Baked Cinnamon Sugar Pumpkin Donuts

I am not the best when it comes to “just buying the essentials.”

When I’m let loose in a store, I end up trying to rationalize purchases “we absolutely do not need.”  Well, according to Roo.

Last weekend I convinced myself that I needed five pairs of knee high socks.

“Why is there a plethora of socks at the bottom of this Target bag?”

“Oh. I need them.  You know, to keep warm.  Boston’s cold in the winter.”

“Spring is almost a week away.”

“I’m cold!”

Roo picks up one of the pairs, “This doesn’t have to do with the fact that they all have Hello Kitty on them?”

Damn.

What’s ironic is that this behavior gets quite bad when I’m trying to save money.  After a few weeks of setting a little aside from each paycheck, I feel the need to reward myself.  And if that treat comes to me via “free super saver shipping” from Amazon, then so be it.

Today, it was a donut pan.

But I’ll be ready when Roo comes home from his mother’s.

Yes, this pan is something we absolutely do need.

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Pumpkin, Molasses, Cranberry and Golden Raisin No Knead Toasting Bread

“I can’t believe you said that! Now I’m going to have to eat my feelings in peanut butter.”

“Sometimes I think you try to find things I say offensive, just so you can find an excuse to eat peanut butter.”

“……I can’t believe you said that! Now I’m going to have to eat my feelings in peanut butter!”

“Like I said.”

Roo may have a point, but I’ll never admit it.

Would you?

…Don’t answer that.

One of my favorite ways of eating peanut butter is standing by the kitchen cupboard and eating it out of the jar with a spoon.  I swear it tastes 10 times better this way.

I also love it on classics like toast.  Practically burnt toast with a dollop of peanut butter has been my breakfast for the majority of these bitterly cold mornings  (it’s 24F as I type).  This sticky, crunchy, lip smacking treat makes waking before sunrise almost bearable when paired with a hot cup of tea.

I said almost.

This past weekend I made a couple loaves of a recent favorite: pumpkin and molasses with dried cranberries and golden raisins.  It’s a great toasting bread, where the natural sugars from the pumpkin and molasses have this wonderful crunch; almost caramelized with an ever so slight, sticky chew.  It’s chock full of raisins and cranberries, but I love that the pumpkin still shines through.  Spices like cinnamon, nutmeg and ginger enhance the pumpkin’s warmth, but notes of caramel that can be tasted in the squash naturally make it a perfect partner to deep, lush molasses.

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Pumpkin Bread with Molasses and Ginger

Roo has lived in our apartment for about ten years.  Two years ago, I remember getting buzzed into the building and walking up three flights of winding stairs, before reaching the top floor apartment.  Our date was spent sitting on his bed, as his roommate was in the television room and there was no where else for us to go.  The bed was by three uninsulated windows, and I remember being so cold, as I felt the November chill find its way through the seams.  We talked, sipped whiskey, and listened to a Best of Tom Petty album.  It was pretty great.

The apartment at the time housed bachelors that were there to do three things: eat, sleep and poop (Everyone Poops, I hope you’re now over it).  Cleaning was not on the top of the list, and while I myself admit to being a slob, these boys made me look like a reality star from Obsessed.

When Roo asked me to move in with him last year, there was no denying it, I knew what I was getting into…

The kitchen housed a broken toilet (literally, in the middle of the floor) and five cinderblocks.

There wasn’t a refrigerator.

The bathroom did not have properly functioning toilet.  You had to stick your hand in the cold tank to pull on the chain to make it flush.  I hated this.

Said toilet completely broke before I moved in, and then the kitchen housed two broken toilets.

I once tried to be “helpful” by picking up a large dustball off the floor, but it turned out to be a mouse the cats had killed god-only-knows-when.

There wasn’t hand soap in the entire apartment at the time.  Anywhere.

I ended up cleaning my hands with shampoo, wailing (wailing helps with decontamination) over a sink that is “old fashioned” with separate “hot” and “cold” spouts.  Going from “burn” to “freeze” also helped with decontaminating.  Sure.

Roo was incredibly sweet when he asked me to live with him last July, as he immediately followed his question with, “but I’ll make sure that this place is nice by September.  Everyone’s moved out now so I can make this place so much better.  I promise.”

While there were only two rooms that were barely functional in the house (the kitchen and the bathroom), Roo only had enough money to re-vamp one.  I asked for a working toilet, but as for how the bathroom looked itself, that wasn’t really a deal breaker for me.  What did make me hesitant was the state of the kitchen.  And Roo didn’t let me down.

