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.

Prosciutto and Nectarine Pizza

Today feels a little bit special. Four years ago this month I published my first column in the Yakima Magazine.  I’ve poured my heart into developing recipes, learning how to take food photos (something I am very much still learning about) and sharing a few words here and there. This little blog is an off-shoot of my column, both of which I cherish very much. The first recipe I ever shared was pizza on the grill so it felt fitting to revisit a house staple and a recipe I’ve tweaked and streamlined over the last couple years. Hope you enjoy!

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The very first article I ever wrote for Yakima Magazine was the September 2014 edition. I knew former editor Robin Beckett through mutual friends and earlier in the summer we ran into each other at a barbecue. She loved the cookies I made for the party (you can find the recipe on yakimamagazine.com, just search chocolate chip cookies) and after chatting for a bit, she asked if I wanted to write something for the magazine. I was floored and excited and spent the rest of the summer planning out exactly what I wanted to feature.

After much deliberation, I decided to write about making pizza on the barbecue. When the day finally came to have photographs done for the article, I had worked myself into a complete frenzy. I had three different pizzas ready to be photographed, my house was clean top to bottom (even though we weren’t taking pictures inside) and I was sweaty, frazzled and very nervous. I vividly remember burning the first pizza, trying hard to laugh off my embarrassment, secretly grateful I had prepped extra pizzas.

Fast forward three years and I’m still here, cooking and baking, making messes and occasionally burning things in my kitchen. I’m so grateful to have Kitchen Captivated in Yakima Magazine to share what I love most, which is making food that brings families and friends to the table together.

It felt right on this ‘anniversary’ of sorts to revisit pizza on the grill. Pizza continues to be a staple around my house because it’s a dinner the whole family loves and gets involved with. But like this column, my pizza-making skills have evolved a bit over the last couple years. My dough recipe is simple and quick, all you need is five minutes to prep and a few hours to let the dough rise. We almost always make pizza on Sunday nights when I have a little extra time in the day. I make the dough in the late morning or early afternoon and leave it on the counter. You could also make dough the night before and store it in the fridge, just pull it out an hour or so before you want to use it.

The beautiful thing about pizza is that just about anything goes when it comes to toppings. This sweet nectarine and prosciutto pizza is a bit of summer goodness in each bite. And while we might be seeing small signs that fall is just around the corner, my local fruit stand is bursting with amazing fresh produce, just begging to be enjoyed. Sweet juicy nectarines (which easily could be swapped for peaches) and salty prosciutto combine with tangy goat cheese, ample fresh basil and a splash of balsamic vinegar for a pizza that is literally bursting with flavor.

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Prosciutto and Nectarine Pizza

  • 1 12-inch pizza dough, rolled out
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 package prosciutto
  • 1 nectarine (or peach), washed and thinly sliced
  • 3 ounces crumbled goat cheese
  • 2 tablespoons fresh basil, chopped
  • ½ cup shredded mozzarella
  • 1-2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
  • Kosher salt

Place prepared dough on a pizza pan sprayed lightly with cooking spray. Brush dough with olive oil. Start with the prosciutto, evenly placing it across the dough, leaving a 1-inch crust around the edges. Top with sliced nectarines then goat cheese and mozzarella. Sprinkle with kosher salt and bake or grill until desired doneness. As soon as the pizza comes off the heat sprinkle generously with chopped basil and balsamic vinegar.

This pizza dough recipe is a hybrid of several outstanding recipes including Mark Bittman’s Pizza Dough, and Yakima’s Essencia Bakery where I had the pleasure of attending a cooking class last year. I simply took the ingredients and techniques from each recipe and adapted them to what works in my kitchen.

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Homemade Pizza Dough

  • 3 cups all-purpose flour, plus more as needed
  • 2 teaspoons rapid rise yeast
  • 2 teaspoons kosher salt
  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon honey
  • 1 cup tap water, plus more if needed

Using an electric mixer with a dough attachment or a food processor, place the flour, yeast, salt, olive oil and honey into the bowl. Turn the mixer or food processor on and mix a few times. Slowly add the water to the flour mixture until dough forms. If the mixture is very wet, add a tablespoon of flour at a time until the dough is stretchy and moist but not gloppy or overly sticky. If the mixture is too dry and very stiff, add a tablespoon of water at a time until the mixture is just right.

