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.

Pot Roast with Tomatoes, Wine and Herbs de Provence

We had the rare weekend with almost nothing on the calendar. An out-of-town soccer game was cancelled, no birthday parties or commitments popped up on the calendar leaving; it was just our little family of five for the entire weekend.

We did the regular weekend things: worked in the yard, ran to the grocery store, watched a little football but it was all done at a gloriously slower pace than usual and I could feel us all take a collective breath as we shrugged off a busy and stressful week. We need these quiet weekends sometimes. I forget so easily how good rest is. As our weekend wrapped up and we hadn’t left the house all day, I knew I wanted a meal as quintessentially slow and relaxed as our weekend had been.

This isn’t a fancy meal; just good, simple food for a cozy evening. The humble pot roast is jazzed up with a big glug of red wine and herbs resulting in tender flavorful meat. Slow cooked in the oven or your crockpot, the meat literally falls apart as you lift it from the pot. Drizzle some of the juices from the pot over the meat once you slice it for extra flavor and tenderness. Mashed potatoes or polenta are excellent side dishes to go with this recipe but you could also halve a pound of red potatoes and throw them in with the roast and you have an easy one-pot meal.

Pot Roast with Tomatoes, Wine and Herbs de Provence

• 4-5 pound bone-in chuck roast

• 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

• 1 tablespoon butter

• 1 medium yellow onion, chopped

• 3 carrots, chopped

• 3 stalks celery, chopped

• 4 cloves garlic, chopped

• 28 ounces can organic tomatoes

• 1 cup beef stock

• 1 1/2 cups red wine

• 1 bay leaf

• 2 teaspoons herbs de Provence

• 1 tablespoon kosher salt, divided

• 2 teaspoons black pepper

Preheat oven to 300 degrees. In a large Dutch oven or oven-safe pot heat 1 tablespoon olive oil and 1 tablespoon butter over medium heat.

Liberally salt and pepper chuck roast on all side (about 1 teaspoon salt and ½ teaspoon black pepper on each side). Sear the chuck roast on both sides, cooking for about 2-3 minutes each side. Remove meat from the pot and set aside. Sauté the onion, carrots and celery in the pot, adding an additional tablespoon olive oil to the pan if necessary, scraping up the little brown bits. Salt and pepper the veggies, cooking for 5-8 minutes until the onion is soft and translucent. Stir in garlic and cook for 1 minute.

Add chuck roast back into the pot. Add the tomatoes, wine bay leaf and herbs de Provence to the pot. The liquid should cover the veggies and about half the meat. Cover the pot with the lid and put in the oven. Cook for about 4 to 5 hours until the meat is tender and pulling away from the bone.

To serve, pull the meat off the bone, and serve with a generous spoonful of the pan drippings and vegetables from the pot.

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.

The Ultimate BLT

Living out in the country, we have to get a little creative when we’re not in the mood to cook dinner. Nobody delivers takeout where we live and if we’re all home together, usually no one is itching to hop back in the car to drive somewhere for food.

Which is no big deal since I love to cook, but even I burn out on cleaning up a messy kitchen after so many meals in a row. We were thrilled when Cowiche Creek Brewery opened in our ‘neighborhood’ and their tasting room and wonderful outdoor space has become a regular spot for our family. Our kids can throw the frisbee in the grass and run around without being (too much) of a bother while the adults grab a picnic table and enjoy the stunning views as the sun sets over the rolling orchard hills.

We often pack an easy picnic to take with us. Sandwiches, chips, fruit and if we’re feeling really fancy maybe some hummus and carrots.

We get out of the house for a bit, connect with friends and eat an easy meal in the grass while the kids run around. Everyone wins.

I don’t know what it is but when the tomatoes finally start ripening in my garden at the end of the summer, all I want is a good BLT sandwich. This recipe is for the ultimate bacon, lettuce, tomato sandwich.

A quick bread is mixed together in five minutes flat with sharp cheddar, bacon and chives. The beer adds a slight tang to the bread and keeps it nice and soft. When the bread is ready, all you have to do is throw your sandwich together and you’re ready to head out for a picnic.