Roo repainted the walls, bought us a new refrigerator, removed the items that were being stored there (ie two toilets and five cinder blocks), and basically made it beautiful place to make my meals.  He moved an old oak table he had in storage to one side of the kitchen, so we could eat there.  Even the floors were steam-cleaned, and right before I started unpacking my pans, he pulled out some shelving from the guest bedroom to store my cookbooks.

As the anniversary of our first date approaches, I can’t help but think of the first thing I made Roo and brought over to his apartment.  It was towards the end of November, practically right on top of Thanksgiving.  I was in an obsessive phase with pumpkin (but who isn’t this time of year?), so I baked him a loaf of pumpkin bread.

This year, I wanted to make something that brought together the flavors from my favorite family holiday (Thanksgiving) and Roo’s (Christmas), but had no idea how to do it.  When I stumbled upon Elise’s recipe for Pumpkin Gingerbread, it was the inspiration I was looking for.  Rich molasses swirled into a smooth pumpkin puree, bold flavors such as ginger and cinnamon shining through, made a cake that I was incredibly eager to share.  I’ve already packed a bunch of slices for my co-workers for when I see them next.

I think Roo will enjoy this for breakfast this week, especially as with time, the flavors truly meld together and make something I’m sure he won’t mind skipping his daily Starbucks $3 holiday loaf for.

Adapted from Simply Recipes

Makes One Loaf (or, if you’d like to reduce the baking time, split the batter into two loaf pans)

Ingredients

One and a half cups of white whole wheat flour

Quarter teaspoon of fine sea salt

One rounded teaspoon of baking soda

2 teaspoons of ground ginger

One and a half teaspoons of ground cinnamon

Quarter teaspoon of ground nutmeg

One and a quarter cups of pumpkin puree

Quarter cup of butter (like Earth Balance), melted

Half cup of turbinado sugar (you can use regular sugar, turbinado was all I had)

Half cup of molasses

1 tablespoon of fresh ginger, grated

2 flax seed eggs (2 tablespoons of ground flax seed and 6 tablespoons of warm water, combined and set aside for about 5 minutes)

3 tablespoons of water

Half cup of raisins (optional)

Extra turbinado sugar for sprinkling (optional)

Equipment

A large mixing bowl

A medium mixing bowl

A whisk

A spatula

A 9×5 loaf pan

Parchment paper, or butter and flour to grease your pan

Place your oven rack to the middle position in the oven.  Preheat your oven to 350F.

In a medium mixing bowl add the white whole wheat flour, salt, baking soda, ginger, cinnamon and nutmeg.  Whisk the ingredients together until they are well combined and there are no longer any lumps.

In the large mixing bowl add the pumpkin puree, melted butter, sugar, molasses, fresh grated ginger, flax seed eggs and water.  Mix till the ingredients are combined.  Be sure to scrape down the bowl so that all ingredients are incorporated.

Add the dry ingredients to the wet, in increments.  Stir the ingredients till combined.  Add the raisins, if using, and stir till combined.  Again, be sure to scrape down the bowl so that all ingredients are incorporated.

Scoop out the batter into a prepared loaf pan (either lined with parchment paper, or buttered and floured).  Bake for one hour ten minutes to an hour and a twenty minutes (this cake is filled to the max with pumpkin, so it’s going to take a while to cook through).  At the hour marker, remove the pan and sprinkle a little turbinado sugar on top, if using.  At the hour five marker, remove the pan and check to see if it’s done with a cake tester, like a toothpick.  If it pulls out clean, it’s done.  If not bake for an additional five minutes and keep checking until it’s done.

Remove the pan from the oven and allow it to cool (in the pan) for about ten minutes.  Run a knife along the edge of the loaf and remove it from the pan.  Allow it to cool till room temperature before serving.  If you can wait till overnight to eat it, the flavor of the cake will be so much better.  But, we couldn’t, we’re not judging.

Butternut Squash Cake with Dark Chocolate and Dried Cranberries

I’ve mentioned it quite a bit this month that some items in our CSA has been more difficult to get through than others.  Produce like kale and onions were used within a day or two, while squashes and sweet potatoes have found practically a permanent residence on the shelf next to our Keurig.

I’ve honestly never made a cake with butternut squash before, but being related to pumpkin, I figured why not do a twist on a cake that I love so much this time of year.  Also, I had such good luck with my sweet potato cake, that I was hoping I’d ride on that recipe karma to something fantastically unexpected.

Yes, I always have high expectations.  That’s how I roll.

I’m glad that I took the chance, as this cake is incredibly moist, lush, with bits of chocolate speckled through the batter, yet countered beautifully with the bright, tart cranberries.  It’s something that I look forward to making again, especially since squash season is far from over and warming our apartment with an oven baking a cake is far better than turning on the radiator (hello humidifier, please jump into my trunk at Target because our heater hates my hair).

