Pretty Great Pumpkin Bread

I want to call this the best-ever pumpkin bread or maybe easy and perfect pumpkin bread but the reality is there are approximately 27,432 recipes for pumpkin bread out there and I would wager a bet that 90 percent of the recipes you stumble onto are pretty great.

So here’s another pretty great recipe to add to your list when you’re in the mood for something pumpkin and feeling all those fall vibes.

Me? I’m not feeling fall-ish yet, but I’m going for it anyway. I live in a town absolutely enveloped in smoke from wild fires surrounding us on all sides. It’s been hot (brutally hot actually) and the smoke is thick and choking. It makes your throat sore and your eyes burn and sometimes you see ash falling from the sky. The kids can’t go outside for recess and outdoor practices and games have been cancelled going on two weeks.

It doesn’t particularly feel like fall where I live but doesn’t feel like summer either…or any season really. Obviously all of this pales in comparison to very real tragedies and natural disasters happening all over the country/world in the last little bit. I was texting with my mother-in-law today and as she was telling me about a school shooting that happened today in the town I grew up in, we both agreed we feel helpless and defeated by so much hurt all around us. It’s a heavy, worrying, hard hard time for so many.

And pumpkin bread won’t change any of that terrible hurt but it might put a smile on your kid’s faces when they come home from a hard day at school. Or you could double this recipe and drop a loaf off for a friend as a surprise. And you could absolutely slice it thick and slather it in butter and enjoy it slowly with a cup of coffee and maybe those five minutes will recharge you in some small way.


This is one of those easy one-bowl recipes that are great for little people to jump in and ‘help’ with. The other great thing is that the recipe calls for one whole can of pumpkin, which is perfect since I hate wasting the last bit of pumpkin out of the can but I also never have any ideas how to use it up except to make more treats. One can. One loaf. Done.


Pretty Great Pumpkin Bread (adapted from Smitten Kitchen)

  • 1 15-ounce can pumpkin puree
  • 1/2 cup coconut oil
  • 3 large eggs
  • 1 2/3 cups granulated sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 3/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 3/4 teaspoon fine sea or table salt
  • 3/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
  • 1 heaping teaspoon pumpkin pie spice mix
  • Two pinches of ground cloves
  • 2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Using a LARGE loaf pan, grease with butter and flour or a piece of parchment paper. 

In the bowl of a large mixing bowl beat pumpkin, coconut oil, eggs, vanilla and sugar until well-combined with no lumps. Using a wooden spoon or spatula stir in flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt and all spices. When batter is just combined, scoop into loaf pan. 

In a small bowl combine one tablespoon raw sugar (regular white sugar is fine too) with one teaspoon cinnamon. Sprinkle over the top of the bread. Bake for approximately one hour or until a toothpick  poked in the center of the bread comes out clean.

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.

Grandma’s Potato Salad

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My grandma was famous for her potato salad. It’s a simple recipe, but something about the way she made it was special. She had a giant vintage white bowl dedicated specifically for this salad and anytime my dad would walk through the back door of her house and see it sitting out on the counter, he would cheer in delight. If he happened to walk through the back door and it wasn’t on the counter, he would rummage through the refrigerator checking for it. If potato salad wasn’t on the menu that night, well I think you can imagine the (good-natured) teasing and pouting that my grandma had to deal with from her grown son and whoever else happened to be invited to dinner.

My grandma made potato salad for family and friends well into her eighties, always a double or triple batch served from her special bowl. My parents have the big white bowl at their house now and my mom makes the recipe a few times each summer. In the last couple years, I’ve tried my hand at making the salad.

This recipe is completely from memory and taste; as so many of the most special recipes usually are. I don’t think my grandma ever wrote her recipes down. She was an intuitive home cook, with zero training but an arsenal of recipes her family and friends loved and requested time and time again.

My dad always has a few pointers based on what he remembers and whenever I make the salad for him, I try and do it exactly the way my grandma made it. But when I make a batch to take to a barbecue or just for my little family, I tweak it slightly by adding more fresh herbs to make it my own. The only real secret to this very simple recipe is patience and high-quality ingredients. Let your potatoes and hard-boiled eggs cool completely. Don’t rush this step or the texture won’t be the same. Also, use the best quality mayonnaise you can.

