Pumpkin Whoopie Pies

Pumpkin Whoopie PiesPumpkin Perspective
Halloween is here and I am just not feeling the Halloween spirit. I’m thinking that it’s because our priorities are focused elsewhere this week. Maybe it’s because most of the Bay Area is worried about having power or, worse if their house is still standing. It’s probably more important to have candles to see at night versus candles to put in your pumpkin. I’m just sayin’.

It is kind of a bummer, though. I actually had plans to make fun treats and dress up like I usually do. But, I no longer have the will nor the energy. This past weekend wore me down mentally. At one point there was fire 4 miles to the south of me and fire 3 miles to the west of me with air tankers overhead. With those ridiculous winds, you just didn’t know where it was going to pop up next. It’s the unpredictability that drives you nuts. Thankfully, my home was not threatened but I got a tiny taste of what they are going through in Healdsburg and the surrounding areas. My heart goes out to everyone. I can’t even imagine the stress and heartbreak…

I may still try to make the Whoopie Pies that I had planned on because, you know, stress eating. Whoopie Pies, I have been told, are an East Coast thing. I love them—though I couldn’t tell you where I was the first time I tried one. The traditional version features a chocolatey cakey cookie that is filled with vanilla-flavored cream. Kinda like a giant, soft Oreo. The recipe I was planning to make for Halloween have pumpkin cakes with a cream cheese filling. Anything with cream cheese filling is a winner in my book. And, I have made these before and I know how good they taste.

Here’s hoping conditions improve and the fires can be put out quickly. In the meantime, if you have the will and you have the power, give these treats a go. I am fairly confident they will improve anyone’s mood.

Pumpkin Whoopie Pies
Adapted from King Arthur Flour
Yields 1 dozen 4-inch Whoopie Pies Read more…

Chocolate Hazelnut Scones

Chocolate Hazelnut SconesOregone
I spent last weekend in Oregon and it was glorious. True, I spent four years living there—so I may be biased. But, the drive down to Eugene from Portland reminded me just how much I love it up there, green rolling hills, fields of frisky animals, charming red barns….

There is no greener state than Oregon. And yes, it does rain up there. A lot. And that rain makes for some of the most stunning scenery you can ask for. This time around, I was blessed to experience one of the few absolutely perfect-weather weekends. No rain and 70 degrees. Perfect. Add to that a football win for the home team and you just can’t get much better than that…unless we start talking about the food.

Oregon is a food lover’s dream and it’s no secret that the hot Portland restaurant scene is where innovation is happening. With the abundance of fresh-grown veggies and humanely raised meats available within an hour or two of the city, you’d have to work pretty hard to not to produce a quality product. Needless to say, I ate pretty well on this trip.

I took advantage of what there was to offer including the fresh veggies, and the Pinots, and of course, the coffee. Coffee is a religion up there. Like, literally. Oregonians don’t mess around. While consuming more than the recommended daily allowance of caffeine at one of my favorite coffee stops, I had the privilege of snacking on a hazelnut chocolate scone freshly made from Oregon grown hazelnuts and fresh butter. It was ah-may-zing!

I brought a bunch of coffee beans home with me in an effort to extend my trip (if only in my mind and coffee cup). For this same reason, I have been searching for a hazelnut scone recipe on the internet. I found this basic recipe on Food 52 and have been experimenting to duplicate my Oregon scones. It’s a tough job but I am definitely up to the task….

Chocolate Hazelnut Scones
Adapted from Food 52
Yields 12 servings Read more…

Gam’s Cocoa Apple Cake

Gam’s Cocoa Apple CakeSeason’s Greetings
For most of the country, the Labor Day weekend signals the beginning of cooler temperatures and spiced flavors of fall (regardless of what the calendar says is the actual start of the season). Those of us here in California know that, despite the recent cooler weather, it is not yet time to guzzle pumpkin spice or bring the sweaters out of storage. Because, dear friends, the hottest days of the year are actually ahead of us. For Californians, fall doesn’t really start until around Halloween.

For the record, I had a chai latte this morning. Why should you care? Because chai spices are basically the gateway to pumpkin spice. I’m not quite ready to go there yet! But, I found myself in a bit of a fall mood brought on by the cooler temps this morning as well as the apple picking we did over the weekend. So, I compromised.

The apple picking happened because my brother in law’s apple tree runneth over at the moment and it is just WAY too much for one man no matter how many neighborhood squirrels there are. I think we picked at least 40 pounds of apples…maybe more which means now I have to figure out what to do with all of them. Upon arrival at home, I immediately threw some in my pressure cooker and made applesauce. That was a no-brainer. My daughter made a couple of Dutch Apple pies which the kids have been enjoying for breakfast. Of course, we have been eating the apples straight as snacks. And, the kids have been putting them in their lunches with a little peanut butter. But, I have to figure out what to do with the rest. Thus, I have been going through my cookbooks and re-examining some of my favorite recipes.

One recipe that jumped out at me was my grandmother’s Cocoa Apple Cake. It is one of two that I always loved growing up. The second one was an applesauce cake that she made with her homemade applesauce. (I’m still trying to find it.) The chocolate in this bundt cake recipe makes it popular with the young as well as the old while the apples keep it nice and moist. It’s a delicious addition to a lunch box or as a snack for the PTA meeting.

Gam’s Cocoa Apple Cake
Yields 10 to 12 Servings Read more…

Plum Upside-Down Cake

Plum Upside-Down CakeDun Gone Plum Crazy
In case you haven’t noticed, it’s plum season. Beautiful black plums, red plums, French plums and all sorts of pluots are available for your eating pleasure pretty much anywhere fruit is sold. I love plums. In my opinion, they are best when they are still slightly firm so that the skin is still a bit tart but the flesh is super sweet. Yum!

In my yard, I have essentially two plum trees. One is a hybrid that combines a couple of varieties so its hard to say what type it is. The other is actually a pluot. Both are about 5 years old and neither one has produced any fruit…until this year.

Because we had a crazy amount of rain last year, my trees were loaded with fruit by May/June. I can’t tell you how excited I was. I went out there every day to make sure I wasn’t hallucinating. Each day they got bigger and bigger and when they finally started to change color and ripen I was vibrating with excitement and then one day, they were gone.

I don’t know if it was squirrels, rats or raccoons but my bumper crop vanished overnight with no evidence left behind. I was baffled and distraught and more than a little bit angry.

Since then I have been having to sooth my plum craving via the different varieties we have here at the store and also with what is available at the farmer’s market in my neighborhood. And, don’t get me wrong, the plums are great. But, it’s not the same as eating your own homegrown version right off of the tree.

Over the weekend I went plum crazy and bought more than we will be able to consume fresh so I plan on making this upside-down cake with what’s left over. There is never a bad time for cake and I will especially enjoy it with a cup of coffee looking out my window watching the squirrels eat the majority of this year’s pomegranate crop…sigh.

Plum Upside-Down Cake
Adapted from Food & Wine Magazine
Yields one 9-inch cake Read more…