Spiced Pumpkin Scones with Cream Cheese Frosting

Spiced Pumpkin Scones with Cream Cheese FrostingSpice is Nice
The other day I was doing my grocery shopping, filling up my cart with the usual this and that, when I noticed something strange. I was purchasing the same general items…bagels, cereal, coffee creamer…but when I looked in the cart I froze. It had happened again….

As September turns in to October you notice that the air smells different—and it’s not just a change in the weather or the fog rolling back in. There is a hint of spicy sweetness in the air that tickles your nose and makes you long for cozy sweaters, falling leaves, and warm fires. For many, there are no adverse reactions to this autumnal aroma. But for others, like myself, you can find yourself making unexpected stops for a grande latte or worse, you notice that you have filled your shopping cart with multiple items with the same theme. You can try to fight it but resistance is futile.

My friends, it is the Revenge of the Pumpkin Spice. 😱

All kidding aside, I am one of those people who does like pumpkin spice (though I draw the line at candles and dog treats). My son’s love of The Spice is even worse.

If I have one complaint it is that some of the products’ flavor tastes way to fake. So, to combat the fake pumpkin spice, I load up on the organic canned pumpkin and make things like this recipe for Pumpkin Spice Scones or some straight up pumpkin bread. I have included the ingredients for my cream cheese frosting in case you wanna go crazy-decadent.

Happy Pumpkin Spice Season!

Spiced Pumpkin Scones with Cream Cheese Frosting
Adapted from King Arthur Flour
Yields 12 scones Read more…

Cranberry Tea Loaf

Cranberry Tea LoafHoliday Hurry Up
Well, we survived Thanksgiving. For those of you who were out there in the trenches on Black Friday battling, good on ya. I used to do Black Friday when my kids were younger. Not because I needed to get the best deal on the latest impossible to find piece of plastic from China, but because it was kinda fun to get caught up in the holiday frenzy.

Now? I can make my own frenzy, thank you very much. Besides, my kids have moved on from the fun stuff. It’s all gift cards and clothes now. (Zzzzzzzzzzzz). Gone are the big boy bike reveals and the excited screaming of Christmas morning. We now have to wake them up…sigh.

The past few days could definitely be put in the frenzy category. But, I can’t figure out why I feel so anxious about the holidays. I’ve been freaking out about trying to get things done and it’s not even December yet. Sure, I picked through some of the fifty million Black Friday and Cyber Monday emails that landed in my inbox to take advantage of some really great deals. But, I do that every year—so that can’t be it. Yes, I will be hosting a couple of get-togethers with friends. But again, I do that every year so no reason to panic…except that I haven’t really started to figure out what I am serving and the party is next weekend. So, while panic may not be appropriate it would be a good idea to start planning.

I am certain that some of the anxiety is self-inflicted. See, I always have this impossible Norman Rockwell vision of how the holiday season will unfold. (Think warm fires, plaid ribbons, eggnog, and velvet.) This almost always includes the creation of homemade baked goods for friends and neighbors that we joyously hand out to one and all—spreading cheer for all to hear. The reality is, I ain’t got that much time.

I did manage to make this Cranberry Tea Loaf over the weekend with some leftover cranberries. It is the quintessential flavor of the holidays. And, when you bake it in little foil loaf pans, it becomes a perfect hostess gift (or peace offering to your neighbors who, because they are awesome, throw the errant baseballs back over the fence without complaint).

Even better, give it the Martha Stewart treatment and wrap it in a cute kitchen towel. It’s a very good thing….

Cranberry Tea Loaf Recipe
Adapted from the Silver Palette Cookbook

Cranberries freeze well, so purchase several extra bags now while they are still available. This recipe is easily doubled. Read more…

Thanksgiving Spinach Gratin

Spinach GratinSide Hustle
We all know that turkey is generally the star of the Thanksgiving show. But, if I am being honest, I tend to look forward to the side dishes more than the turkey. The bird is just a means to an end. Coming up with a favorite side dish would be impossible but I’ll give it a shot.

Potatoes are not only well-loved but a requirement. No Thanksgiving table is complete without fluffy, buttery mashed potatoes. Mashed sweet potatoes are a close second.

Gravy. Gotta have the gravy. Gravy has no calories on Thanksgiving. Really. You can look it up.

Then there’s the stuffing. There are two schools of thought with the stuffing—inside the bird or out. My preference depends on the day. The day of, I like it baked in a casserole. The day after Thanksgiving, I like the stuff from the bird in my turkey sandwich.

Regarding the veggies, we rarely have the same vegetable from year to year so I haven’t developed a strong opinion about any dish in particular. Instead, I try to look for an interesting new recipe, but I am not always successful. When that happens, I rely on some tried and true favorites. This recipe from Ina is one that I have shared before but I can’t help myself ‘cause it’s just so stinkin’ good!

