Pumpkin Whole Wheat Waffles

It feels a little like a light switch was flipped and we went from summer to fall in the blink of an eye. The mornings and evenings are crisp and cool and everywhere I look the trees and foliage are making their transformation from emerald green to deep hues of red, orange and yellow. I love this time of year.

And because I just can’t resist a good pumpkin recipe in the fall, I had to take a stab at some pumpkin waffles. I’ve bought the Trader Joe’s waffle mix for years, stocking up on a few boxes every fall. And while they’re delicious, my kids were hit and miss in liking them, not to mention I don’t live anywhere close to a Trader Joe’s.

So, with a weekend ahead full of soccer and football, I decided what we needed was a warm, cozy and little bit decadent breakfast to get us through. I’ve made overnight waffles dozens of times and they are literally the easiest way to get delicious, light but crisp waffles. You mix up most of the batter the night before, and really it takes just five minutes. Throw it in the fridge and in the morning, when everyone is ready to eat, mix in the last two ingredients and you’re ready for waffles.

I stirred in pumpkin puree and a few spices and the result was absolutely delicious. Light and fluffy with a hint of pumpkin pie flavor, my entire family gobbled these up.

For a special addition, make honey cinnamon butter to top your waffles. Simply take a softened stick of salted butter. Mix in two tablespoons honey and half a teaspoon of cinnamon. Set that out with some warm maple syrup for a breakfast everyone will beg you to make again and again.

Pumpkin Whole Wheat Waffles

Night Before:

• 1/2 cup warm water

• 1 tablespoon yeast

• 1/2 cup melted butter

• 2 cups milk (2%)

• 1 teaspoon salt

• 2/3 cups pumpkin puree

• 2 tablespoons sugar

• 2 teaspoons pumpkin pie spice

• ½ teaspoon cinnamon

• 1 teaspoon vanilla extract

• 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour

• 1 1/2 cups whole wheat pastry flour

The Next Day:

• 2 eggs, beaten

• 1/2 teaspoon baking soda

Combine the yeast and water in a large mixing bowl and let stand for a few minutes. Stir to make sure the yeast dissolves. Melt the butter in the microwave. Combine the butter with the milk, pumpkin, salt, vanilla, spices and sugar. Test with your finger to make sure the mixture has cooled to lukewarm, then stir it into the dissolved yeast mixture. Add the flour and stir until a thick, shaggy dough is formed and there is no more visible flour.

Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and throw it in the refrigerator. The batter will double or triple in bulk as it rises.

The next morning, beat the eggs together and add them to the batter along with the baking soda, stirring until completely combined.

Make the waffles according to your waffle maker’s instructions, cooking until the waffles are golden-brown. Serve with cinnamon honey butter and maple syrup. Leftovers can be frozen. Warm them in a toaster oven to reheat.

Chocolate Almond Butter Swirled Banana Bread

The day finally came. My youngest child started kindergarten. After having three kids in four years, my frazzled ‘mom-brain’ never quite thought the day would come when all my children went to school.

I spent the summer thinking about what this fall would look like. At first, I had grand plans of all the work I would get done and all the recipes I would come up with. I was going to exercise every day and stay caught up on the laundry. I call this my optimistic phase.

Next came the doubting phase. Sometime in August I got a little sad and mopey. I googled homeschooling. I annoyed my children with too many hugs, whipping my phone out to take photos over the smallest things. They rolled their eyes at me and most definitely took advantage of my weakened state of mind, negotiating for popsicles and t.v. time, but they hugged me back, snuggling up on the couch, somehow knowing a change was in the air. (Or maybe it was all the popsicles and t.v.)

And suddenly it was September. And off they went, excited and happy and not a tear anywhere but in my eyes. My daughter announced on the first day of kindergarten, ‘Mom, I just love school.’ I would call that a good sign.

This banana bread recipe is the perfect special treat for kids after school, or let’s be honest, anyone in the mood for a decadent and chocolaty dessert. I’m not quite ready to embrace fall food, but this feels like a baby step in that direction. Almond butter gives the bread a hearty nutty flavor and the chocolate with the banana is an obvious match. If we can keep the loaf around for more than a day or two, we toast thick slices and slather them with a little butter as an after-school snack.