Using well-floured hands, mold the dough into a round ball and place in a clean dry bowl. Cover with plastic wrap and a dish towel and walk away. Let the dough rise for at least 2 hours or until it’s more than doubled in size.

When you are ready to make pizza, divide the dough in half and using well-floured hands and cutting board, work the dough a few times until it’s in a nice ball. Let the dough rest on the board under a towel for an additional 15 minutes. (use this time to shred cheese, pre-heat the oven, dice veggies, ect.) Preheat the oven to 450 degree.

Roll the dough out using a rolling pin to 12 to 14 inches in diameter. Lift the crust onto a pizza pan sprayed with cooking spray. Top with desired toppings and bake for 12-15 minutes.

To grill your pizza on the barbecue (which I highly recommend), simply heat your barbecue to medium high heat. If you have a thermometer, shoot for about 500 degrees. You can place your metal pizza pan directly on the barbecue or if you have a pizza stone, even better. Pizza on the grill usually cooks in about 8-10 minutes. When the crust is golden brown and the cheese is melted, your pizza is ready to come off the heat.

Chocolate Zucchini Bundt Cake

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When all else fails in my garden, I can count on my zucchini plant to stick with me. I only plant one little plant each year and it never ceases to surprise me the way it grows into a giant zucchini producing machine by the end of the summer. I grate zucchini and keep it in a sealed container in my refrigerator to add to everything from scrambled eggs to pasta dishes to loaves of zucchini bread or cake. I make loaves and loaves of zucchini-based goodies all summer long, storing the extras in the freezer for a little taste of summer all winter long.

If you don’t happen to have a zucchini plant growing in your yard, just ask around, I’m sure someone in your life is looking to unload a few vegetables. If not, the fruit stands around town have them three for a dollar and just about as cheap at the grocery store.

This bundt cake is super simple and quick to put together. My 4-year-old daughter was my special helper in the kitchen this week and she loved doing everything from measuring the sugar to grating the zucchini. My 7-year-old and 8-year-old sons were all too happy to taste test our little project and gave a whole-hearted two thumbs up.

I ended up making this cake a couple different times to get it just how I liked it and for one batch I added an 1/8 teaspoon of ground cloves. I didn’t include it for the official recipe because I wanted a summery light cake but adding the cloves gave the cake a hint of spicy warmth and something I’ll add once fall comes around.

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Chocolate Zucchini Bundt Cake

  • 3 room temperature eggs
  • 1 cup canola or coconut oil
  • 2 cups brown sugar
  • 3 cups shredded zucchini
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 3 tablespoons cocoa powder
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • ½ teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 ½ teaspoons cinnamon
  • 4 ounces bittersweet chocolate chips (about ½ a bag)
  • 3 ounces bittersweet chocolate, melted

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Butter and flour a bundt cake pan or two loaf pans. Set aside. Using a mixer, beat eggs and oil for 2-3 minutes until creamy. Add in sugar and continue to mix until well-combined, about 2 more minutes. Mix in zucchini and vanilla. In a separate bowl, using a wood spoon, stir together flour, cocoa powder, salt, baking soda, baking powder and cinnamon. With the mixer on low, slowly mix the dry ingredients into wet ingredients until just combined. Using a wood spoon, stir in chocolate chips. Pour the batter into the prepared pan and bake for about an hour or until a toothpick stuck in the center of the cake comes out clean. Remove cake from oven and allow to cool in the pan for 20-30 minutes. Flip the cake out of the pan onto a cake platter. In a small bowl, melt the remaining chocolate chips in a microwave, heating for 30 seconds at a time, stirring well before putting back into the microwave for another 30 seconds (this shouldn’t take more than 1 full-minute, but it’s important to stir the chocolate every 30 seconds). When the chocolate is completely melted, use a spoon to drizzle over the cake. Serve with vanilla ice cream or fresh whipped cream.

