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Orange-Pumpkin Spice Bread


Okay, so it's really just cake, but it's the pumpkin holiday time of year, so let's have some dessert!  I made this recipe many years ago, but recently needed something to bring to a luncheon, and this was the perfect complement to our after-lunch tea.  I  switched it up a a bit by changing some of the sugar in for some applesauce and it was just perfectly moist, and not too sweet.

Tools needed: 
1 9-in loaf pan
1.5 hours
Orange Pumpkin Spice Cake
1/2 15oz can pumpkin puree
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp ground cloves
1/2 tsp ground nutmeg
3/4 cup water
1 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup pureed apple (or store-bought applesauce)
1/2 cup vegetable oil
2 large eggs lightly beaten
1 3/4 cup flour (original recipe calls for bleached all-purpose, but I used whole wheat)
1 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt
1 tbs orange zest, plus 1 tsp orange zest
  1. Adjust oven rack to middle position and heat oven to 350 degrees.
  2. Heat pumpkin, cinnamon, nutmeg and cloves in a small saucepan over medium heat until steamy.
  3. Stirring continuously, cook until pumpkin is stiff and starts to stick to the pan bottom, about 3 minutes.
  4. Transfer to a medium bowl; whisk in 3/4 cup water, then brown sugar, then applesauce, then oil, then eggs, until smooth.
  5. In a separate bowl, whisk together remaining dry ingredients, then fold into the pumpkin mixture until just combined.
  6. Mix in 1 tbs orange zest.
  7. Scrape batter into well-greased pan.  Top with remaining 1 tsp orange zest.
  8. Bake until firm and golden brown, about 45 minutes. (or until toothpick comes clean)
  9. Turn onto a wire rack and cool to room temperature before slicing and serving.

Recipe doubles easily (what else are you going to do with that half can of pumpkin?) and freezes well.

12 slices

Pumpkin Orange Mascarpone Pie


This decadent twist on traditional pumpkin pie is quite possibly my favorite holiday indulgence. 

I have been making this pie for holidays for about 5 years now, and its been an absolute smash with my family.  Since I've moved to California, I've brought it to friends' holiday dinners, and it's received rave reviews there, too.  Loaded with yumminess, it is certainly packed with calories, but it will make you smile, so it's a recipe for a a smiley, happy experience! It's the holidays, people - everything in moderation. Taste the happieness!

Tools needed: 
9-10" pie plate, food processor
1 hour, 20 minutes
Pumpkin Orange Mascarpone Pie
2 cups finely crushed gingersnap crumbs (pulse in food processor)
6 tbs unsalted butter, melted
4 oz. cream cheese, softened
8 oz. mascarpone cheese
2/3 cup sugar
3 eggs
1 can pumpkin puree (15 oz.)
1 tsp orange-flavored liqueur, such as Grand Marnier
1 1/2 tsp freshly grated orange zest
1 tsp. freshly grated lemon zest
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp freshly ground nutmeg
1/2 tsp ground ginger
1/4 tsp salt
  1. Preheat oven to 325 degrees.
  2. In the pie plate, stir together gingersnap crumbs with melted butter and press into pie crust with a spoon.  Bake until set, about 6 minutes.  Remove from oven and set aside.
  3. Increase oven heat to 350 degrees.
  4.  Beat cream cheese, mascarpone, and 2/3 cup sugar in a large bowl until smooth.  Add eggs one at a time, beating for 30 seconds after each egg.  Add pumpkin, orange liqueur, citrus zests, spices, and salt.  Mix until smooth.
  5. Pour filling into crust and bake until edgees are firm but center still jiggles a bit, about 45-50 minutes.  Bake any extra filling in ramekins or a muffin tins.
  6. Cool to room temperature, then chill at least 6 hours, and up to overnight.
  7. Enjoy!

Banana Cupcakes (GF)


My friend Marie made this recipe as a cake for Boyfriend's birthday last year, and we loved the simplicity to yumminess factor so much, it was requested again this year!  I made 40 of these cupcakes for his 40th birthday party last week.  Well, these and those yummy chocolate chip zucchini muffins (cleverly disguised at cupcakes) I put on the site a couple of weeks ago.  I'm happy to report that the guests enjoyed both snarfed each flavor with equal satisfaction!