Chocolate Almond Butter Swirled Banana Bread

• 2 eggs

• 1 cup sugar

• 1/2 cup oil

• 3 1/2 bananas, very ripe, mashed

• 2 tablespoons plain Greek yogurt

• 1 teaspoon vanilla extract

• 1 cup all-purpose flour

• 2/3 cup whole wheat pastry flour

• 2 tablespoons cocoa powder

• 1 teaspoon baking soda

• 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon

• 1/2 teaspoon salt

• 1 cup dark chocolate chips

• 2 tablespoons almond butter (or peanut butter)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line the bottom of a loaf pan with parchment paper.

Sift together the flour, baking soda, cinnamon, cocoa powder and salt in a large bowl and set aside. Beat sugar and eggs with an electric mixer until light and fluffy. Drizzle in oil. Add mashed bananas, sour cream and vanilla. Mix until well-combined.

Fold in dry ingredients and mix until just combined. Stir in chocolate chips. Pour batter into the lined loaf pan. In a small microwave-safe container warm the almond butter in the microwave for 15 seconds. Once warmed, pour the almond butter over the batter. Use a knife to spread the almond butter evenly throughout the batter.

Bake for about 1 hour and 15 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the center of the bread comes out clean. Allow bread to cool in the pan for 10 minutes before turning it out on a rack to finish cooling completely.

Zucchini Bread with Dark Chocolate and Walnuts

My garden got off to a slow start this year. The dogs ate all the broccoli and cauliflower before I could harvest any of it and we accidentally overwatered our pumpkin vines to an untimely death.

The potatoes and tomatoes are a go and finally the zucchini plant, which you would think would be impossible to kill, is finally ramping up to full production. I picked the first two vegetables off the plant a few days ago and couldn’t resist making my favorite zucchini bread. This is a recipe my mother made for me when I was growing up. She clipped the recipe from the newspaper back in the eighties and still makes it today. Now I make it for my kids and the tradition continues.

This recipe makes a giant loaf and it can be deceiving because the crust gets very dark and you might worry it’s burning or drying out, but it doesn’t. The crust is a little bit crispy and the inside is moist and delicious. I like to add dark chocolate chips and toasted walnuts for crunch and texture but don’t feel like you have to follow suit. Often, I split the recipe between two smaller loaf pans and make one the way I like it and the other with nothing extra for my kids who love the chocolate but don’t like the nuts. Either way, you can’t go wrong.

Zucchini Bread with Dark Chocolate and Walnuts

  • 3 eggs
  • 1 cup canola oil
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 2 1/2 cups shredded zucchini
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla
  • 3 cups all-purpose flour, sifted
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 tablespoon cinnamon
  • 1 cup chopped walnuts
  • 1 cup dark chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line bread pan with parchment paper or coat it in cooking spray. Beat eggs and oil for 2-3 minutes until creamy in the bowl of a stand mixer. Add sugar and mix for another minute. Add zucchini and vanilla.

In a separate bowl, mix together all dry ingredients. Slowly combine dry ingredients with wet ingredients until well-combined. Stir in chopped walnuts and dark chocolate. Pour batter into bread pan and bake for one hour and 15 minutes or until a toothpick stuck into the center of the bread comes out clean.

*If the bread is getting too dark on top but not finished baking, fold a piece of tin foil in half and create a little ‘tent’ to cover the bread. It will continue cooking but the top won’t get overly brown.

Orange Cardamom Bundt Cake

I’ve got the perfect cake to make for Easter brunch. This cake is full of bright orange flavor and a hint of almond. It’s sweet without being overly sweet and the dollop of whipped cream and handful of tart berries on top are not only a pretty garnish but delicious with the orange and almond flavors of the cake.

Cardamom, often used in Indian cooking, is available at your local grocery store and gives a wonderful subtle warm spicy flavor to the cake. Cardamom has a bit of a citrus flavor too, and is often paired with orange and apple flavors.

As for our family, I’ll be wrestling my children into clothes with collars and buttons and hopefully some cute little sandals all the while throwing down coats and fleeces into the car for the inevitable Pacific Northwest weather you can almost always count on this early in spring. We will go to church and have an Easter egg hunt. My kids will eat way too much candy and shed their ‘fancy’ clothes and eventually we’ll sit down together for a late brunch.

I like to balance whatever sweet dish I make with something savory. I’m thinking a frittata because it’s ridiculously easy and quick to throw together. Sauté chopped asparagus, a shallot and spinach in olive oil over medium heat for a couple minutes. Turn the heat to low and pour 12 whisked eggs into the pan. Salt and pepper liberally and allow the eggs to set. Put the whole pan in the oven under broil for a couple minutes until the dish is cooked through and golden brown on top. Sprinkle with whatever cheese you like (maybe Beechers?) and brunch is ready.

