Friday, November 18, 2016

No Kidding...this is the Absolute Best Pumpkin Bread!

You know that moment when you think about your pumpkin bread recipe and realize it is really just "okay"?  That moment when you know there has to be something better out there?  That moment when you start looking but you have so many options that you aren't certain where to begin?  That was me.

Then, I saw the recipe for America's Test Kitchen Pumpkin Bread.  And I knew that a new recipe had arrived!  While the method of preparation is totally different, it is prepared on the stovetop before baking, I figured it was worth a try.  

They were spot on when it comes to a moist and tasty fall sweet treat...yet, it isn't overly sweet.

I kid you not, this is the absolute, very, best pumpkin bread!!

The Absolute Best Pumpkin Bread
slightly adapted from America's Test Kitchen

Yield:  2 loaves

5 Tbsp packed light brown sugar
1 Tbsp all-purpose flour
1 Tbsp unsalted butter, softened
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1/8 tsp salt

2 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 tsps baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1 15 oz. can pumpkin puree (Not pumpkin pie mix)
1 tsp salt
1 1/2 tsps ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp nutmeg
1/8 tsp cloves
1 cup granulated sugar
1 cup packed light brown sugar
1/2 cup vegetable oil
4 oz. cream cheese, cut into  12 cubes
4 large eggs, room temperature
1/4 cup buttermilk
1 cup walnuts, toasted and chopped fine

Place the rack in the middle position. 
Preheat oven: 350° F.
Prepare (grease) two loaf pans (8 1/2 X 4 1/2-inches).  Set asked.

In a small bowl, combine all of the ingredients together using your fingers.  When the mixture resembles wet sand, set it aside.

In a bowl, whisk the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt.  Set aside.

In a large saucepan over medium heat, combine the pumpkin puree, salt, cinnamon, nutmeg, and cloves.  Cook the mixture, stirring constantly, 6-8 minutes.  Remove the pan from the heat.  Add the granulated sugar, brown sugar, oil, and cream cheese to the pumpkin mixture and stir until combined. Let the mixture stand for 5 minutes.  Mix until there are no visible pieces of cream cheese and the mixture is smooth.

Whisk together the eggs and buttermilk.  Add the egg mixture to the pumpkin mixture and whisk to combine.  Fold in the flour mixture until well combined. (Some small lumps of flour are okay.)  Fold the walnuts into the batter.  

Pour the batter into the prepared pans.  Sprinkle the topping evenly over the top of each loaf.  Bake 45 to 50 minutes, or until a tester inserted into the center of the loaf comes out clean.  Allow the loaves to cool in their pans on a wire rack for 20 minutes.  Remove the loaves from their pans and continue to cool, about 1 1/2 hours.

Note:  If a larger loaf pan is used, start checking the bread about five minutes earlier.

This is my new go-to pumpkin bread recipe!  I can't imagine ever going back to my old recipe.  I hope you make it and enjoy it as much as we have!

You won't regret making this wonderful fall treat!

I am sharing today at Full Plate Thursday hosted by Miz Helen's Country Cottage.

Wednesday, November 16, 2016

Apple Pear Coffee Cake

When I was in junior high I remember using the recipe for coffee cake that was on the Bisquick box. I wanted something sweet for Saturday breakfast. It was easy. It smelled good and it was something that I could do by myself.  I was pretty proud of that coffee cake.  Dad was always a good sport and ate whatever I made.  He always told me it was delicious, even if we both knew it could have been better.  I think we both wanted something sweet that Saturday as it didn't make it to the end of the day.

A lot of years have gone by since I made that coffee cake.  It has actually been a long time since I have made any coffee cake!  That was to change as for some reason, when I looked at the load of apples and pears in our weekly CSA box, coffee cake came to mind.

It was a great decision and it didn't last very long considering the amount!  I think this particular recipe is for a large gathering, but it could easily but halved.  Halving it is what I will do the next time...