Tools needed: 
electric mixer, muffin tins/cups
1 - 1.5 hours
Banana Cupcakes
1 1/2 ripe bananas, mashed
2 tsp lemon juice
3 cups gluten-free flour (regular flour works, too)
1 1/2 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt
3/4 cup butter, softened
1 1/2 cups sugar
1/2 cup applesauce
2 tsp vanilla
1 1/2 cup milk (soy or nut milk works for dairy-free version)
  1. Preheat oven to 275 degrees.
  2. Line muffin tins with paper cups or grease a 9 X 12 baking pan.
  3. Mash ripe bananas with a fork in a small bowl with lemon juice.
  4. Put flour and baking soda in a bowl and whisk together.
  5. Mix all wet ingredients (but banana/lemon mixture) and sugar in a large bowl and mix with electric mixer.  Once wet ingredients are thoroughly combined, gently mix in banana mixture with the fork.
  6. Mix in the dry ingredients on low or fold in with a spoon.
  7. Pour into greased baking pan or divide batter among 24 cupcake cups.
  8. Bake cake for about 1 hour or until a toothpick comes out clean.  For cupcakes, bake for 35-40 minutes.
  9. Allow to cool completely before frosting (if desired, we served without).

TIP: Don't have any applesauce, but have an apple? Cut up 1 large apple into chunks, remove core/seeds, blend with some water until consistency you like, simmer on the stove for a few minutes...voila!  1/2 cup applesauce!  Or make more and save some for later - I like to put mine on pancakes or waffles in lieu of syrup. (Got that from Boyfriend's sister-in-law - thanks, Isabel!)

Makes 24 cupcakes

Chocolate Pecan Bars


Gooey, yummy, chocolatey deliciousness!  Earned rave reviews at a recent potluck party.  I am not recommending these as having any health benefits, other than they'll make you smile!

Tools needed: 
9 X 12 baking dish or pan
1.25 hours
Pecan Bars
1 1/2 cups flour (gluten-free for a gluten-free dessert)
1/4 cups sugar, divided
1/2 cup corn starch
3/4 cup butter, softened
1 cup honey
1 1/4 cups sugar
4 eggs
1/4 tsp salt
1 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1 1/2 cups chopped pecans
1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips

To make crust:

  1. Combine flour, 1/4 cup sugar, and cor starch in a large bowl.
  2. Cut in butter until crumbly.
  3. Press into greased baking pan.
  4. Bake in preheated 350 degree oven for 15 minute until edges are lightly browned.

To make filling:

  1. Stir together honey, remaining sugar, eggs, salt and vanilla in a large bowl until blended.
  2. Add pecans and chocolate chips.
  3. Pour over crust and bake an additional 35 minutes until filling is firm and slightly softer in the center.

Cool completely, about 2 hours, before cutting into bars.


Coconut Rice Pudding


I sampled this vegan delight at the Boulder Dushanbe Teahouse during my Colorado visit, and it brought back memories of my grandmother's rice pudding.  The added yumminess and sophistication of the coconut milk makes it super-delicious!

1.5 hours
Coconut Rice Pudding
1 1/2 cups cooked rice
2 cups unsweetened coconut milk
1 1/2 cups soy milk
1/3 cup sugar
pinch of salt
Shredded toasted coconut
Dash of cinnamon
Dried apricots (optional)
  1. Combine all the ingredients except the shredded coconut, cinnamon, and dried apricots, in a saucepan over meium-low heat.
  2. Simmer, stirring often, until thickened, approximately 1 hour.
  3. Stir in some shredded coconut, top with more shredded coconut, cinnamon, and dried apricots.

Brown Butter Raspberry Tart


My Denver friend Kirsten always brings amazing dishes to dinner parties and potlucks, and a lunch with friends this week was no exception.  This recipe is pretty tricky, but well worth the effort - DELICIOUS.

