when a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.

Allow the cupcakes to cool for a minute in the pan and then dump them on a wire rack to cool completely.  Once cool, frost the cupcakes and store in an air-tight container until ready to serve.  Enjoy!

**The cupcakes taste best the day they are made.  If you need to make them a day early, store them in air-tight container in the refrigerator.  Bring to room temperature before serving.**

Chocolate Cream Cheese Frosting

makes about 3 cups

Ingredients for Frosting:

8 ounces of cream cheese, at room temperature

1/4 cup unsalted butter, at room temperature

3 cups of sifted confectioners’ sugar

1/2 cup sifted unsweetened cocoa powder (Use good quality cocoa powder here.  You will taste the difference!)

pinch of salt

1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

1/2 teaspoon orange zest (optional but delicious)

Directions for Frosting:

Using a stand mixer with a paddle attachment (or a hand-held mixer), beat the cream cheese and butter on medium speed until light and fluffy or several minutes.  Reduce the speed to low and add the confectioners’ sugar.  Next add the cocoa powder, salt, vanilla extract and orange zest.  Beat on medium-high speed until smooth.  Use frosting immediately or store in an air-tight container in the refrigerator for up to 3 days.

**If you refrigerate the frosting be sure to bring it to room temperature and beat for a couple of minutes before using.**

5 New Pumpkin Desserts!

If you love cheesecake check out Baker By Nature’s pumpkin ricotta cheesecake and Jelly Toast’s mini pumpkin goat cheese cheesecakes.  Such creative riffs on a classic dessert!

Halloween is coming up.  Try making a classic candy with a healthy twist this year!  Check out Edible Perspectives chocolate pumpkin almond butter cups.  I want to eat ten of them now!

Craving a s’more?  Head to How Sweet It Is for Jessica’s pumpkin s’mores tart recipe.  Wow!

If you need a gluten-free pumpkin cake recipe, Alice Medrich has the recipe for you on Food 52.  She rocks.

Pumpkin Pie Bars + 5 Not A Pie Desserts For Thanksgiving!

 

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We threw a “pre-holiday” party last weekend.  Local friends came over for drinks and conversation sans children.  Chatting and drinking with friends we only see at soccer games, school pick-ups/drop offs and fundraisers felt like a luxury.  A luxury? Yes.  Most of the time we see each other harried, running off to the next activity, chatting briefly before a little person tugs on our arm, it’s time to go…again.  As if we are on a treadmill without a stop button, we just keep going.  Saturday night we stopped.  We drank and laughed and ate.

Before long friends left to relieve sitters.  We happily enjoyed our final sips and bites before taking on the mess in our kitchen.  I didn’t mind cleaning up this mess.  There is something beautiful about a post party mess, as if, bits of people are left behind, their energy still enveloping the room.  After we cleaned the last glass, swept the last crumb and recycled the final beer bottle; we collapsed into bed.  It was a perfectly unusual Saturday night for me and Bubba.

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Pumpkin Pie Bars with Baked Press In Chocolate Crust

I made these bars for our “pre-holiday” party. The bars are similar to a traditional pumpkin pie, spicy and comforting, but with a slight twist: the crust is chocolate and requires no rolling!  This simple, press-in chocolate crust is much easier to make than a traditional pie crust, so you won’t feel inclined to tear your hair out or chug a bottle of Malbec!  Also, the whole dessert can be made up to two days in advance! 

Makes 12 large bars or 24 mini bars

recipe adapted from Food & Wine

Ingredients for Baked Pressed In Chocolate Crust

2 1/2 sticks of cold unsalted butter, cut into cubes

1/4 cup + 2 tablespoons light brown sugar

1/4 cup + 2 tablespoons granulated sugar

2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour, sifted

1/2 teaspoon kosher salt

1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder, sifted

1 tablespoon of water

Directions For Crust:

Pre-heat your oven to 350°F. Line a 9-by-13-inch metal baking pan with parchment paper, leaving about 2 inches of overhang on the long sides. Set aside.

Using a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream the butter and sugars at medium speed for a few minutes, 2-3.   With the mixer on low-speed, beat in the sifted flour, unsweetened cocoa powder and salt.

Place the dough in your prepared pan and press it evenly over the bottom.  (The original recipe suggests covering the dough with plastic wrap and pressing with the bottom of a measuring cup.  This sounds like a great idea, but I forgot to do it. Your fingers will work well too!)  Refrigerate the dough in the pan until firm.

Bake the crust for about 30 minutes.   The cocoa powder will make it difficult to tell if it is cooked perfectly, so be sure to remove the pan from the oven at 30 minutes or when the surface looks dry.  Allow to cool completely before filling.  While the crust cools, prepare your pumpkin pie filling.

Ingredients for Pumpkin Pie Filling

1/4 cup dark brown sugar

1/2 cup granulated sugar

1 teaspoon cinnamon + more for dusting

1/4 teaspoon ground cloves

1/4 teaspoon ground ginger

1/4 teaspoon ground cardamom

1/4 teaspoon nutmeg

1/4 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon vanilla

2 large eggs

One 15-ounce can pure pumpkin puree

One 12-ounce can evaporated milk

Prepared whipped cream

Directions:

Preheat your oven to 425F.  In a small bowl whisk together the sugars, all of the spices and salt. Set aside.  In a medium bowl whisk together your eggs.  Whisk the sugar mixture into the egg mixture.  Next, add your pumpkin puree, evaporated milk and vanilla extract.  Whisk until very smooth.

Pour the filling into the crust and bake for about 10 minutes.  Lower the temperature to 350F and bake for another 25-30 minutes or until the filling is set.  It should not jiggle!

Transfer the pan to a wire rack and allow to cool completely.  Cut into bars, large or mini, and serve with whipped cream and a dusting of cinnamon.

I suggest making the bars a day head and storing them in an air-tight container in the refrigerator.  The flavors are more pronounced a day later.  Serve them chilled or at room temperature.  Also, add the whipped cream just before serving or have guests add their own whipped cream.  Enjoy!

5 Not Pie Desserts For Thanksgiving

Looking for a lighter pumpkin cake to serve after the big holiday meal?  Head to Food 52 for Alice Medrich’s Lighter Pumpkin Cake recipe.

Tired of pies and cakes?  Try a crisp.  A pumpkin pear crisp! Bon Appetit has the recipe for you.  Check it out!

Not worried about eating all the calories you need for a week in a day?  Then head to Sacramento Street for Amanda Fredrickson’s Pumpkin Cheesecake Squares with Toasted Marshmallow Frosting.  Wow!  I must make these!

After a big, heavy meal it is nice to have a light and refreshing dessert…sometimes.  Martha has a recipe for cranberry-port sorbet that sounds like the perfect palate cleanser.

I’ve mentioned Zoe’s maple cream snickerdoodle bars before and I am mentioning them again.  I am obsessed and need to make them asap!