Apple Breakfast Cake

A happiest Thanksgiving to you and yours. It’s a great honor and pleasure to share a few words and a recipe with you here each week. As I sit down to write this article, I am near the fireplace watching the flames bounce and pop. One of my children is drawing at the kitchen table, occasionally calling to me to spell out words. I’m sure we’ll be treated to a story at dinner later. The other two are playing with our rambunctious kitten, intermittently squabbling yet remaining together, passing the kitten back and forth lost in their imaginary game. My husband is tending the fire, hopping up to putter around the house, never one to sit for long. Dinner is cooking in the oven, a roast cooked with onions and carrots, lots of garlic and a big glug of red wine. If the meat tastes half as good as the house smells, we’ll be in good shape.

Let me be honest though, my home and life are rarely this idyllic. We have hardships and stress. We worry; sometimes we argue. I think we can all relate that way a little bit. Life can be really hard sometimes. But tonight is a good night, and it seems right on this Thanksgiving holiday to pause a moment in gratitude.

I think even in the chaos and challenging times, when we look around at our surroundings, we can be delighted by the many good things we find. I’m grateful for a warm house and dinner in the oven. For happy children and a family to call my own. For a few moments to jot down a few words, to share the food and connections that bring us to the table over and over again.

And the weekend is just getting started. We have a houseful of guests with a trek up to the mountains planned, football to watch, leftovers to eat and maybe a hike or two to try and balance out all those leftovers.

This week’s recipe is an apple breakfast cake. It’s a quick one-bowl cake that you can swap for any fruit you like. I used Autumn Glory apples, a new varietal growing here in the Yakima Valley. With a firm crunchy texture and a subtle cinnamon flavor, they were the perfect apple to use for this recipe. If you can’t find Autumn Glory apples; honeycrisp, golden delicious or Braeburn all work well too. Perfect for breakfast with a dollop of vanilla Greek yogurt or a drizzle of Copper Pot Carmel sauce never hurt and takes it from breakfast to dessert.

Apple Breakfast Cake

• 2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour

• 2 teaspoons baking powder

• 1/2 teaspoon baking soda

• 1/2 teaspoon salt

• 1/4 teaspoon ground cardamom

• ½ teaspoon cinnamon

• ¼ teaspoon nutmeg

• 1/2 cup granulated sugar

• 2 large eggs

• 1 1/2 cups buttermilk

• 1/4 cup unsalted butter, melted and slightly cooled

• 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

• 1/2 teaspoon pure almond extract

• 1 cup chopped and peeled apple

• 18-20 thinly sliced pieces of apple to top the cake

• Powdered sugar (optional)

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.  Butter and flour a 10-inch cast iron skillet, if you don’t have one, you can use a cake pan.

In a bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, sugar, cardamom, cinnamon and nutmeg. Set aside.

In a small bowl, whisk together buttermilk, eggs, and butter.  Whisk in the vanilla and almond extract.

Add the buttermilk mixture all at once to the dry ingredients.  Stir until just combined and no lumps remain. Fold the chopped apples into the batter. Spoon batter into the prepared pan.  Arrange the apple slices on top the cake is a single layer.

Bake for 20-25 minutes, or until a skewer inserted in the center of the cake comes out clean.  Allow cake to cool to room temperature before slicing to serve. Dust with powdered sugar before serving.

Cake will last, well wrapped in the refrigerator, for up to 3 days.

Crispy Dijon Brussel Sprouts

For all the thinking and planning I’ve been doing the last couple weeks regarding a Thanksgiving menu, the holiday sure snuck up on me. I can’t believe it’s next week! I have a few more recipes to share this month, so check back to see what else I have planned.

If you happened to catch the new Yakima Magazine, which came out last week, I shared two recipes for pie that are literally fail-proof. No fussy crust and ingredient lists a mile long. Pick up a copy when you’re out an about this week (or just scroll down from this post) and bookmark those recipes if you’re looking for something new and different for dessert this year. Bonus, there’s a great local gift guide and so much more included in the magazine.