You can also search the breakfast tab for a bunch of different egg dishes.

Whatever you’re up to this weekend, I hope it includes a dose of sunshine, some fresh air and good food. Spring is finally here and I can’t think of a better way to celebrate.

Orange Cardamom Bundt Cake

• 3 ½ cups all-purpose flour

• 2 teaspoons baking soda

• ½ teaspoon baking powder

• 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

• 1 tablespoon cardamom

• ½ teaspoon kosher salt

• 1 cup unsalted butter (2 sticks), at room temperature

• 2 cups sugar

• 4 large eggs, at room temperature

• 1 teaspoon almond extract

• 1 cup sour cream

• Zest of 2 medium oranges (about 2 tablespoons)

• Powdered sugar

• Whipped cream*

• Raspberries, blackberries and strawberries for serving

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease and flour a bundt cake pan or two loaf pans and set aside. In the bowl of an electric mixer, cream the butter and sugar on medium speed until light and fluffy. Add the eggs one at a time, scraping down the sides after each addition. Add the almond extract, sour cream and orange zest and mix for one more minute until well-combined.

In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, baking soda, baking powder, cinnamon, cardamom and salt. Add the flour mixture to the butter mixture in three parts, mixing until just combined, scraping down the sides to make sure everything is incorporated.

Pour the batter into the prepared pan. Bake for about 50-60 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the center of the cake comes out clean. Allow the cake to cool in the pan for at least 20 minutes. Turn the cake onto a platter and dust with powdered sugar.

To serve, slice pieces and top with a dollop of whipped cream and berries.

*To make homemade whipped cream, pour one-pint heavy whipping cream into the bowl of an electric mixer. Add 2 tablespoons powdered sugar and 1 teaspoon vanilla extract. Turn the mixer to medium and mix until soft peaks form. Store extras in the refrigerator for up to three days.

Blueberry Buttermilk Muffins

Happy New Year friends. That’s how I think of you when I sit down to write in this little corner. I feel like I’m having a conversation with my friends, sharing a few thoughts, a little bit of my life and a recipe I think you might like.

I had a little existential crisis towards the end of the year. Ok, maybe that’s a tiny bit dramatic, but I received some tough feedback on a couple recipes I posted. They didn’t work well for a few people because the recipes were hard to understand.

All of a sudden I felt like I had nothing to offer, nothing to say, and the very real truth that I’m just* a home cook hit me hard. I have zero training. I am NOT an expert…actually I’m about as far away from ‘expert’ as possible. I’m just a mom who loves to putter in the kitchen.

I spent the last couple weeks thinking hard about why I keep coming back to this space. And I finally decided that regardless of outcome, whether people visit me here in this space or not, I’m going to keep at it. This blog holds me accountable to doing two things I love and need in my life: cooking and writing. I get to be creative, I get to try new things, I get to be a little bit brave. So I decided I’m going to keep at it and even more, those would be my new year resolutions this year.

As much as I’m not much of a resolution-type person, this new year somehow feels different. I’m eager for a fresh start. While last year was good (really good in fact), it was also an unbelievably hard year. And the sadness and challenges I was going through hung around me like a dark cloud for months. But finally, the past is fading and as this new year ushers in, I feel ready and excited. I want to keep cooking. Learning. Practicing being brave. All of it.

Alright, enough rambling. How about a recipe? These blueberry buttermilk muffins are super easy to throw together and taste heavenly. Although full disclosure: even though I’ve made this recipe dozens of times, yesterday I misread the instructions and only added one teaspoon of baking powder. The muffins were dense and didn’t have the lovely domed top I was going for. I realized my mistake and grudgingly started over again. I’m starting the year nice and humble, practicing laughing at myself, forcing myself to try again, even when I don’t want to.

Who knew a batch of muffins could bring on such deep thoughts? Sheesh. I’m chalking it up to the new year. I’m sure by next week I’ll be back to lamenting over the crazy shenanigans my kids are up to and how much I hate the gray cold winter weather.

Blueberry Buttermilk Muffins (recipe adapted from A Homemade Kitchen)

  • 8 tablespoons butter, melted
  • 3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 tablespoon baking powder
  • 3/4 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 cup buttermilk
  • 1 cup Greek yogurt (preferably NOT non-fat)
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla
  • 2 1/2 cups frozen blueberries (raspberries, blackberries or cherries work great too)

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Line muffin tin with liners or spray liberally with cooking spray.