Adapted from Sweet Potato Spice Cake with Dried Cranberries

This makes two cakes, but can be easily halved.  The batter is especially thick and when the original recipe is used (for the two cakes), it is a large amount, therefore making one cake should be considered especially when not using a stand mixer.

Ingredients

5 cups of butternut squash “moosh” (1 large butternut squash) *Peel, de-seed and cut your squash into chunks and place on a microwave safe plate.  Cover with a paper towel and microwave until very soft.  (This took me about 10 minutes.)  Mash the chunks until very smooth, thus “moosh.”

One and a half cups of sugar

2 flax seed eggs (2 tablespoons of ground flax seed, mixed with 6 tablespoons of water, set aside for ten minutes)

1 cup of unsweetened unflavored almond milk (or another non-dairy milk)

Three quarters of a cup of mild tasting olive oil (if you are halving this recipe, you will need 6 tablespoons of olive oil)

1 teaspoon of vanilla extract

4 cups of white whole wheat flour

1 heaping tablespoon of baking soda

1 heaping tablespoon of baking powder

1 tablespoon of ground cinnamon

1 teaspoon of ground nutmeg

1 cup of dried cranberries (I love it when the dried cranberries plump up in a cake, so yes, 1 cup it is)

Quarter to a half cup of chocolate, chopped

Quarter cup of turbinado sugar, for sprinkling (you can use regular sugar)

Equipment

1 large sized mixing bowl (the biggest one you have, seriously)

1 medium sized mixing bowl

A spatula

A whisk

Two 9″ cake pans

Parchment paper (optional) or grease your pan (with butter, like Earth Balance, and dust with flour)

Place the oven rack in the middle position in your oven.  Preheat your oven to 350F.

In the medium sized mixing bowls, add the flour, baking soda, baking powder, cinnamon and nutmeg.  Whisk the ingredients together, till combined.

In the large sized mixing bowl, add the butternut squash “moosh,” flax eggs, sugar, almond milk, olive oil and vanilla extract.  Stir till combined.

Add the dry ingredients to the wet, in increments.  Stir till combined.  Fold in the dried cranberries and dark chocolate.  The batter is going to be extremely thick and you’re going to question my sanity.  Trust it.

Spoon out the batter into your pans.

Bake for about about 35 – 45 minutes.  At the 30 minute mark, sprinkle the turbinado sugar over the tops of the cakes.  At the 35 minute mark, use a cake tester (like a toothpick), and insert into the middle of the cake.  If it comes out with a little bit of crumb, it’s done.  If not, put it back in the oven for another five minutes, and check again.

When done, remove from oven and allow to cool to room temperature before serving.

Apple Upside Down Cake

There’s this bag that’s been staring at me for the past two weeks.

Oh no, dear reader, it’s not a bag full of Godiva.

It’s a bag full of apples.  Apples that my parents picked and then unloaded on me, happy to give me the burden of trying to not waste these little gems.

What, you think they’re ugly?

Well, you’re right.  While the farmer insisted that they’re fine to eat, I just didn’t want to put my mouth on something that looks like….well, you know.

And I hate peeling apples, especially for every. single. one. that I want to eat as a snack.  No. No no no no.  Snacks should be easily consumed, no peeling involved.  Lazy snacking for me, please.

So, instead, I decided to get rid of them all.  I peeled them in one go and threw them into a cake.

And really, what’s better in late October than freshly baked apple cake?  Oh, that’s right, upside down apple cake, because I wanted all my apples used.  I mean, I wanted apples in every nook and cranny of this cake.  Sure.

Half an hour into baking, the apartment became enveloped with, what a Yankee Candle Shop should smell like: cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg and cardamom. (Seriously, what is up with that store and their scent-terrorism? Do I really want my eyes to water as I walk by?)  It was like tempting a hungry bear, as every few minutes, Roo and I circled in and out of the kitchen, eagerly waiting for the cake to be done.

About an hour after being put into the oven, the cake tester finally came out clean.  Throwing open the door, and snatching up the cake like I was stealing a baby, I immediately took it outside onto the porch for a “fast cool.”  And by “fast cool,” I mean I waited a mere minute, and tried to sneak a bite, burning the roof of my mouth in the process.  The second however (thirty minutes later), left me floored.  The mix of spices, added such lovely warmth to the cake, with cinnamon as the main star.  The caramelized turbinado sugar was rich, gooey, and practically bathed the apples that circled the top.  And the cake itself was extremely moist, jam packed with even more apples.  If anything, one will be left satisfied with the smallest of slices.  The cake is incredibly rich and perfect with a cup of strongly brewed coffee.