But let’s get down to business, this week it’s all about Brussel sprouts. I love Brussel sprouts. I make them all the time at home but often struggle to cook them perfectly. They are easy to overcook and the resulting mushy sprout is disappointing while an undercooked tough bitter sprout is even worse.

I watched a tutorial online about how to sear Brussel sprouts starting with a cold pan. You cook the sprouts in a generous amount of olive oil with the lid on. The vegetables sear and steam at the same time, giving the vegetable a deeply brown and crispy outside while softening and cooking the sprout all the way through. In literally five minutes, your pan of Brussel sprouts is finished cooking. I don’t think I’ll ever cook them any other way going forward.

This also means while your turkey is resting and your oven is warming up the rest of your Thanksgiving dishes, you can throw this Brussel sprout dish together quickly and easily. Adding a bright, tasty vegetable is a nice balance to all the rich decadent must-have dishes already at the table. Even better, this easy recipe can be made year-around and pulls double duty as a quick weeknight dish as well.

Crispy Dijon Brussel Sprouts   (recipe adapted from Cooks Illustrated)

• 1-2 pounds small Brussels sprouts, trimmed and halved

• 5 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

• 2 teaspoons Dijon mustard

• 1 tablespoon packed brown sugar

• 2 teaspoons white wine vinegar

• ⅛ teaspoon cayenne pepper

• kosher salt

Look for Brussels sprouts similar in size, with small, tight heads, as they’re likely to be sweeter and more tender than larger sprouts. For a large batch, you may have to do two batches, simply follow the instructions, transfer sprouts to a plate and start the process over.

Arrange Brussels sprouts in single layer, cut sides down, in a large nonstick skillet. Drizzle oil evenly over sprouts. Cover skillet, place over medium-high heat, and cook until sprouts are bright green and cut sides have started to brown, about 4 minutes.

Uncover and continue to cook until cut sides of sprouts are deeply and evenly browned and paring knife slides in with little to no resistance, 2 to 3 minutes longer, adjusting heat and moving sprouts as necessary to prevent them from overbrowning. While sprouts cook, combine mustard, sugar, vinegar, cayenne, and ¼ teaspoon salt in small bowl.

Off heat, transfer sprouts to shallow serving dish. Coat them with mustard sauce and sprinkle with coarse salt. Serve immedietly.

Pie Anyone Can Make

With the holidays just around the corner, I thought I would offer a couple of desserts you can easily make for the holidays. I have a little confession to make. I am terrible with pie crust. The ability to form the crust and make it look even halfway decent is seriously out of my wheelhouse. So instead of fighting what seems impossible, I’ve learned to improvise. Instead of a perfectly shaped pie, I make crostatas or galettes which is simply pie dough rolled out, and then piled high with fruit. The edges are folded rustically around the fruit and then baked. No pie dish, no edging. Simple, delicious, and pretty in its own way. The other way I get around pie crust is to make a cookie crust. There’s something special about this pumpkin pie recipe. The crushed gingersnap cookie crust is a lovely compliment to the creamy and sweet pumpkin custard.


Pumpkin Spiced Apple Crostata

• 2 cups flour

• ¼ cup granulated sugar

• ½ teaspoon kosher salt

• 2 sticks cold unsalted butter, cubed

• 6 tablespoons ice water (3 ounces)

• 6 cups thinly sliced apples (mix of sweet and tart)

• 1 ½ teaspoons cinnamon

• 1 ½ teaspoons pumpkin pie spice

• 2/3 cup brown sugar

• Juice of 1 lemon

• ¼ cup pumpkin puree

• Pinch of salt

• 1 egg plus 1 tablespoon water

In the bowl of a food processor with a metal blade combine flour, sugar and salt. Pulse a few times to mix. Add the butter to the flour mixture and pulse 12-15 times until the butter is the size of small peas. Do not overmix! You want chunks of butter. Turn the food processor back on and slowly pour the ice water in, stopping the machine as soon as the dough forms. Take the dough out of the food processor and place on a heavily floured cutting board. Form the dough into a ball and cover with plastic wrap. Place in the refrigerator while you prep the apples. (You can make the dough a day or two in advance. When you’re ready, take the dough from the fridge and allow it to rest on the counter for about 30 minutes until it warms up enough to be workable.) I have long trusted Ina Garten of Barefoot Contessa fame with my pie crust needs. This is her recipe, which I’ve made for years and it’s never failed me.