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Grandma’s Potato Salad

  • 3 pounds baby red and yellow potatoes, washed and quartered
  • 5 hard-boiled eggs
  • 2 cups diced celery
  • 1/2 cup mayonnaise
  • 2 tablespoons green onions, thinly sliced
  • 2 tablespoons fresh parsley, finely chopped
  • 2-3 tablespoons, finely chopped dill
  • 1 ½ teaspoons kosher salt
  • ½ teaspoon black pepper

In a large pot, boil washed and cut potatoes for about 10 to 15 minutes until they are fork tender but still firm. Drain completely and set aside to cool. Hard-boil eggs. I put room temperature eggs into a pot of cold water and cover with a lid. Using my gas stove, I turn the heat to high and boil the eggs for exactly 11 minutes (set a timer). When the timer goes off, remove from heat and drain the water from the eggs. Set the hard-boiled eggs aside to cool. When the potatoes and eggs have cooled completely, you are ready to assemble your salad.

Start by chopping the celery, herbs and eggs. My grandma always diced the eggs and celery in smaller pieces than the potatoes. In a large bowl, mix together potatoes, eggs, celery, green onions and herbs setting aside a teaspoon of chopped dill. Using a spatula, gently mix the mayonnaise with the vegetables. Salt and pepper liberally and taste to make sure the ratios are how you like it. Add a little more mayonnaise or salt and pepper if needed. Garnish with the last teaspoon of dill. Cover and refrigerate if you aren’t going to serve immediately.

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.

Strawberry Rhubarb Crisp Bars

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I’ve had some sort of garden since I’ve moved to Yakima (11 years now…woah!). It started with a ‘salsa’ planter, essentially a pot with a tomato, cilantro and jalapeno plants, my mother-in-law gave me the first spring we owned our first house (2006…I think). I was 23, knew absolutely nothing about plants or gardening and dutifully watered that pot every time I remembered (which wasn’t often).

My mother is an incredible gardener. She can and does grow everything. Her yard has every type of flower you can imagine and for a few years she tended a huge almost 1-acre vegetable garden growing so much produce she would drop off laundry baskets full of produce at the homeless shelter almost every week.

And then there’s me. Sometimes the apple falls a little farther away from the tree. I’ve had some good years. I remember picking raspberries into October at my old house (although I’m not sure I can take any credit for that, I didn’t actually plant those raspberries). Some years go better than others. I love plants and flowers and I do love to garden but I would say my gardening has more fails than successes most years. Weeds and bugs and moles seem to win out.

This year I really threw some effort into it though. I asked (pleaded and begged) Aaron to build me some garden boxes. I researched companion planting and mapped out what would go into each box. I was envisioning a Better Homes and Gardens Magazine garden spread with overflowing boxes and sweet little paths in between.

The reality is Aaron cut his hand and needed 9 stitches while building the boxes. And even though we filled the boxes with very-high quality soil, our plants are unhappy and turning yellow, lacking the necessary nutrients to grow. Oh and did I mention the weeds? So many weeds.

But I’m not giving up just yet. I’m out there weeding like crazy and we fertilized and changed our watering schedule. If nothing else, I should have stronger arms by the end of the summer from the weeding alone. I keep telling myself it’s good to work a problem.

My friend gifted me literally an armful of rhubarb last week. Her garden is mature and lovely and everything grows like crazy. I was only a tiny bit jealous when she showed me. But anyway, I had to do something with all that rhubarb. I decided on strawberry rhubarb crisp bars from Smitten Kitchen. This recipe was a bit like my garden…it’s good to work a problem. Be smarter than me and really follow the directions. I had to make these twice because I didn’t read the directions carefully enough and the bars ended up soggy and mushy. Sprinkle the cornstarch over the prepared fruit and make sure to store the bars in the fridge. This is an easy recipe, and the bars are sweet and tangy and absolutely delicious, with a buttery oat filled crust.