Adapted from Smitten Kitchen

Makes one, 9″ round cake

Ingredients

For the “upside down” apples

Quarter cup of turbinado sugar (you could also use brown sugar)

Half teaspoon of cinnamon

1 tablespoon of butter (like Earth Balance), melted

4 apples, peeled, cored and cut into thick slices (slice the apple in half, then cut the halves into half)

For the apples inside the cake

4 apples, peeled, cored and chopped into easily edible pieces

Half teaspoon cinnamon

Quarter cup of sugar

For the cake

Two and three quarter cups of white whole wheat flour

Half teaspoon of ground cinnamon

Half teaspoon of ground ginger

Half teaspoon of ground nutmeg

Quarter teaspoon of ground cardamom (optional)

1 tablespoon baking powder

Quarter teaspoon fine sea salt

1 cup mild tasting olive oil

One and a half cups of sugar

Quarter cup of orange juice

Three teaspoons of vanilla

4 flax seed eggs (4 tablespoons of ground flax seed, 12 tablespoons of hot water, mixed, and set aside for about 10 minutes)

Equipment

Three medium sized mixing bowls (you can use your apple mixing bowl, twice, as all that goes in it are apples, cinnamon in sugar, well, twice)

A spatula

A whisk

A sharp knife

A nine inch cake pan

Parchment paper (if you’re lazy and don’t want to clean out caramelized sugar out from your cake pan)

Another knife (to loosen your cake from the cake pan)

A plate as large as your cake pan, to invert the cake on

Place your oven rack to the medium position in the oven and preheat it to 350F.

If using, line your cake pan with parchment paper.

In your first mixing bowl, add the 4 sliced apples, turbinado sugar and cinnamon.  Toss together.  Pour the ingredients from this bowl (including excess sugar) into your cake pan.  Evenly disperse the apples and sugar in the pan.  Set aside.

In the same mixing bowl, add the 4 chopped apples, sugar, and cinnamon.  Toss together and set aside (in the bowl).

In the second mixing bowl, add the while whole wheat flour, cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger, (cardamom if using) baking powder and salt.  Whisk together until the ingredients are combined.  Set aside.

In the third mixing bowl, add the oil, orange juice, vanilla extract and sugar.  Mix till combined.  (I know, don’t freak out, the flax eggs get added a little later.)

Add the dry ingredients to the wet ingredients, in increments.  Stir till just combined.  Add the flax seed egg, folding and incorporating, till combined.  Be sure to scrape down the bowl to make sure everything is mixed together.

The batter is going to be super thick.  You’re going to doubt yourself, but trust it.

Scoop half of the batter into your cake pan.  Spread the chopped apples on top of the batter.  Scoop the rest of the batter over the apples.

Bake for about an hour.  At the 45 minute mark, use your cake tester (like a toothpick) and check to see if it’s done (my oven runs incredibly hot and has a part-time hobby of drying out cakes).  If not, keep checking it every five minutes until it’s done.

Cool until you can handle the cake pan with bare hands, but the cake is still warm.  Run a knife around the edge of the cake to loosen it a bit from the pan/parchment paper.  Place a large plate on top of your cake (but it’s actually the cake’s bottom).  Invert the cake onto the plate, remove the parchment paper (if used), and allow to cool to room temperature for serving. Or, burn the roof of your mouth like I did, from sheer impatience.

Pumpkin Spice Latte

Good Morning!

Oh wait, I forgot, you’re Evil Monkey.

At least your sister is nice.

Sometimes.

Despite some moody cats, things are pretty good over here in our little apartment.

Last night we went to a house-warming party for J, with the usual suspects M and B (S and E had to work).  It was a fun evening filled with good food (J’s mum visited this week and brought him vats of homemade kimchi. Kinda epic.), laughs, and maybe a little too much red wine.  Coming back home around midnight, it was well past our bedtime and we dragged our sorry behinds to bed.

This morning we woke up to the scratchings of kitties’ paws on our bedroom door, letting us know that we had slept in too long and that they wanted breakfast.

It was 730 a.m.

Roo and I are pretty non-functional not before breakfast, but coffee.  If you remember, I had a bit of a meltdown at Starbucks, when I found out that their Soy Pumpkin Spice Latte wasn’t dairy free.  Of course a lot of factors contributed to this meltdown, but when I was finally able to get my hands on some form of caffeine, I asked myself why was I wasting my time in line for a latte, when I knew how to make one.