Cut apples into thin even pieces. No need to peel the skins but go ahead if you would prefer. In a large bowl gently mix the lemon juice with the apples. In a small bowl, mix together sugar, spices, salt and pumpkin. Pour over apples and mix until the apples are evenly coated.

Preheat oven to 450 degrees. Roll pie dough out into a ½-inch thick rectangle (don’t worry too much about shape, just get it as close as you can). Place dough on a parchment paper-lined baking sheet. Spread the apple mixture evenly over the dough leaving a 1-inch border of dough all around the perimeter. Fold and seal the edges of the dough over the fruit. In a small cup whisk together one egg with a splash of water and brush the edges of the crust with the egg wash. Bake for about 25-30 minutes until the crust is golden brown and the apples are cooked through and the sauce is bubbly. Use a toothpick to make sure the apples are soft.

Let the crostata cool on the counter. Serve with vanilla ice cream and a drizzle of caramel sauce.


Pumpkin Pie with Gingersnap Crust with Spiced Whipped Cream

• 8 ounces store bought gingersnap cookies

• 6 tablespoons melted butter

• 1 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice

  • 2 eggs

• 1 cup canned pumpkin purée

• 1 cup brown sugar

• 1 cup heavy cream

• ½ teaspoon cinnamon

• ¼ teaspoon ground cloves

• ½ teaspoon nutmeg

• 1 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice

• Pinch of salt

In a food processor, pulse the gingersnap cookies until they are broken into a fine crumb. With the food processor on, pour in the melted butter until a dough ball starts to form. Sprinkle in pumpkin pie spice and pulse three more times.
Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Spray a 9-inch pie pan with cooking spray. Press the gingersnap dough evenly into the pan forming a crust. In a large bowl mix the brown sugar, pumpkin and spices together until well-mixed. Stir in heavy cream. Pour the pumpkin mixture into the pie crust. Bake the pie for about 40 minutes, rotating it in the oven halfway through. Use a toothpick to check doneness. When the custard does not wiggle anymore and the toothpick comes out clean, the pie is done.

To make the whipped cream, place 2 cups of cold heavy cream in the bowl of a mixer. Add two tablespoons powdered sugar, 1 teaspoon vanilla extract and ½ teaspoon nutmeg. Turn the mixer on high, mixing for about 5 minutes until peaks form in the cream. Store in the refrigerator until ready to serve.

Allow the pie to cool on the counter. Store in the refrigerator covered until ready to serve. Slice pieces and garnish with a dollop of spiced cream.

Maple and Harissa Roasted Carrots

I spent a couple hours sitting on I-90 just east of North Bend over the weekend while the wet blanket of surprise snow was cleared from Snoqualmie Pass along with a few overly confident drivers who ended up spun out in a ditch.

It seemed somehow appropriate, if not a bit ironic, to watch the snow fall on the same day we set our clocks back for Daylight Savings. The silver lining to all that waiting was guilt-free time scrolling the internet for fun and interesting Thanksgiving recipes. I’ve got a few tried and true recipes for the turkey and mashed potatoes but I love to add a new dish to the table each year.

Last year I made garlicky brussel sprouts with lemon-scented bread crumbs. Another year it was a kale salad with slices of grapefruit, spicy fennel and pomegranate seeds.

With Thanksgiving just a few weeks away, I’ve been bookmarking recipes and jotting down little notes when inspiration hits. I am hosting a group of about 25 this year, a mix of children and adults and I want the menu to meet everyone’s needs. Of course, our guests will bring things from appetizers to pies and side dishes. But I’m always looking for a couple of things that are new and interesting to add to the mix of favorites and must-haves.

Maple roasted carrots with harissa is just the bright unexpected dish I was looking for. Full of flavor with sweet and spicy notes, this recipe is easily adaptable to individual tastes and preferences.