Peanut Butter Granola

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For some reason I was in a funk last week. I’m not quite sure why but if I had to take a guess it probably had something to do with 100 plus degree temps, tired, bored, antsy kids and thick smoke from forest fires to the north of us descending on the Valley leaving us in a foggy soupy mess. Or maybe I was just grumpy. Who knows.

And just when I thought I might legitimately pull my hair out, a friend invited the kids and I to head up into the mountains for a hike along the Tieton River. We even got a patch of blue sky for a bit and the kids splashed and played in the river for hours. We explored a cave and a waterfall and even found a little natural water slide. It was good to get out of our usual routine and just play and have fun together. You would think after eight years of parenting I would recognize that when we get out of sync as a family, nine times out of ten, we just need to get out of the house and go for an adventure. A little change to the routine makes EVERYONE happier.

I went into the weekend feeling settled and eager for more adventures before the summer is over. Way too soon we are going to be back into our busy routines and I don’t want to miss this last month with the kids home.

With the smoke still settled heavily over our town, we spent a lot of time inside this weekend which left me time to putter and play in the kitchen. I’ve been testing out my new instant pot which I was initially a little skeptical of but I think I’m turning into a believer. I made Nom Nom Paleo’s Kalua Pork yesterday and that alone made the purchase worth it. I’ve also made a couple of roast chickens and some bone broth. This week I’m going to make some grains and beans. I’ll keep you posted with how it all goes.

Once I got on a roll in the kitchen, I was kind of a mad woman. I started going through my pantry and decided that I had too many half open bags of coconut, almonds, oats and raisins. I used to make granola all the time and thought the kids would like it on their yogurt. I started whipping up a batch and at the last second decided to stir a little peanut butter into the mixture. The result was a nutty, sweet (but not too sweet) granola with a hint of peanut butter taste. I made the kids parfaits with vanilla yogurt, granola and fresh blueberries and they gobbled them right up.

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Peanut Butter Granola

  • 5 cups rolled oats (NOT instant)
  • 1 cup flaked coconut
  • 1 cup slivered almonds
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • pinch of salt
  • 1/2 cup butter
  • 1/2 cup coconut oil
  • 1/2 cup peanut butter
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or a silicone baking mat. In a large bowl mix oat, coconut, almonds, cinnamon and salt together. In a small sauce pan, melt butter, coconut oil, peanut butter and brown sugar together until melted and mixed well. Remove from heat and stir in vanilla. Pour wet mixture over oat mixture and stir well until well combined. Spread evenly on baking sheet and bake for 15-20 minutes, stirring at least once halfway through so the granola gets golden brown on all sides. When the oats are toasty brown and fragrant, remove from oven and allow to cool. Store in an airtight container for up to a month.

To make a yogurt parfait, layer yogurt and granola in a cup and top with blueberries or favorite fruit. Peaches and raspberries are a personal favorite!

Raspberry and Almond Scones

IMG_8707.JPGJuly is my favorite month of the entire year. Growing up, July meant a few very specific things: berry picking, strawberry shortcake for dinner, boat rides and camping at the lake. To this day, I look forward to July all year. I’m sure having a birthday in July has something to do with it, especially considering my husband coined me the ‘birthday princess’ years ago.

Can I be honest? We’ve had a rocky start to the summer. Sickness has slowed us down and forced us to miss out on a lot of fun things in the last couple weeks. We came home from a weekend away and our precious kitty is missing. Living in the country you kind of have to expect this kind of thing from time to time but it doesn’t make it any easier.

All that to say, I’m ready to shake off the last few weeks and start fresh with our summer. We are finally (fingers crossed) healthy and ready to work through our summer-fun list.