Unlike a lot of the teens that single handedly support Starbucks on their weekly allowance alone, I prefer a not-too-sweet latte that won’t make me want to call up my dentist afterwards.  I’m always “that girl,” asking the barista to give me an extra shot of espresso, yet one (or two) less pumps of syrup in my flavored latte.

Yet, with natural ingredients, I find that I love the perplexity of flavors that you can establish in a homemade drink, different from the injection of syrups that are pumped by your favorite barista.  Creamy pumpkin, heat from cinnamon and ginger, and just a little bit of nutmeg to give it that extra something (nutmeg goes well in lots of dishes with creamy ingredients), after drinking this I seriously questioned my laziness on a workday.

With it being the weekend, I hope that you can take your time rolling out of bed, turning your coffee machine on, and save a couple bucks on something that doesn’t have your name misspelled on the side of the cup.  Unless, you like that kind of thing.

Image from Amazon

Adapted from The Kitchn

Serves One

Ingredients

Six ounces, or half a mug filled with your favorite, strongly brewed coffee

1 cup of almond milk

2 tablespoons of pumpkin puree

1 tablespoon of vanilla extract (I know, it’s a LOT but hey, you’re worth it)

Half a teaspoon of cinnamon

One eighth a teaspoon of nutmeg

One eighth a teaspoon of ground ginger (optional)

Sugar to taste (I don’t like sugar in my coffee, but I find that 1 tablespoon added makes this latte smooth to drink. Sugar lovers you may want 2.)

Equipment

A small pot (that can hold about 2 cups)

A whisk

A blender (or an immersion blender), if you don’t want foam, you don’t need either any of these

A tea towel/bunch of paper towels, is using a blender (to put over the top)

A spoon, maybe

Pour the almond milk into a small pot and place over a burner on medium low heat.  Warm the milk until it gets very hot.  If it bubbles a bit, that’s ok, just turn the heat down so it doesn’t come to a rolling boil.  Add the pumpkin puree, vanilla extract, ground cinnamon, nutmeg, and ginger and sugar, if using.  Stir the ingredients together, until the milk gets very hot again, ie steaming.

Remove the pot from heat and pour the milk mixture into your blender, or if you’re using an immersion blender, blend the ingredients within the pot until frothy.

If using a blender, place the top on, along with a tea towel (to protect your hands).  Still with your hand on the towel and top, blend the milk mixture together, until frothy.  (This took me about 30 seconds.)

Pour your now frothy milk mixture into your mug that’s half filled with coffee.  As you empty the blender, the foam should settle on top.  If there’s any leftover foam, grab a spoon, and ladle it on top.

Apple Topped Pancakes

With there being 31 days in October, today marks the halfway point for LLN in VeganMoFo!

I’m happy to say that I haven’t been very tempted this month to stray from the plant based diet that Roo and I decided to do.  However, it never felt like we were really alone in this, as The VeganMoFo community is incredibly informative and supportive.  There are so many people who are eating plant based meals for the same reasons Roo and I are.  Also, I came to learn that the authors of some of the most popular vegan blogs, are actually more accessible than others (omnivore) that I have read. @Mama_Pea and @IsaChandra of Peas and Thank You and Post Punk Kitchen, have always replied back to my questions on Twitter, and get this, were nice about it.  While I’ve received replies back from authors of other types of blogs, the majority, have been from the vegans, who responded, every time.

I can honestly say that I can only hope my blog can become even half as popular as theirs.  But it should be noted that their work ethic of always getting back to the people who visit their blogs, is something to be admired, blog stats aside.

On that note, this morning I saw that @IsaChandra tweeted her Apple Pie Pancake recipe.  I had just rolled out of bed, fed the cats (because they wouldn’t let me get onto my laptop without a proper “exchange”)

and in a pre-coffee haze, started to scroll through my emails and twitter account.

“Apple pie for breakfast?” I asked Roo.

“When have I not wanted pie for breakfast?” he replied.

It was true, how could I not make it.

Unfortunately when I went through my cupboards I realized that I didn’t have everything.  Not to be one to endanger the shoppers of Market Basket with my pre-coffee state, I hoped that I could get away with adapting the recipe a bit.  While I was nervous, as pancakes, in my opinion, are a hybrid of baking and cooking, with baking being oh-so-finicky in adjustments, and cooking, the forgiving, almost begging to be done on the fly, I figured if that they didn’t work out, Roo could defrost the sweet potato spice cake I had squirreled away in the freezer.

People, let this be the reason to do your breakfast making pre-coffee.  It worked.  And it was awesome.