Harissa is a deeply red slightly smoky chile pepper paste originating from Africa. You can buy it at specialty food stores, Trader Joes (if you make it to Seattle or Spokane), or of course, order it from Amazon. Harissa is quite spicy but you can control the spiciness of the dish depending on how much you add. I only used 1 teaspoon which gave the carrots a little bit of spicy heat without being overpowering. You could certainly add more or less depending on your tastes or skip it all together.

The dish comes together in just a few minutes. Garlic and cumin seeds add smoky rich flavor while the brightness of the lemon and sweetness of maple syrup balance the spiciness of harissa.

Maple and Harissa Roasted Carrots (adapted from Bon Apetit)

  • 2 cloves garlic, finely diced
  • ¼ cup olive oil
  • ¼ cup pure maple syrup
  • 1 to 2 teaspoons harissa paste
  • 2 teaspoons cumin seeds
  • 2 pounds rainbow carrots, scrubbed, tops trimmed and outer layer peeled
  • 1 medium lemon, thinly sliced
  • Salt and pepper
  • 2 teaspoons fresh parsley and chives, finely diced (optional)

Preheat oven to 450 degrees. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. In a small bowl, whisk olive oil, maple syrup, garlic, cumin seeds, harissa and a pinch of salt and pepper. Toss the carrots and slices of lemon with maple syrup mixture spreading evenly on the baking sheet.

Roast for 30 to 40 minutes until the carrots are tender and the lemon caramelized. Stir carrots at least once halfway through to ensure they cook evenly. Remove carrots from oven and allow to cool briefly on pan, about 2-3 minutes. Put carrots (and lemon slices) in serving dish and sprinkle with fresh herbs. If you don’t have fresh parsley and chives, use a ½ teaspoon of dried parsley or skip it all together. Serve immediately. Also, if you can’t find rainbow carrots, just use orange ones. If your carrots are large, consider cutting them lengthwise in half so they cook quickly and evenly.

 

Bourbon Maple Pork Chops with Apples

I don’t mean to brag but this is the first time in nine-ish years Daylight Savings time hasn’t royally screwed my family’s sleep schedule over for days (weeks?) at a time. My sister-in-law mentioned she was getting up at 4:30am with her 1-year-old and a wave of deja vu flooded my system as I immediately felt like I needed a giant cup of coffee and maybe a nap as she was talking.

But then the realization hit that my kids were sleeping like normal human beings. Granted a couple of them have a cold right now so that might have something to do with it, but I’m not asking questions. I’m just over here in my warm cozy bed, feeling slightly smug and supremely grateful to not be awake with toddlers/babies at 4:30am anymore.

Jackson literally crouched on the floor next to my bed this morning and yelled ‘Boo’ to wake me up. Thankfully his father was right behind him with a cup of coffee to hand me as I sat straight up out of a dead sleep. That coffee probably saved his life in the moment but I’ve been chuckling about it all morning. Big kids are so funny and weird and wonderful.

Enough about sleep, let’s talk about pork chops shall we? My only experience with pork chops were the chewy and tough ones my mother made as a kid, cooked in cream of mushroom soup. Chops can be hard, especially boneless ones because they cook quickly and don’t have a ton of fat to help with moisture.

Because we buy a whole pig each year and have it butchered locally, I have cuts of meat that I wouldn’t necessarily buy at the grocery store. It’s a good exercise though and while I’ve clearly had many failures, when I have a win, I feel like I need to share it because maybe you need a new recipe too.

My pork chops were quite thick, so I cut them in half length-wise so they were about an inch thick. I made a marinade of bourbon (you could also use a light beer or chicken stock if you don’t want to cook with alcohol) soy sauce, ginger,maple syrup and Worcestershire sauce. The marinade made the chops super flavorful and tender and the apples and onions sautéed in all that pork goodness gave the dish a subtle sweet and rich finish without being heavy. I roasted some sweet potatoes and cauliflower and called it dinner. Aaron LOVED this dinner, the kids gave mixed reviews but that probably had more to do with the cauliflower than the meat.