In a large bowl, whisk together flour, baking soda, baking powder and salt. Set aside. In another bowl, whisk eggs until well incorporated. Stir in sugar, melted butter, buttermilk, yogurt and vanilla. Mix well.

Using a spatula or wooden spoon, stir the flour mixture into the wet ingredients until just barely combined. Stir in the frozen berries to the batter. Don’t be surprised if the berries turn the batter a little purple.

Use a large spoon or ice cream scoop to fill the muffin tins. Fill the tins right up to the top. You are going for a tall domed muffin. Sprinkle each muffin with raw sugar for a little crunch on the lid of the muffin. Bake for 25-30 minutes until the muffins are golden brown and a toothpick inserted into the middle of the muffin comes out clean. Allow to cool in the pan for 5-10 minutes before turning out on a cooling rack. Allow the muffins to finish cooling upside down.

 

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.

Meal Planning and Steel Cut Oats

Today is a little departure from the usual. My column in the Yakima Herald today is about basic meal planning. Do you meal plan? My version is fairly informal but it’s a system that works pretty well for us. At the bottom of the post is a recipe for our favorite steel cut oats. I make a big batch on Sundays and keep it in the fridge all week for easy breakfasts. We’re almost to the weekend friends.


I have a friend who is an excellent meal planner. She sits down every week with her husband and they decide on dinners for the week. They make a grocery list of the items they need and one of them goes to the store. They assign dinners to each night based on their weekly schedule and then cook their meals according to the schedule. It sounds so easy, doesn’t it? But for so many of us, it’s not that simple at all.

For the left-brained creative-types and the flustered, busy, over-tired parents, for those that aren’t sure they even like to cook, and everyone in between, planning an entire week’s worth of meals is more than a little intimidating; it’s downright daunting. At least that’s how I feel most weeks.

But I also know that to make healthy fresh food for my family, I need a plan. Daily trips to the grocery store with three young kids is out of the question and I don’t want to rely too heavily on take-out and frozen pizzas.

What works for me is to spend a few hours on the weekend preparing foods I want my family to eat during the week. I’ve found that having produce readily available, washed, cut-up and in plain view ensures we all have an easier time reaching for a fruit or vegetable first.

Each week I hit my local fruit stand. Right now I’m buying bags of plums and nectarines, peaches, bell peppers, corn on the cob, potatoes, onions, cucumbers, melons, zucchini and green beans. This is where I start with planning meals for the week. After I’ve made my haul in the produce department, I head to the grocery store, list in hand with the remaining items I need.

On Sundays, when I typically have more time to putter in the kitchen, I do the bulk of my prep for the week. I wash and chop fruits and vegetables. I usually make some kind of salad for easy lunches and muffins or a quick bread for easy breakfast for my kids. Sometimes I make an egg dish and roast a pan of vegetables but mostly it depends on what looked good at the store and what I’m in the mood to cook.

Breakfasts and lunches get exponentially easier on busy weekday mornings. The kids choose between cereal and whatever I’ve prepped for the week and they help themselves. It’s the same for packing lunches; they choose from the fruits and vegetables I’ve already prepared, we throw a sandwich together and they fill their water bottles.

This week I made a loaf of pumpkin bread and a big pot of steel cut oats. I also made tuna salad and chicken salad and some whole-wheat couscous. I cut up cucumbers, carrots, broccoli, bell peppers and washed and trimmed grapes. When I open my fridge, these are the items I see first and what I build meals around all week.

Everyone in my family loves oatmeal, so I thought I would share my recipe for steel cut oats. Hearty and delicious, the only downside to steel-cut oats is the time it takes to make them. I get around this by making a big pot on the weekend and storing it in the fridge. On weekday mornings, we spoon portions into individual bowls and pop them in the microwave. We top ours with a spoonful of peanut butter and a handful of frozen blueberries but raisins and cinnamon or a fresh sliced peach and a drizzle of honey is lovely too.


Creamy Steel-Cut Oats with Chia Seeds

  • 2 cups steel-cut oats
  • 3 cups water
  • 2 cups milk
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • ¼ cup maple syrup
  • 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 2 tablespoons chia seeds

In a pot combine water, milk, salt and oats. Bring mixture to a boil over medium heat. As soon as the liquid begins to boil, turn the heat to low. Cook oats at a simmer for 20 to 30 minutes stirring frequently. When oats are finished cooking, gently stir in maple syrup, cinnamon and chia seeds. Spoon oats into individual bowls and top with favorite toppings. Save remaining oats in an air-tight container in the refrigerator for up to five days.