The apple topping wasn’t oh-so-sweet that you felt like you needed an insulin shot after (which I has been a common complaint from my friends who still worship the Ihop every weekend…why???).  There were even hints of citrus, as the apples were able to cook down into the apple juice, simmering, stewing, creating an incredibly lush, soft, warm, reduction-like topping.

The pancakes were slightly nutty from the ground flax seed, and full of spice, as I piled on the cinnamon, nutmeg and spice into the flour-mix.  I also loved that in Isa’s original recipe, she mixes the apple cider vinegar into the almond milk, which creates a pseudo-buttermilk, if you will.  This added to the lightness of the pancake, which I just loved.

If you’re looking for a great breakfast to properly introduce you to fall, this is it.  Grab your apples and start peeling!

Adapted from Post Punk Kitchen

Makes 6 pancakes

Ingredients

For the Apple Topping

2 apples, peeled and diced into easily edible pieces

Half teaspoon ground cinnamon

Half cup of apple juice

Half tablespoon of cornstarch

For the pancakes

Half cup unsweetened almond milk (or other unsweetened non dairy milk)

1 teaspoon of apple cider vinegar

1 tablespoon of ground flax seeds

Three quarters of a cup of white whole wheat flour (or all purpose flour if that’s what you have)

1 teaspoon of baking powder

1 teaspoon of ground cinnamon

Half teaspoon of ground ginger

One eighth of a teaspoon of ground nutmeg

Quarter teaspoon of fine sea salt (I use Diamond)

1 tablespoon of mild tasting olive oil

One third of a cup of apple juice

1 teaspoon of vanilla extract

1 tablespoon of maple syrup

Grease for your pancake pan (I like 1 tablespoon of olive with 1 teaspoon of butter, like Earth Balance, melted and then swished around to coat the pan)

Equipment

One medium mixing bowl

A 1 to 2 cup measuring cup (Like a pyrex with a spout that can sit on the counter and hang out)

A whisk

A spatula

A Quarter cup measuring cup, cleaned and saved for batter pouring

A sharp knife

A medium pot (about 3 quarts)

A large saute pan

A cookie sheet, warmed in a 250F oven to keep your pancakes warm

Place a cookie sheet onto an oven rack, in the middle position of the oven.  Preheat the oven to 250F, to keep your pancakes warm.

Now start with your topping, as while it cooks, you can prep the pancakes.

In a medium pot, add the apples, cinnamon, apple juice,and cornstarch.  Mix till combined with a spatula.  Place on a burned over medium heat.  Bring the ingredients to a boil, then lower the heat down to a simmer and cook for about 20 more minutes.  Basically by the time you’re done with the pancakes, the apples should also be fork tender.  Remove from heat and serve generously over pancakes.

While your apples cook down, pour the almond milk, apple cider vinegar and ground flax seeds into your measuring cup.  Stir ingredients together till combined.  Set aside.

In a medium mixing bowl, add the flour, baking powder, ground cinnamon and nutmeg, and salt.  Whisk the ingredients together till combined.  Scoop out a little well in the center of the dry ingredients, and add the milk mixture, olive oil, apple juice, vanilla extract and maple syrup.  Stir till just combined (a couple lumps are ok).  It’s going to look like a mess at first, but it’ll come together.  Set aside.

Add your preferred grease to your pancake pan (some people are devout to oil, some think if you don’t use butter (like Earth Balance), you’re insane, and some, like me, use both, because they love both).  Place the pan on a burner over medium.  When the grease starts to shimmer, use your quarter cup measuring cup to scoop out the batter, and pour it into the pan.  My pan can fit 3 pancakes at a time, so this is what I work with.

When the pancake starts to bubble (and you can peek to see how brown the side faced down in the grease is with a spatula, I won’t tell anyone) and the sides start to set, flip your pancake.  This takes about 2 to 3 minutes.  Cook the second side for about 2 to 3 minutes more, depending on how crazy-hot (yes, I said it) your burner is.  I always peek at the side face down on the pan, so I can control how brown the pancakes get.  There is no shame in this.  Seriously.  When the pancakes are done, set aside on your cookie sheet in the oven, to keep warm.

Repeat the above process until you run out of batter.

When ready to eat, serve with the apple topping.

Sweet Potato Spice Cake with Dried Cranberries

This cake is good.

This cake is so good it shouldn’t even have my usual “blah blah blah, my day was so crazy because of this and that,” and “I’m hilarious!” introduction.

Seriously. Awesome.  The turbinado sugar creates an almost caramelized bottom as it settles in the cake, and the cranberries.  People, the cranberries!  They are the perfect accompaniment to the sweet potato, that literally melts away in this cake.  The cranberries become lush, as they plump up and become enveloped in a moist, molasses flavored (thank you Turbinado), spiced cake.  Yes, this cake is kind of a big deal.