Bourbon Maple Pork Chops with Apples and Onions

  • 4-6 boneless pork chops trimmed to 1-inch thickness
  • 3 tablespoons bourbon
  • 1/4 cup soy sauce
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 1/4 cup maple syrup
  • 2 teaspoons grated ginger (about a 1-inch piece of fresh ginger)
  • 2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1 medium yellow onion, thinly sliced
  • 2 medium or 1 large Fuji apple, thinly sliced

In a bowl, whisk together the bourbon (or beer or chicken stock), olive oil, maple syrup, ginger, soy and Worcestershire sauce. Salt and pepper pork chops, then submerge them in marinade. Cover with plastic wrap and leave on the counter for up two hours or in the refrigerator for 4 to 8 hours.

In a large sauté pan, heat a drizzle of olive oil over medium-low heat. Cook pork chops for about 3 minutes on each side so they have crisp edges and are golden brown on each side. (Don’t worry about them being cooked through yet). Remove the chops from the pan and set aside. Pour the remaining marinade into a small pot and simmer on low until it reduces by a third.

In the same pan, sauté onions and apples over medium-low heat for 5-6 minutes until the onions are translucent and the apples begin to soften. Put the chops back in the pan with the apples and onions and drizzle the pan with a couple tablespoons of the reduced marinade. Turn the heat to low and cook for an additional 5-10 minutes until the chops are cooked through. To serve, place a pork chop on a dinner plate and spoon apples and onions over it. Drizzle with the pan sauce and serve immediately.

 

Butternut Squash Mac and Cheese

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We found a tiny little six-week-old kitten in the orchard adjacent to our house a couple weeks ago. My 7-year-old son happened to spot him and with the help of my husband, they gently coaxed the kitty down from the apple tree it was hiding in. Soaking wet (from the rain) and terrified, the kitten was lost, alone and hungry. They brought it up to the house and with very sad and pathetic eyes, oh so nicely, asked if we could keep the kitten. Who am I to say no to a tiny kitten?

We took the cat to the vet and found out it’s a male, very healthy with only a minor case of fleas. A round of flea treatment for all our pets and a bill of clean health, we headed home to negotiate a name and redistribution of household responsibilities. I might have said yes to the kitten, but I had promises from all three of my children they would help care of him. The jury is still out on their overall helpfulness but they certainly adore this new addition.


Rex, the kitten, now runs the house. My daughter carries him around like a baby and occasionally wraps him in a blanket and takes him for a ride in her doll stroller. My boys play endlessly with the kitten, chasing him around the house, digging him out from under beds and behind the couch. Obviously, we’re all a little smitten by this little ball of fluff. He was a sweet surprise on a rainy cold Saturday and it’s one I won’t soon forget.

I want to offer some good old-fashioned comfort food this week. October was a month of soups (and a batch of pumpkin muffins because I couldn’t resist) to get in the mindset of fall and winter, but November is all about the cozy, warm meals perfect for this time of year.

Roasted butternut squash makes a silky rich sauce without being heavy. The salty bacon and roasted cauliflower add texture and flavor to the dish. I recommend buying the pre-cut butternut squash to save yourself a few minutes of work. I know you can find it at Safeway and Costco, but I’m sure other grocery stores carry it too. Fontina cheese is very mild which is why I chose it for this recipe but a smoked gouda or sharp cheddar would be delicious as well. I have a decadent ‘all-cheese’ mac and cheese recipe on the blog if butternut squash isn’t your thing. It has bacon and smoke gouda, parmesan and the creamiest most delicious sauce you’re ever tasted. Recipe is HERE if you want to take a look.IMG_9771

Roasted Butternut Squash Macaroni and Cheese

  • 3 tablespoons olive oil, divided
  • 1 medium yellow onion, diced
  • 3 cloves garlic, finely diced
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 12 ounces pre-cut, cubed and peeled butternut squash (about 2-2 1/2 cups)
  • 1 medium cauliflower, chopped into bite size pieces
  • 1 cup Fontina cheese, shredded
  • 1/2 cup chicken stock
  • 1 box pasta, penne, shells or cavatelli all work well
  • ¼ teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • Pinch of cayenne pepper
  • 1 teaspoon dried parsley
  • 3 pieces center cut bacon, diced
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • ½ teaspoon pepper

Preheat oven to 425 degrees. On a baking sheet spread the cauliflower and butternut squash evenly on the pan. Toss with 2 tablespoons of olive oil and salt and pepper. Roast in the oven for about 20 minutes, use a spatula halfway through to flip the vegetables so they cook evenly. The vegetables should be golden brown and cooked through.