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Strawberry Rhubarb Crisp Bars

1 cup (80 grams) rolled oats
3/4 cup (95 grams) plus up to 2 tablespoons (15 grams) extra all-purpose flour
1/2 cup (95 grams) light brown sugar
Heaped 1/4 teaspoon table salt
6 tablespoons (85 grams) unsalted butter, melted
1 teaspoon cornstarch (optional, but helps firm up the filling)
1 tablespoon (15 ml) lemon juice
1 tablespoon (15 grams) granulated sugar, divided
1 cup (125 grams) small-diced rhubarb (from about 1 1/2 medium stalks)
1 cup (155 grams) small-diced strawberries
Powdered sugar, for decoration, if desired

Heat oven to 375 degrees F. For easy removal, line bottom and two sides of 8-by-8-inch square baking pan with parchment paper. No need to bother (and no greasing needed) if you plan to serve them right in the pan, as I did.

Place oats, 3/4 cup flour, brown sugar and salt in bottom of baking pan and mix. Pour melted butter over, and stir until clumps form. If the clumps feel soft or look overly damp, add the remaining 2 tablespoons flour. Set aside 1/2 cup of the crumble mixture. Press the rest of the crumb mixture evenly in the bottom of the pan.

Spread half the fruit over the crust. Sprinkle it evenly with cornstarch, then lemon juice, and 1/2 tablespoon of granulated sugar. Spread remaining fruit over this, and top with second 1/2 tablespoon sugar. Scatter reserved crumbs over fruit and bake bars for 30 to 40 minutes (firmer fruits will take longer), until fruit is bubbly and crisp portion is golden and smells toasty and amazing.

Let cool in pan; I do this in the fridge, where they become crisp once chilled (less so at room temperature). Cut into squares and sprinkle with powdered sugar before serving. Store leftovers in fridge.

Coconut Oil No-Bake Cookies

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Littered across my desk are camp registrations and vacation bible school fliers, a daily reading log and half finished math homework the second grader forgot about. But what keeps catching my eye as I sit here is the framed photo of my three kiddos from when Scarlet was a newborn. Luke was two and had white blonde shaggy hair and the sweetest little smile. Jackson, barely four, is laughing in the picture, making his dimples that much more noticeable and if you really look at him, you can see where he probably had cut his hair at some point. Scarlet is all baby cheeks and deliciously round, staring seriously at the camera. It’s one of my favorite pictures and such a good little nudge as I sit here among the chaos that these kiddos might not be the sweet babes from a few years ago but to slow down and enjoy them because time is a slippery thing.

I’m not going to lie, I wasn’t really feeling it this morning when one of my darling children accidentally upended the five-pound bag of coffee grounds in the freezer looking for an ice pack for his lunch. I swallowed the desire to remind him that I never had an ice pack in my lunch when I was a kid, I was forced to eat many a slimy turkey sandwiches without complaint. But I didn’t. I took a deep breath and cleaned it up. And then when I got home later I cleaned it up again because coffee grounds have a way of spreading and floating to every nook and cranny of your entire kitchen. It’s a mystery how that works but I can attest to it being a real phenomenon.

Needless to say I was REALLY pleased to treat myself to another cup of coffee and one of these cookies when the clean-up was finally done. These cookies were sort of an accidental surprise based on ingredients I had on hand and adapted from a recipe I found online. The batch made about 16 medium-ish cookies which is perfect as a treat this week for our family but if you’re feeding a crowd, you might consider doubling the batch.

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Coconut Oil No-Bake Cookies

  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 3 tbsp. almond milk (could use regular milk too)
  • 3 tbsp. coconut oil
  • 2 tbsp. cocoa powder
  • 1/2 cup shredded coconut
  • 1 1/4 cups rolled oats
  • 1/3 cup peanut butter
  • pinch of salt

Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or a silicone baking sheet. Bring sugar, almond milk, coconut oil and cocoa powder to a boil in a medium saucepan. Stir constantly until the sugar has dissolved. Remove from heat and stir in shredded coconut, oats and peanut butter and salt. If the mixture seems a little dry, add a splash of almond milk. Using a spoon, scoop batter onto the baking sheet. Sprinkle with shredded coconut or crushed peanuts if you’re fancy. Allow the cookies to set, either at room temperature or put them in the fridge. Store extras in the fridge.