Apple Pear Coffee Cake
adapted from Taste of Home

Yield:  12-15 servings

1 cup brown sugar, packed
1 tsp ground cinnamon
2 Tbsp cold unsalted butter
1/2 cup chopped walnuts

2 cups all-purpose flour
3 tsps baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 cup unsalted butter, softened
1 cup sugar
2 large eggs, room temperature
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 cup sour cream
1 1/4 cup chopped, peeled, cored apples
1/2 cup chopped peeled, cored pears

Preheat oven:  350° F.
Prepare 13 X 9-inch baking dish.

Prepare the topping
In a small bowl, combine the brown sugar and cinnamon.  Cut the butter into the mixture until it resembles coarse crumbs.  Stir in the walnuts.  Set aside.

Prepare the cake
In a medium bowl, combine the flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt together.  Set aside.

Using a mixer, cream the butter and sugar until light and fluffy.  Beat in the eggs and vanilla.  Add the flour mixture alternately with the sour cream.

Fold in the chopped apples and pear.

Pour the batter into the prepared baking dish.  Sprinkle the topping over the batter.

Bake at 350° F. for 35-40 minutes or until a tester inserted near the center comes out clean.  Cool on a wire rack.


The cake was very moist....fall apart moist.  I did add a full cup of pear to the batter which was probably a mistake.  It didn't make a difference to the flavor, just the moistness.  Next time I will be obedient and follow the recipe as it is written.

I am sharing at Full Plate Thursday hosted by Miz Helen's Country Cottage.

Sunday, November 13, 2016

Sopa de Abóbora aka Portuguese Pumpkin Soup and a Tour of Lisbon

Sometimes everything just falls in place.  That is what happened when I got my very last Secret Recipe Club assignment, Culinary Adventures with Camilla!  You probably recognize the blog name as I was just assigned her blog in July, when I made Watermelon-Tequila Granita, but it's no matter to repeat, there is never a lack of choices on Camilla's blog.  In fact, I found the dish I wanted to make first thing as her most recent post that day was Sopa de Abóbora which is Portuguese Pumpkin Soup! I was more tha excited to see her post!

Why?  Well, we had just returned from a recent trip to Spain and Portugal.  Thinking of the trip and the wonderful sights, sounds, smells and tastes we experienced, I knew I was going to be spending time in the kitchen.  Camilla's Sopa de Abóbora was a great inspiration and place to start.  

You really need to make this soup.  It was so smooth and flavorful with a very subtle hint of sweetness.  This is a soup that I would make again.  I did make a couple of changes in that I added carrots, garlic and cilantro.  It was delicious...

Sopa de Abóbora aka Portuguese Pumpkin Soup
Inspired by Culinary Adventures with Camilla

1 small pumpkin (about 2 lbs.), peeled, seeds removed, pulp cut into small cubes
1 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1 medium yellow onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, crushed
2 medium carrots, peeled and diced
1 tomato, diced (about 1 cup)
3 cups chicken stock, divided
1 tsp cinnamon or nutmeg
1/4 cup chopped cilantro leaves
Kosher salt, to taste
Fresh ground pepper, to taste

Heat the olive oil in a large Dutch oven.  Add the diced onions.  When the onions become translucent, stir in the garlic.  Cook for another minute.  Add the pumpkin cubes and carrots to the onions and garlic.  Cook until the pumpkin begins to caramelize.  

Add the tomatoes and 2 cups chicken stock to the mixture and bring it to a boil.  Reduce the heat and simmer until the pumpkin and carrots are easily mashed with a fork, about 20 minutes.

With an immersion blender process the mixture until it is smooth.  If the mixture is too thick, add the remaining cup of chicken stock.  Stir in the cinnamon OR nutmeg.  Season to taste with salt and pepper.  Mix in the cilantro leaves.  

Ladle into individual bowls for serving.  

Garnish with roasted pumpkin seeds and a few cilantro leaves.

