Amy’s Hummus

Amy's HummusTo eat, or not to eat? 
The decision on whether to eat before Thanksgiving or not is a difficult one. Breakfast is a no-brainer if only for the coffee infusion. I mean how’re ya gonna handle the semi-controlled chaos of Thanksgiving without a strong cup o’ joe? It’s the hours after breakfast and before the main event that can be difficult to navigate calorie-wise.

The decision to eat or not to eat is incredibly personal. There are a number of issues to consider, the first one being what time will you be eating your Thanksgiving meal? The later you eat, the more the challenge. Some see it as blasphemous to eat anything other than Thanksgiving on Thanksgiving. If it ain’t a bird and sweet potatoes, it ain’t goin’ in their mouth. And still, others don’t want to eat anything so that when the time comes, they are ensured of the maximum amount of room to fit all of their favorites. My son is this person. He can eat a frightening amount on any given day but Thanksgiving is a source of pride for him. He weighs himself before and after the meal. There’s this whole ceremony… It’s weird, but I still love him.

Personally, I have to have something to tide me over or risk getting a headache. It doesn’t have to be a big meal it just has to be something grab and go that I can snack on from time to time. This is why I like to make my homemade hummus and serve it with cut veggies. It’s a healthy snack and gets a few more veggies in you before the wave of carbs hits your plate. It’s quick to make the day before and you can put it out on a platter for the rest of the folks. Then you can walk away to attend to the cooking while the rest of ‘em watch football or calibrate the bathroom scale or whatever!

No matter what you choose, to nosh or not, have a very happy Thanksgiving and a magical holiday season.

Amy’s Hummus Recipe
Yields about 3 cups
Read more…

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…

Chewy Chocolate Brownies

Chewy Chocolate BrowniesBrownie Brain
Labor Day weekend is almost here…which is awesome because, Hey!, a three day weekend! Tradition suggests that I am supposed to be thinking about barbecue but truth be told, I’m kind of sick of grilling. With as hot as it has been lately, I haven’t even looked twice at my oven. Everything we’ve eaten in the past two weeks has been hot off the outdoor grill. Needless to say, I am finding it hard to get too excited about a barbecue for Labor Day.

That being said, I will be going to a barbecue on Sunday. The good news is the decision to figure out what to throw on the grill rests entirely on my sister’s shoulders. I have a feeling that I will be in charge of bringing something sweet to the party. And, for some reason lately, I have had brownies on the brain.

I can’t tell you how long it has been since I have made a batch of brownies. I love brownies and because of that love I just can’t have them lying around. I will simply end up eating them. Hence, I have not made them in over a year. As a general rule, I am a brownie purist but I am not above swirling in a little peanut butter before they go in the oven or even mixing some espresso into the batter. There are never any nuts in my brownies. Not because I don’t like nuts—but I just don’t want anything to interfere with my chocolate intake. And, no nuts means there is more room for chocolate in each bite.

Brownies, or chocolate anything really, are a great way to end a barbecue because chocolate just goes well with grilled meats. Even better, you can serve them with the ice cream of your choice on the top for a sundae. Or, take it a step further and use the brownies as the base for an ice cream cake!

Chewy Chocolate Brownies 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…