In a saute pan, cook the onion and bay leaf in the remaining tablespoon of olive oil for 5-8 minutes. Add the garlic to the onion and continue to cook for an additional 2-3 minutes until the garlic is fragrant and the onions are soft and translucent.

In a food processor or blender, pulse the butternut squash, half of the roasted cauliflower (set aside the other half for later), the onion and garlic until smooth. Make sure to remove the bay leaf from the onions! Slowly add the chicken stock (you could also use vegetable stock, water or milk) until the sauce is smooth and silky. Add nutmeg, cayenne, salt and pepper to the sauce.

In a large pot, boil the pasta in heavily salted water. Drain the noodles when they are not quite finished cooking, you want them to still have a bite. Put the noodles back in the large pot and pour the sauce over the noodles. Stir in the roasted cauliflower and mix the shredded cheese into the pasta.

Spray a 9×13 baking pan with cooking spray. Spoon the pasta into the baking pan and spread the diced bacon evenly over the dish. Bake in a 350 degree oven until the bacon is cooked through and the edges are bubbling, about 15-20 minutes. Sprinkle the dish with dried parsley and serve immediately.

Pumpkin Muffins

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It just wouldn’t be fall without a batch of pumpkin muffins. I went on not one but two pumpkin patch field trips last week, traversing the corn maze with a group of preschoolers, herding them through the pumpkin patch until they found just the right pumpkin. Two days later, my first grader got his turn and we had a blast riding the tractor, eating lunch with friends and of course, picking out the perfect pumpkin.

We are in the idyllic couple of weeks when everywhere you look is quintessential fall. The Poplar trees I look at out the windows of my house are brilliantly yellow and I find myself stopping to marvel at their beauty several times a day. The apple and pear orchards bordering my house boast deep red and golden orange leaves, waving in the wind, almost as if they’re showing off. The backdrop of blue sky and green grass with the desert hills beyond is breathtaking and a scene I don’t want to take for granted.

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And when fall is this beautiful, it seems not only right but downright necessary to make something pumpkin. I’m the first to roll my eyes at all the pumpkin spice hype. I get it, the saying ‘too much of a good thing,’ is very real. But these pumpkin muffins will bring you right back around again — light and chewy with a crunchy cinnamon-sugar crust along the top — you’ll make batch after batch of these all fall long.

Sometimes I throw a handful of chocolate chips into the batter for my kids and the other week, I skipped the cinnamon and sugar on top and instead sprinkled granola on the muffins. They were delicious! Whatever you decide to do, you can’t go wrong. And if you’re local and can carve out a little time this weekend, go for a walk on the Cowiche trails or along the Greenway and enjoy the beauty of the Valley before it’s blanketed in snow.

Pumpkin Muffins (recipe adapted from Gourmet Magazine)

  • 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon pumpkin-pie spice
  • 1 1/3 cup canned pumpkin
  • 1/3 cup vegetable or canola oil
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1 tablespoon raw sugar (if you don’t have any, just use regular granulated sugar)

 

Heat oven to 350 degrees. Put liners in 12 standard-sized muffin cups.

Stir or whisk together flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt and spice in medium bowl.

In a larger bowl, whisk together pumpkin, oil, eggs and 1 cup sugar. Add dry ingredients to wet and stir until just combined. Divide batter among muffin cups (each about 3/4 full). If you want to add chocolate chips, stir in one cup of semi-sweet chocolate chips to the batter before spooning into muffin cups.

Stir together tablespoon of raw sugar and teaspoon of cinnamon. Sprinkle over each muffin.

Bake until puffed and golden brown and a toothpick inserted into the center of a muffin comes out clean, 25 to 30 minutes.

Cool in pan on a rack five minutes, then transfer muffins from pan to rack and cool to warm or room temperature.