Camilla has an unending amount of energy.  She is the mother of three boys and describes herself as "a tree-hugging, veggie-crunching, jewelry-designing mean mommy who loves to cook but hates to clean."  She has spent time as a florist, waitress, SCUBA dive master, stock photo agency manager, stroller fitness teacher, writer, editor, and au pair. She also lived and worked in Rome where she learned to cook.  Camilla visited the markets, talked to farmers and fishmongers, and pestered them to learn how to prepare various dishes that are now part of her repertoire.

This busy woman uses any occasion to go into the kitchen and create delicious dishes for her family and friends.  It is her hope that her blog will be an inspiration to others and they will prepare their own creative dishes!

I must admit that I am intrigued with Camilla's recipe for Roasted Acorn Squash and Chestnut Soup. The fall is the perfect time to serve soup in the "squash bowl"!  But then, with the holidays approaching and knowing we would be entertaining, the idea of having homemade bitters on hand was appealing and Camilla just happened to have a recipe for making Meyer Lemon Bitters. Decisions...decisions.  


I am also sharing a collage of a few pictures from our brief two days in Lisbon.  In the morning of the first day, we took a general tour of the city which included Torre de Belem or Belem Tower (bottom center).  The tower was built in 1515 as a fortress to guard the entrance to Lisbon's harbor. It was imposing and beautiful.  As we walked along we came across the Wine with a View cart!  Director's chairs were set up enabling thirsty visitors to enjoy some great wine and the lovely view!  We thought this was a great idea!

Our afternoon was spent walking and walking and walking.  We made our way from the square pictured (bottom left) to the Moorish castle, São Jorge Castle (bottom right).  The oldest parts of the castle date from the 6th century!  I am always amazed at how old some of the structures are.

This is the last month for the Secret Recipe Club.  It is being dissolved.  I have enjoyed the opportunity to visit so many blogs and meet some really cool bloggers.  Thank you all for sharing your recipes! And thank you, Camilla, for leading Group B!!  It has been a fun adventure!

Tuesday, November 1, 2016

Spicy Lentil and Sweet Potato Stew with Chipotle

It is raining and it is cold.  On this type of day when I find myself standing in the kitchen thinking about dinner, I know that it has to be some type of comfort food.

I also have a new best friend of sorts, the New York Times Food site.  They have a page on Facebook. Everyday I see wonderful dishes just waiting for me!  On this day I saw a Spicy Lentil and Sweet Potato Stew that would be perfect!

The dish had all of the great flavors of Mexico, even chipotle, and my favorite, sweet potatoes. And... it's healthy!  What could be better?

Spicy Lentil and Sweet Potato Stew with Chipotle
slightly adapted from The New York Times

Yield:  8 servings

1 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1 medium onion, diced
2 garlic cloves, minced
Salt to taste
2 tsp ground cumin
2 medium carrots, peeled, diced
1 1/2 cups brown or green lentils, rinsed
6 cups chicken broth (water or vegetable broth may be substituted)
2 medium sweet potatoes (dark orange flesh), about 1 to  1 1/4 pounds, peeled and cut in large dice
1 to 2 chipotles in adobo, seeded and chopped (to taste)
2 Tbsp tomato paste
1 bay leaf
1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro
Lime wedges for serving

In a Dutch oven or soup pot, heat the olive oil over medium heat.  Add the onion.  Cook, stirring, until it softens, about 5 minutes.  Add the garlic and salt.  Cook, stirring, until the garlic smells fragrant, about 30 seconds.  Add the ground cumin and carrots.  Stir together.

Add the lentils, broth, sweet potatoes, chipotles, tomato paste, bay leaf and salt to taste.  Bring to a boil, reduce the heat and simmer for 40-45 minutes, until the lentils and sweet potatoes are tender.  Taste and adjust seasoning.

Stir in the cilantro and simmer for another minute.  Serve with lime wedges.

NOTE:  Start with one chipotle and increase to your taste.


This was perfect for the cold weather we were having and there was enough leftover for lunch the next day!

I return to California tomorrow so there won't be any rain and it won't to as cold....I will miss the weather in Seattle.  Blustery, rainy days are my favorite!

I am sharing today at Full Plate Thursday hosted by Miz Helen's Country Cottage.