 

Raspberry Rhubarb Crostata

IMG_7727.JPGI swear I’m going to get my act together one of these days. In the midst of the regular busyness of life, we’ve been sidelined over and over the last couple weeks with sickness. It’s made for lots of snuggles and slow days which I love but definitely thrown a wrench into our schedules and left me feeling kind of frazzled and chaotic. I have SO many recipes I want to share here, so bear with me next week if you get bombarded. My goal is to get caught up and back to a regular posting schedule.

Anyway, a new Yakima Magazine hit newsstands today and in it I share a recipe for a raspberry rhubarb crostata. It’s tart and sweet and the dough is crumbly and buttery and deliciously decadent. It’s the perfect spring and summer treat and as the seasons change it’s an easy one to swap for whatever fruit is in season.

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Spring is in full force at my house. My children have taken on the distinct aroma of wet dirt and grass. The knees of their pants are constantly stained from sliding in the wet grass. As soon as their feet hit the pavement of our driveway after school, they take off into the yard, kicking soccer balls, riding bikes and running around checking on our many animals.

We live on a couple acres and have added quite the array of farm animals to our family over the last year. I lovingly (ok, maybe a little sarcastically) refer to our house as the McCoy Family Petting Zoo. Our three cows had babies in the early spring, and let me tell you, baby calves are in a category of cute all their own. From the windows at the back of our house we can watch them play and run through the pasture. Their silky black fur is as soft as a puppy’s and they run right up to you, unafraid, for a pet or more likely in hopes of some oats. They spend hours each day chasing each other, racing up and down the pasture. When they finally get tired, they collapse in a sunny spot for a nap.

When I was trying to decide what to share this month, I wanted to make something bright and flavorful and sweet. I have a rhubarb plant growing in a pot on my patio and its bright green leaves and dark pink stalks inspired me to make a sweet treat. I love the brightness and bitterness of rhubarb and I appreciate it’s one of the first plants to poke its hearty stalks out of the dirt each spring. Paired with strawberries or raspberries, the sweetness of the berry compliments the rhubarb and makes for a flavorful, bright treat.

The beauty of a crostata is its delightfully rustic appearance. And by rustic, I mean it’s supposed to be a little misshapen, oblong…imperfect. But making the pie crust isn’t hard and the flavor of homemade crust is incomparable to what you buy at the grocery store. Don’t be alarmed if the juices run a bit and the crostata takes on an even more rustic appearance than you were expecting. I assure you, it will taste great and a scoop of ice cream goes a long way in hiding imperfections.

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For the pastry (makes 2 crostatas)

  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • ¼ cup sugar
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup cold unsalted butter, diced
  • 6 tablespoons cold water
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • 1 teaspoon raw sugar

For the filling

  • 12 ounces fresh raspberries
  • 4 cups rhubarb, sliced into ½ inch pieces
  • ½ cup sugar
  • ¼ cup cornstarch
  • 1 teaspoon grated orange zest

To make the pastry, place the flour, sugar and salt in the bowl of a food processor fitted with a steel blade. Pulse a few times to mix. Add the butter and pulse several times until the butter breaks up into the size of peas. Turn the processor back on and add the cold water one tablespoon at a time, stopping the machine as soon as the dough starts to come together. Turn the dough onto a well-floured surface and roll into a ball. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for one hour.

In a large bowl combine the raspberries, rhubarb, sugar, cornstarch and orange zest. Stir well until the sugar dissolves and set aside.

Preheat oven to 450 degrees. Line a sheet pan with parchment paper or a silicone baking sheet. Take the dough from the fridge and slice in half with a knife. Roll the pastry on a floured surface until it’s about ½ an inch thick. Using a slotted spoon, scoop half the fruit mixture onto the middle of the pastry. Spread evenly leaving about an inch border. Gently fold the border of the pastry over the fruit, pleating the dough so the juices don’t run (they juices will still run, that’s ok, that’s what makes it rustic). In a small dish, beat an egg with 1 teaspoon water. Brush egg onto the crust and sprinkle with raw sugar.

Bake for 15-20 minutes until the crust is golden brown and the fruit is bubbling slightly. Remove crostata from oven and let cool for 5 minutes. Move to a platter or tray and cut into wedges. Top with vanilla ice cream or whipped cream.