Avocado, vine-ripened tomatoes, crisp bacon and an easy lemon dill mayonnaise elevates this sandwich to a whole new level. A few chips and an ice-cold beer are all you need to complete your meal.

And of course, you don’t need the excuse of a picnic to make these yummy sandwiches. Make a batch of beer bread and suddenly you have a week’s worth of sandwiches for lunch. You won’t regret taking the extra step to throw the recipe together.

Sharp Cheddar, Bacon and Chive Beer Bread

• Nonstick cooking spray

• 3 cups all-purpose flour

• 3 tablespoons sugar

• 4 ½ teaspoons baking powder

• ½ teaspoon kosher salt

• ½ teaspoon ground black pepper

• 1 ½ cups light or amber beer (Corona works really well)

• ¾ cup shar cheddar, shredded or cubed

• ¾ cup crumbled bacon (use pre-cooked or it’s the equivalent of about 5 pieces of cooked bacon)

• ¼ cup chives, minced

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Spray a loaf pan with cooking spray. In a large bowl combine flour, sugar, baking powder, salt and pepper. Stir in beer until a dough forms. Gently mix in cheddar, bacon and chives.

Transfer the dough to the loaf pan and place on the center rack of the oven. Bake for 45-55 minutes until a toothpick inserted into the center of the dough comes out clean. The top should be golden brown.

Remove from oven and allow to cool. Cut into ½ inch slices.

Ultimate Bacon, Lettuce and Tomato Sandwich

• 12 pieces center-cut bacon

• 3 ripe tomatoes, thinly sliced

• Lettuce

• 2 ripe avocados, flesh removed and sliced thinly

• Lemon dill mayonnaise (recipe below)

• Loaf of cheddar, bacon and chive bread, sliced and toasted

• Kosher salt and black pepper

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and line bacon evenly on the tray. Cook the bacon in the oven for about 12 to 15 minutes until the bacon is cooked through and crispy. Remove from oven and place bacon on a plate lined with paper towels to soak up excess grease.

To assemble sandwiches, toast slices of bread. Spread lemon dill mayonnaise on one slice of bread. On the other slice of bread layer slices of avocado and tomato. Salt and pepper the tomatoes. Layer on lettuce and two slices of bacon. Top with the lemon dill mayonnaise bread and lightly press the sandwich together. Repeat as necessary. One loaf of bread should make between 6 and 8 sandwiches depending on how thinly the bread is sliced.

Lemon Dill Mayonnaise

• ½ cup mayonnaise

• 1 teaspoon fresh dill, minced

• 1 teaspoon fresh parsley, minced

• 1 clove garlic, minced

• Juice of 1 lemon

• Pinch of salt

In a small bowl gently combine mayonnaise, dill, parsley, garlic and a pinch of salt. Squeeze the lemon over the mayonnaise and stir until well-combined. Store extras in the refrigerator in an air-tight container for 3-5 days.

Tabbouleh Salad

School might be starting and Labor Day weekend is just days away but I’m not ready to give up on summer just yet. School or no school, I want to enjoy every drop of goodness summer has to offer. We drove up Chinook Pass and hiked the Naches Peak Loop trail. It’s been on my to-do list all summer long and even though it’s been smoky and hot, I convinced my family we should go anyway.

We ended up having the best day. We were able to see patches of blue sky through the haze and Mt. Rainier loomed large through the clouds. Huckleberry bushes lined the trail and we couldn’t resist snacking on a few as we walked along. The trail is a little over three miles and absolutely worth the drive up the pass. The wildflowers alone were worth the trip.

As we drove back down into the Valley, we cooled off in the Naches river, finding the perfect swimming hole to splash around in. We ended our day at Braun Yr Aur Brewery in Naches for pizza and cold beer. The kids threw the frisbee in the grass while we waited for our pies and we happily devoured them when they arrived, absolutely starving from a day well-spent.