For those who are still working on it, I hope you find the perfect menu soon. For those of you who know what they are having and are ready to get started, may your parking spaces be plentiful and the grocery lines short.

To everyone, have a safe, healthy and Happy Thanksgiving!

Spinach Gratin
Adapted from Ina Garten’s Barefoot Contessa Parties
Yields 8 Servings Read more…

Persimmon, Asian Pear, and Toasted Almond Salad

Persimmon, Asian Pear, and Toasted Almond SaladForeign Fruit
Some fruits baffle me. Quince is one. Kumquats another. I am utterly at a loss as to what to do with either. My theory is that one’s comfort level with certain foods, without question, depends on whether you were exposed to them as a kid. I was exposed to neither…so here I am, in a perpetual state of fruity befuddlement.

I would add persimmons to that group except that I was exposed to them as a kid. Every Thanksgiving. They adorned the ritual persimmon salad that my grandmother made and nobody ate. I mean, it was a beautiful-looking salad and certainly fulfilled the “fall colors” requirement but, no. Just, no.

What I found out later was that there are two types of persimmons. There is the Hachiya persimmon which is teardrop shaped and has to be really soft and ripe to eat it. Eaten too early and you will regret it. These were the ones my grandmother used in her salad. As a kid, I thought they were gooey and gross. The other variety is the Fuyu persimmon. Now, this is a whole different experience altogether.

Fuyus can be eaten when they are still hard and they have a crunch like an apple. Strangely, given my profession, I really didn’t encounter Fuyu persimmons much until I was well into my 20s. Probably because I was scarred by previous persimmon encounters, I didn’t seek them out.

When we bought our current home we became the proud owners of a lovely 3 bedroom 2-½ bath ranch style home….and a Fuyu persimmon tree. The first year we didn’t get too many persimmons and I picked them too early ‘cause I didn’t know any better. Subsequent crops have been progressively larger. But, this year was ridiculous because we actually had rain. I think the kids pulled 300 plus persimmons off the tree. And, that doesn’t count the fruit that was sacrificed to the squirrel gods.

The hard part is knowing what to do with that many persimmons. Thankfully, I have a produce department and an open-minded manager. So, I saved some and unloaded the rest. The saved ones are destined for this Persimmon, Asian Pear, and Toasted Almond Salad below which, in my opinion, is a much less traumatizing version of the salad of my childhood.

Persimmon, Asian Pear, and Toasted Almond Salad
Adapted from My Recipes
Yields 4 Servings Read more…

Pumpkin Spice Maple Muffins

Pumpkin Spice Maple MuffinsSpice Girl
You start to get a whiff of it in the air right around August 20th and then the scent keeps getting stronger as August gives way to September. By the second week of September not only do you smell it but you see it popping up all over. And sometimes, in very strange places.

Then, it’s the first day of fall and you just can’t escape it. It’s everywhere! And, just when you think you’ve conquered your demons and can live a life free from craving that scent, that flavor, it’s spicy sweet claws grab a hold of you drag you back in. Pumpkin Spice is back. Can nobody save us?

I’ve been trying to put off the inevitable for a while now if only to enjoy Fall’s favorite pumpkin spice flavor in fall. Two days in to the new season…and I caved. It was the ultimate peer pressure. My inbox has been overflowing with newsletters and recipe suggestions like enterprising pushers all devoted to pumpkins and winter squashes of all shapes and forms. (Try us, they said. Just one little taste couldn’t hurt. Yeah, right.)

There was a maple pumpkin walnut cheesecake, and a pumpkin soup with apples and ancho chile, pumpkin ravioli, savory pumpkin tarts, pumpkin with lentils, stuffed pumpkin, chicken and pumpkin with dumplings (be still my heart), and on and on.

Amidst the bevy of sweet and savory possibilities sweetened with maple syrup or spiced with cayenne, I came across this very easy recipe for Pumpkin Spice Maple Muffins. What I like most is the use of whole wheat flour, which gives the muffins a hearty nuttiness—as opposed to some of the sweeter versions out there. I would be remiss if I didn’t point out, though, that a lovely cream cheese frosting would make these muffins otherworldly.

If you are one of the stalwart few who thus far have not succumbed to the frenzy that is pumpkin and it’s spices, I applaud your resolute determination in the face of mouthwatering scents and rampant marketing. And, I encourage you to continue on where I failed. In the meantime, I’ll be over here, eating a muffin.

Pumpkin Spice Maple Muffins
Adapted from the New York Times
Yields one dozen muffins

The turmeric gives these muffins a deep orange color. Browning the butter beforehand provides a vaguely nutty, deeply caramelized flavor that makes for a delicious muffin. For a gluten-free version of this recipe, just substitute the flour with an equal amount of Cup4Cup Multipurpose Flour. Read more…