Tools needed: 
9-inch-diameter tart pan with removable bottom, rimmed baking sheet, whisk, medium bowls
1.5 hours
Raspberry Tart
For crust:
7 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
1/3 cup sugar
1/4 tsp vanilla extract
1 cup plus 1 tsp all purpose flour
Pinch of salt
For filling:
1/2 cup sugar
2 large eggs
Pinch of salt
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
12 oz. fresh raspberries
1 stick unsalted butter, diced
1 tsp vanilla extract

For crust:Position rack in center of oven and preheat to 375°F. Using rubber spatula or fork, mix melted butter, sugar, and vanilla in medium bowl. Add flour and salt and stir until incorporated. Transfer dough to 9-inch-diameter tart pan with removable bottom. Using fingertips, press dough evenly onto sides and bottom of pan.Bake crust until golden, about 18 minutes (crust will puff slightly while baking). Transfer crust to rack and cool in pan. Maintain oven temperature.For filling:Whisk sugar, eggs, and salt in medium bowl to blend. Add flour and vanilla; whisk until smooth. Cook butter in heavy small saucepan over medium heat until deep nutty brown (do not burn), stirring often, about 6 minutes. Immediately pour browned butter into glass measuring cup. Gradually whisk browned butter into sugar-egg mixture; whisk until well blended.Arrange raspberries, pointed side up and close together in concentric circles, in bottom of cooled crust. Carefully pour browned butter mixture evenly over berries. Place tart on rimmed baking sheet. Bake tart until filling is puffed and golden and tester inserted into center comes out clean, about 40 minutes. Cool tart completely in pan on rack. DO AHEAD: Can be made 1 day ahead. Cover and store at room temperature.Remove tart pan sides. Place tart on platter. Cut into wedges and serve. 


Rolled Eggplant with Capellini Pasta


I tasted this dish at the fabulous Trattoria Grappolo in Santa Ynez.  Before I was aware that they had a cookbook, I emailed the chef for the recipe, and he emailed it back to me within hours.  The first time I made it, I experimented on some friends, but luckily it turned out perfectly delicious, and we ate every last bite!

Tools needed: 
casserole pan
1 hour
Rolled Eggplant with Capellini Pasta
2 large, elongated eggplant
2 cups olive oil for frying
2 cups flour, for dusting eggplant
12 slices smoked mozzerella cheese
1 cup tomato sauce or favorite red pasta sauce, heated, for drizzling over rolls prior to serving
1/2 pound of capellini pasta
1 cup tomato sauce or favorite red pasta sauce
1/2 cup ricotta cheese
4 fresh basil leaves
Pinch of salt, pepper and dried oregano
  1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
  2. In a large bowl, add all the filling ingredients and mix well.  Meanwhile, cook the capellini according to package directions and drain.  Add capellini to the filling, mix well.
  3. Thinly slice the eggplant about 1/8-inch thick.  Dust each slice in flour and fry in olive oil until golden-brown.  Drain on pan using paper towels.  Line the slices of eggplant vertically and place about 1 tablespoon of filling in the center of each eggplant slice.  Roll each eggplant slice and place in a baking dish.  Top with slices of mozzarella.
  4. Bake for about 10 minutes or until cheese is golden brown on top.  Serve 3 per person (for starters!), drizzle 2-3 tablespoons of warmed tomato or pasta sauce over top before serving.

NOTE:  I halved the filling mixture from the actual, "Grappolo-version" of this recipe, because we always had way too much filling left over.

Trattoria Grappolo

Horse Cupcakes


This "recipe" obviously strays from my usual goal of providing healthy recipes, but it's my horse's 26th birthday today!  I used to provide pony parties at my riding school, and these cupcakes were ever present for the festivities.  Have pony, will party!


Horse Cupcake
number of cupcakes desired, made according to box instructions or desired recipe
frosting the desired colors of the "ponies"
Bugles brand corn chips, for ears
chocolate chips or dark colored candies for eyes
small (1 1/2") peppermint patties for brown horse noses
marshmallows, sliced for white horse noses
shredded coconut for white horse hair, if desired
additional icing for decoration
  1. Make cupcakes according to instructions.  Allow to cool at least an hour and frost with warmed frosting.
  2. Dip Bugles in matching frosting and apply to the top of the cupcake as ears.
  3. Apply marshmallow slices or peppermint patties as noses.
  4. Decorate with candies, icing and coconut as desired.
  5. Don't forget to take pictures!

Try one of these (healthy-ish, but) yummy cupcake recipes:Chocolate Chip ZucchiniBanana

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