And while I wouldn’t even try and compare this couscous salad to the amazingness of the Naches Loop Trail, I will say this: it is every good thing about summer in one bright, zesty, healthful bite. Couscous is mixed together with cucumbers, bell peppers, tomatoes, carrots, onion, olives and artichokes. Dressed very simply with lemon juice, a big handful of chopped herbs and salt and pepper it is the perfect side dish to bring to a barbecue over the Labor Day weekend or whip it up this weekend and enjoy as lunch all week long.

Tabbouleh Salad

• 1 ½ cups couscous, cooked

• ½ english cucumber, diced into ½ inch pieces

• ½ cup shredded carrots

• ½ red bell pepper, diced

• ½ cup cherry tomatoes, halved

• 1 shallot, diced

• ½ cup Kalamata olives, halved

• ½ cup marinated artichoke hearts, diced

• 2 lemons, juice and zest

• 2 tablespoons chives, minced

• 2 tablespoons basil, minced

• 2 tablespoons Italian parsley, minced

• Salt and Pepper

Cook couscous according to package instructions. Allow to cool completely. Once cooled, use a fork to fluff the couscous. In the meantime, chop vegetables. Combine the vegetables and couscous in a large bowl. Zest one lemon and set aside. Juice both lemons over the mixture and add the lemon zest. Stir gently. Chop herbs and add to salad. Liberally salt and pepper. Cover salad with plastic wrap and store in the refrigerator until ready to serve.

*One little tip: Use a teaspoon or two of the oil from the marinated artichokes and add it to the salad when you stir in the lemon juice. You don’t HAVE to add it, but it adds flavor to the salad.

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.

My Favorite Guacamole

Last week the kids and I followed a very dusty dirt road for what felt like a very long time to get to Umtanum Creek Falls. The description online I found for the hike said it was an easy 3.5-mile hike roundtrip with views of a waterfall. What we didn’t know is that we could have driven to Ellensburg by way of the highway and simply taken the dirt road an easy five(ish) miles to our destination but we went the long way from Selah winding up the river canyon on the far west side, driving past ranches and fields and into a forest I had never seen before.

Unfortunately, the trail was dry, steep, full of snakes and where it wasn’t dry and steep it was stinky with stagnant water and very muddy. We ran from a swarm of bees we kicked up and Scarlet, my five-year-old daughter, slipped on a rock and fell straight into a giant muddy bog. We did see the waterfall though and the kids ran along the trail with friends, scrambling over logs and marveling at butterflies, grasshoppers and tiny little frogs they found along the stream.

We stopped for ice cream in Ellensburg on our way home and decided that while the hike itself was a bit of a bust, we were still happy we went.  It’s always good to go on an adventure, even when it involves bees, snakes and mud.

We also concluded that chips and guacamole, ice cold sprites and a margarita for mom was in order as soon as we got home. We were hot, tired and dirty; but nothing some guacamole couldn’t fix.

And lucky for us, I’ve got a killer guacamole recipe. I’m a little bit of a purist in that personally, I don’t prefer onions or tomatoes in my guacamole. I do however like big bright flavor and I get that from a big handful of cilantro, the heat of a jalapeno, fresh chives and lots of lime and lemon juice. A generous sprinkle of coarse se salt at the end gives the dip a little crunch and texture and balances out the flavors. If you like a little texture to your guacamole with onions or tomatoes, then use this recipe as a starting point and add what you like to make it perfect for you. But don’t skip the lemon juice, that’s the secret ingredient.

Guacamole

• 4 ripe avocados

• 1/3 cup cilantro, minced

• 3 tablespoons chives, minced

• 1-2 jalapenos, seeded and finely diced

• Juice of 1 lemon

• Juice of 2 limes, or to taste

• ½ teaspoon coarse sea salt

• Pinch of ground black pepper

In a bowl, scoop out the flesh of the avocados. Add the cilantro, chives and jalapenos. Use a fork to mash down the avocados and combine the ingredients. Add the lemon juice and lime juice and a pinch of salt. Stir again until the guacamole is smooth and well-combined. Garnish with coarse sea salt and black pepper. Serve immediately with tortilla chips.