At the top of the list is a Sunday stroll through the Yakima Farmers Market. I love slowly walking booth to booth, looking at everything. We buy a giant strawberry lemonade for our kids which they inevitably fight over and someone spills but somehow that’s part of the charm. We buy a loaf of bread from Buhrmaster Bakery and a plate of pad thai. We load up on fruits and vegetables for the week, whenever possible choosing something we wouldn’t typically find at the grocery store; a new variety of tomato, a purple bell pepper, sweet yellow carrots, or a big globe of daikon. If berries are in season, I buy a few pints, which my kids eat most of before we even get home. My last stop before we head home is the flower booth. I take my time choosing a bouquet knowing I’ll get to enjoy them all week on my kitchen island.

This week’s recipe is for fresh raspberry and almond scones. The tender sweet raspberries melt into the dough making pockets of perfectly sweet jammy bites. The hint of almond and crunch of raw sugar on top make these easy scones decadent and special. Perfect for a lazy Saturday morning or to bring to a party as a treat, you could easily turn these into dessert with a spoonful of fresh fruit and a dollop of whip cream.

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Raspberry Almond Cream Scones

  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 4 tablespoons cold butter, cut into ½ inch cubes
  • 3 tablespoons sugar
  • 6 ounces fresh raspberries
  • ½ cup heavy whipping cream
  • 1 large egg
  • ½ teaspoon almond extract
  • 1 tablespoon butter, melted
  • 1 tablespoon raw sugar

Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Line a cookie sheet with parchment paper or a silicone baking sheet. In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, sugar and salt. Using clean hands or two forks, mix the butter (breaking it up) into the dough until there are no butter lumps bigger than the size of a pea. Gently stir the raspberries into the flour mixture. In a small bowl whisk together the heavy whipping cream, egg and almond extract. Combine the wet ingredients with the dry and gently stir together with a spatula. Using your hands press the dough into a ball. Sprinkle flour on your countertop and knead the dough until it has just barely come together. Shape the dough into a circle about 1 inch thick. Cut the circle into 8 wedges. Places the wedges on the baking sheet. Using a pastry brush or a spoon, brush the tops of the scones with melted butter. Sprinkle raw sugar over the top of each scone. Bake in the oven for 15-20 minutes or until a pale golden brown. Transfer to a wire rack to cool slightly. Best served warm from the oven, preferably with hot coffee and the early morning sun warming your back as you enjoy Yakima’s perfect summer weather.

Easy Breakfast

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We inherited nine chickens a few weeks ago. The new ladies settled in quickly making peace with the five chickens already living on the McCoy ranch. I think the new girls inspired the old chickens to lay a few more eggs because we went from getting one maybe two eggs a day to 11 or 12 sometimes 13 eggs in a day.

Needless to say, we give eggs away, we eat a lot of scrambled eggs for breakfast and I am constantly looking for ways to use eggs. Can you put an egg on it? Doesn’t matter, we’re going to try!

After two weeks straight of scrambled or fried eggs on toast, I couldn’t eat them one more day. I needed a change. Like right that very moment. I’m always looking for ways to add vegetables into my diet and breakfast is one place I really struggle. I throw handfuls of spinach into smoothies but that’s about it. I wanted something quick and easy, healthyish and to use up some of the eggs collecting on my kitchen counter. For this recipe, I used a little breakfast sausage and a bunch of vegetables dug out from my refrigerator. I skipped the cheese but that would be a delicious addition to this recipe. I sprinkled mine with a little hot sauce and a slice of avocado. Crisis averted. Still eating those eggs but funny how a small change can make such a big difference.

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Egg Casserole Muffins

  • 12 eggs
  • 1/2 pound breakfast sausage (you could also do ham or bacon instead), crumbled and browned, drained well of grease
  • 1 medium zucchini, diced
  • 1/2 yellow onion, diced
  • 1 red pepper, diced
  • 2 cups fresh spinach, chopped
  • salt and pepper to taste

Start by preheating your oven to 350 degrees. Spray a 12-cup muffin tin well with cooking spray or line with muffin papers. In a large sauté pan, cook breakfast sausage until cooked through. Drain on paper towels and set aside. Using the same pan, sauté the zucchini, onion and pepper over medium-low heat until the vegetables are golden brown. Stir in the spinach and cook for 2 more minutes or until the spinach wilts. Salt and pepper. Turn the heat off and stir the sausage back into the vegetables.