As Roo said, “Babe, why is this crazy good?”

I’ve already wasted too much time.  Make this now.

Adapted from Joy the Baker

Ingredients

2 cups white whole wheat flour

2 teaspoons ground cinnamon

Half teaspoon ground nutmeg

1 teaspoon baking soda

Quarter teaspoon baking powder

Quarter teaspoon fine sea salt

2 cups Turbinado/Demerara sugar (I used it for a lovely caramelized bottom, but you can use whatever you have on hand)

Three Quarter Cup of Olive Oil

3 flax eggs (3 tablespoons of ground flax and 9 tablespoons of water, mixed together and set aside for about 10 minutes)

one peeled and finely grated sweet potato (about 3 to 4 cups)

1 cup dried cranberries

*optional* Half cup tart Montmorency dried cherries, chopped (I love dried fruit that plumps up in a cake, you may not be loving the life of an 80 year old, so put in what you like)

Equipment

A nine inch cake pan

A large mixing bowl

A medium mixing bowl

A food processor with the ‘fine shred’ disk, or a hand grater

A whisk

A spatula

Parchment paper (optional) or baking spray or butter and flour for your pan

Place the oven rack in the middle position of the oven and preheat to 350F.  Line the cake pan with parchment paper, or spray with baking spray, or butter and flour it.  Whatever your fancy.  Set aside.

In a medium mixing bowl, add the white whole wheat flour, cinnamon, nutmeg, baking soda, baking powder and salt.  Stir to well with a whisk.  Set aside.

In a large mixing bowl add the flax eggs, sugar, olive oil and vanilla extract.  Stir well with a whisk.  At first it’ll look like an oily mess, but keep going, it’ll come together.

Add the finely shredded sweet potato to the large mixing bowl.  Fold it in with a spatula till combined.

Add the dry ingredients to the wet, in increments, folding them together until just combined, then adding more until the dry ingredient bowl is empty.  Add the cranberries and the cherries to the large mixing bowl and fold in till combined.

This batter is going to be extremely thick.

You’re going to question it, I know. But trust it!  It’s going to be goooooood.

Pour/spread the batter into the cake pan.

Bake for about forty five minutes to an hour.  (My stove runs incredibly hot, so it takes only 45 for me.)

Cool within the cake pan for about fifteen minutes.

Remove from the cake pan and cool completely.

This cake freezes beautifully, so bake and hoard folks, bake and hoard.

Pumpkin Bread with Golden Raisins and Dried Cranberries

Just when I thought this week was going to be easy to write up about, the desire to procrastinate was incredibly strong.

Today felt like as if everyone I ran into was on edge. It was as if the immense emotion from the September 11th anniversary had carried on from the weekend and took a giant dump on my Tuesday. It wasn’t exactly how I wanted to start my work week. Nor did it set me in the right mood to start writing up about the friends I love.

But promises are well…promises, and instead of procrastinating by creeping on Facebook and Twitter (hey, at least I admit it), and dreaming up all of the things I’d love to buy on Amazon….

Sorry, I got distracted again, by boots.

I have a problem.

Anyway, let me tell you about my best friend E.

E and I met in sophomore year of undergrad at polo team tryouts.  I can’t say I really remember my first impression (it was over 10 years ago), as most of the afternoon was filled with anxiety; wanting to know if I had made the cut.  However, I do remember after a couple of practices, scrubbing our tack with Murphy’s Oil Soap and talking about our individual plans for the night, that she was someone that I wanted to hang out with.  Immediately.

E is a person that will always put you at ease.  Extremely open and always one to smile at a joke that may not be the funniest, she always makes you feel comfortable with who you are.  She was a great friend to have at the start of my undergrad career because I was at that age where I was trying to figure out that very exact thing.

I came from an almost all-white town in suburbia, where I spent every afternoon at an equestrian facility.  There, along with two other girls, we practically ran the place.  And we knew it.  Suffice it to say, it was not a childhood experience I think I’d want for my future daughter.  The three of us grew up a little too fast, and got away with a little too much.

I am so grateful I at 18 I at least had the common sense to a giant state school.

Coming out of high school I was a selfish, arrogant, and somewhat slutty (I said it) “big fish” in the equestrian facility pond.  I desperately needed to be “thrown to the sharks.”

For those who had the small college experience, freshman year at a school that has on average 30,000 people walking around on campus everyday, is a bit overwhelming.  I thought I would love molding myself into who I wanted to be.  I believed that I could make myself queen of whatever flock I chose, and that I didn’t need the equestrian community anymore.