In a separate bowl, whisk eggs together until well-combined. Salt and pepper eggs. To prepare the ‘muffins’ scoop the vegetable mixture into each muffin tin so that it’s about 1/3 to 1/2 way filled. Pour the eggs over the vegetables until each muffin tin is filled to the top. If you want to, sprinkle with cheese. Bake for 20 minutes until the eggs are firm and slightly brown around the edges. Allow to cool in the pan for 10 minutes. Run a sharp  knife around the edges of the muffins before flipping them out of the tin. Allow to cool completely before storing in the refrigerator. To eat later, simply microwave the eggs for 30 seconds until they are warmed all the way through.

 

Vanilla Rhubarb Cake with Strawberries

Starting today, you can catch the Salt and Stone in the Yakima Herald every Friday in their food and entertainment section. Each week is an original recipe with a few words. My goal is the same there as it is here: to share recipes that are accessible, made with local ingredients whenever possible and most importantly brings you and your family and friends to the table together. Happy weekend friends. Buy some rhubarb at the Farmer’s Market this weekend and make one of these yummy treats for the people you love.

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Ever since I was a little girl, my favorite treat has always been cake. I don’t find I need much of a reason to justify cake and I certainly never turn down a slice when it’s offered to me. A friend just had a new baby? Make a cake. A birthday, anniversary, baby shower, brunch or just because you feel like it? All good reasons to make a cake. Let me be clear though, I’m not talking three layers of decadence with a homemade frosting that takes two days to make.

I mean a simple one-bowl cake with the option to mix fresh fruit into the batter. It’s the kind of cake you can dress up for company or enjoy straight from the pan on any old day. Just because you feel like it. A friend gifted me a giant bunch of rhubarb from her garden the other day and it was the perfect excuse to make a cake.

My oldest son, Jackson, who happened to walk past the kitchen as I was getting the mixer out asked ‘can I help?’ I couldn’t say yes fast enough. Just finishing up second grade, the pull of the basketball hoop in the driveway or the newest Diary of a Wimpy Kid book seems to entice him more than baking with mom most days.

I diced rhubarb while Jackson cracked eggs and ran the mixer. It was a quick project, maybe 15 minutes, but it was the perfect break in our day to chat and catch up, work on something together. This recipe makes a one-layer cake. Similar to a coffee cake with a crumbly texture and a light vanilla flavor that compliments the tangy rhubarb. Stirring raspberries into the batter would have been delicious (and made the cake slightly sweeter) With blueberry season just around the corner, I know I’ll make this cake again. We topped ours with fresh strawberries and a dollop of whip cream. I might have had a little slice for breakfast with my morning coffee.

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Rhubarb Vanilla Cake

  • 8 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • ¼ cup plus 1 tablespoon granulated sugar
  • ¼ cup packed brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 3 large eggs, at room temperature
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 tablespoon baking powder
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • ¾ cup buttermilk
  • 2 ½ cups rhubarb, sliced thinly into ¼ inch pieces (about 3 stalks)
  • 1 tablespoon coarse sugar (optional)
  • Sliced strawberries (optional)
  • Whipped cream or vanilla ice cream (optional)

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Grease a nine-inch baking pan with butter OR cooking spray. Slice rhubarb into pieces and combine with 1 tablespoon sugar. Set aside. In the bowl of a stand mixer, combine butter and sugars and beat for 3 minutes until the butter is light and fluffy. Scrape down the sides of the bowl and add eggs and vanilla, mixing again until well combined. Whisk together flour, baking powder and salt in a bowl. Add the dry ingredients and the buttermilk to the egg and butter mixture until just combined. The batter will be a bit lumpy and that’s ok. Using a spatula, fold the rhubarb (and its juices) into the batter and then transfer to prepared cake pan. Sprinkle with raw sugar and bake until the cake is golden on top and a toothpick stuck in the center of the cake comes out clean, about 40 minutes. Cool for at least 20 minutes before serving. Top the cake with sliced strawberries and a dollop of whipped cream.