I got so lost.

During freshman orientation, I chose to live in the known “diversity dorm,” on campus because I thought being half-asian was super ethnic and that would be my launching pad for queen.

It’s not.

I went from picking up a smoking habit of Marlboro Ultra Menthol Lights (so gross), finding myself at frat house basement parties, betting on who’s house shirt I could steal as a souvenir (who. was. I?!?), and keeping lookout as one of my hall-mates stole a giant vat of ice cream from the dining hall, to running…Directly back to another equestrian facility.

When I saw the flyer posted randomly in the campus center, next to a Cannabis Club meeting time (oh yes), at first I dismissed the idea of trying out.  I had never played polo before, so why bother.

But I couldn’t stop thinking about it.

And I’m thankful I did.  Because instead of being caught up in the drama of “women hating women,” I found a truly great friend.

One of the best memories I have is when I showed up to her dorm room for a Halloween party.  I arrived in jeans and a t-shirt.  Maybe flip flops?  She was horrified.  How did I not know what Halloween meant in “girl world?”

In a whirlwind of clothes and face paint, she dressed me in jeans spray painted with dashes of gold, a mesh shirt (it’s as bad as it sounds), and drew a lunar eclipse on my forehead.  She wore something of the like, and drew a sun on her forehead.  How we explained that our “costumes” went together, I can’t remember.  And I’m kind of glad I don’t!

With that memory in mind, and in celebration of her recent birthday (in which she insists every year she’s “25”), I made her pumpkin bread.  If I could write a crash-test guide on E, the first page would list three things: She loves the color orange, pumpkin is her favorite type of pie, and she hates, hates nuts in brownies.

Thankfully pumpkin bread is (theoretically) orange and in this version, without nuts.  I love stuffing breads like banana or zucchini with as many dried fruits as possible.  And in this loaf, I added handfuls of golden raisins and dried cranberries.  Having them plump up, and enveloped by a spice filled batter, makes it a quintessential fall treat.  Perfect with a mug of earl grey tea, sitting with your legs curled up under yourself, and maybe with a cat in your lap, it’s a slice that I especially love to have on a rainy September afternoon.  With E’s birthday being yesterday, I can only hope that this will make the perfect belated birthday gift.

Adapted from Orangette

Makes 2 Loaves (Recipe Can Be Easily Halved)

Ingredients

2 cups of pumpkin puree

1 cup of olive oil

4 egg whites

Half cup of water

3 cups of white whole wheat flour (if you only have all purpose flour, feel free to use it)

One and a half cups of sugar (this yields a not so sweet bread, if you like a very sweet pumpkin bread, go with 2 cups)

2 teaspoons of baking soda

Half teaspoon of salt

Half teaspoon of ground nutmeg

1 teaspoon of ground cinnamon

Three quarters of a cup of dried cranberries (I love a lot of “things” in my cake, so if you’d like it to be less intense, use less)

Three quarters of a cup of golden raisins

Equipment

1 large mixing bowl

1 medium mixing bowl

A whisk

A spatula

A loaf pan (I used a 9×5 pan) (Two if you’re lucky to have them around and can bake both loaves at the same time)

Parchment paper (optional) or butter and flour to coat your loaf pan (or even baking spray)

Cooling rack (if you have one)

Move the oven rack to the middle position in the oven. Preheat the oven to 350F.

Line the loaf pan with parchment paper, or butter and flour the pan, or coat the pan well with baking spray. I prefer parchment paper because I’m incredibly lazy and can’t bear the thought of cleaning another dish after baking.

Add the pumpkin puree, olive oil, water, and egg whites to your large mixing bowl. Mix till combined. At first it’ll look like an oily mess, but keep going, and it’ll all incorporate together.

In the medium mixing bowl, add the white whole wheat flour, sugar, baking soda, salt, ground cinnamon and nutmeg. Whisk till combined.

Add the dried cranberries and golden raisins to the wet mixture. Stir till just combined.

Add the dry ingredients to the wet, in multiple increments, adding a bit of dry to the wet, stirring till just combined, then adding more dry to wet, until everything is just combined.

With you spatula, scrape the bottom of the bowl, folding from the bottom up to the top, making sure that everything is combined.

Split your batter into two loaf pans, or, split the batter in half, and work on the first loaf.

Throw the loaf pan(s) into the oven. Bake 50 – 60 minutes or until a cake tester (like a toothpick) pulls out clean from the center of the loaf.

Let the loaf cool in the pan for about 10 minutes before taking it out of the pan to cool on a cooling rack (if you have one).