ROSEMARY-POLENTA PUMPKIN COFFEECAKE

September 13, 2014

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For those of you that may not be aware, pumpkin and rosemary are two of my favorite things on the planet earth. I’ll come up with any excuse to use them in whatever I can, at any given moment. Rosemary is one of those things that I debate buying every time I’m at the grocery store, because I must have it on hand at all times, but nearly every block of Portland has at least one rosemary bush that is too plentiful to not be picked. One of the main reasons I look forward to eventually owning my own home is so that I can grow an herb garden and never have to worry about it. Rosemary shortage is never a good thing.

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Since it is not (yet) officially Fall, I felt a little overly ambitious and embarrassed baking this coffee cake last weekend. I love pumpkin so, so much that I just can’t contain my excitement and leave those cans of pumpkin puree in the cabinets untouched. But really, I have no shame in admitting my love for pumpkin and Fall. The leaves really are starting to change color and clutter the sidewalks, so I think it’s safe to say I am within the accepted guidelines. Looking to make something specifically squashy, I turned to my trusty Harvest of Pumpkins and Squash book (how crazy is it that Amazon remembers I bought this book six years ago?!) and opened right up to a Rosemary-Polenta Pumpkin Muffin recipe. I can’t believe I hadn’t yet made them before, but I wasn’t really feeling the muffin thing in that moment for some reason. So I opted for coffeecake, because coffeecake is the answer for everything.

It is pretty easy to convert most muffin recipes to coffee cake just by adding a streusel topping to the batter. That sweet, salty, cinnamon-y goodness is probably my favorite component of the coffeecake business. Just like the glistening, crusty-baked muffin top is my favorite component of the muffin business. I could eat just the toppings off and be a happy camper. But this particular pumpkin cake will make you want to eat the insides also. The combination of the rosemary, lemon zest, olive oil, polenta, pumpkin and warming spices is beyond anything you have ever tasted, I can assure you. I’d like to think of it as a classic Italian grandmother’s pumpkin cake recipe. And most importantly, it is a super straight-forward recipe that you can make for any autumn occasion that you and your friends will absolutely love. I had about 8 taste testers and all approved with the thumbs up!

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ROSEMARY-POLENTA PUMPKIN COFFEECAKE

Serves 10-12

Adapted from Harvest of Pumpkins and Squash

Ingredients:

  • 1/4 cup minced, fresh rosemary
  • 2 teaspoons grated lemon zest
  • 2 cups powdered sugar, plus 1 teaspoon
  • 1 2/3 cups all purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup polenta or cornmeal
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 3 teaspoons pumpkin pie spice
  • 3/4 teaspoon ground allspice
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 4 large eggs
  • 3/4 cup olive oil
  • 1 cup pumpkin puree
  • For the crumble topping:
    • 1/2 cup packed brown sugar
    • 1/2 cup all purpose flour
    • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
    • 4 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Coat a 9″ springform cake pan with baking spray oil, and set aside.
  2. In a small bowl, combine the rosemary and lemon zest, and mash together with 1 teaspoon of powdered sugar. In a large bowl, stir together the 2 cups of powdered sugar, flour, polenta, baking powder, spices, and salt. Add the eggs and rosemary mixture. Using an electric mixer set on medium speed, beat until blended. Slowly pour in the oil, beating until smooth. Add the pumpkin and beat until smooth, about 2 minutes longer.
  3. Spoon the batter into the prepared cake pan. Now prepare your crumble topping.
  4. In a small bowl, combine the sugar, flour, cinnamon and butter, and mix until it resembles coarse crumbs (I used my fingers). Sprinkle the topping over the cake and bake until golden brown, about 45 to 50 minutes. Transfer to a wire rack and let cool slightly, then remove from the springform pan. Store in an airtight container at room temp for up to 2 days, or wrap tightly and freeze for up to 1 month.
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APRICOT PISTACHIO CARDAMOM BARS

August 19, 2014

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Cardamom. Such a love/hate relationship from the very beginning. Let me be more specific: hate in the beginning, love in the end. Ironically enough, some of the best things in life end up working out that way every now and again, don’t they? How can something you so surely despise possibly open up your world and allow you love it in the end? Not many, but cardamom was surely one of those situations for me.

It all started when my mom took me out to a Sri Lankan vegetarian restaurant, let’s say about the age of 11 or 12. First off, I was not (yet) vegetarian at that time, and second, had no idea what garam masala or kofta or dosa or roti were. I blindly ordered some cardamom-spiced vegetable kofta, and sequentially called them…ahem… (excuse me) elephant poo balls. After my first taste, I threw down my fork with disgust and a frown, proclaiming to not eat another bite. Not even a bribe to get ice cream for dessert would make me want to finish that meal off. Never. Again. Or so I thought…

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So years went by, and I developed a liking for a semi-religious vegetarian lifestyle, while dabbling in some veganism also–what all started this blog in the first place. And that Sri Lankan restaurant soon became my favorite restaurant in town. I would beg and plead my family/friends/boyfriend/etc. to eat there with me at least several times a month. Those cardamom kofta “elephant poo balls” soon became one of my favorite dishes, and my tastebuds developed a liking to cardamom. And the rest is pretty much history; I’ve loved cardamom ever since, and have added a pinch here and there to many baked goods, in style, ever since 2007.

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After drooling over this amazing apricot bar dessert by Deb, I had been chomping at the bit to recreate it myself, with my own spin on things, ever since. Most of the time, I prefer to modify baking recipes to “make them my own” and experiment with flavors. The potential. I ask myself, what can I do to maximize flavor, make it unique, but not completely take away from the integrity of the base? That’s what I love about baking, and it is what keeps me coming back to my mixing bowl(s) time after time. With that being said, cardamom was the first spice that came to mind in making these unique on their own, and it was the perfect compliment. You’ll often see it paired with pistachios anyhow, but with apricots, you are in for thee most delightful surprise. Kind of a mediterranean/Turkish/Indian dessert, if you will. If only apricots were available all year (sigh), I would make this all the time! So ridiculously good, and more than likely you already have all of the ingredients, except for maybe the apricots and pistachios. Now go at it.

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APRICOT PISTACHIO CARDAMOM BARS

Adapted from the Smitten Kitchen

Makes 9-16 square bars (depending how you cut them) in an 8×8 glass dish

For the crust:

  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 teaspoon sea salt
  • 1/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cardamom
  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, chilled

For the filling:

  • 3/4 cup shelled, unsalted pistachios
  • 1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
  • few pinches of sea salt
  • 6 tablespoons sugar
  • 5 tablespoons unsalted butter, chilled
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 teaspoon brandy or almond extract (optional)
  • 1 pound firm-ripe apricots
  • powdered sugar, for finishing

Directions:

  1. Heat your oven to 350 degrees F. Cut two 12-inch lengths of parchment paper and trim each to fit the 8-inch width of an 8×8-inch square baking pan. Press it into the bottom and sides of your pan in one direction, then use the second sheet to line the rest of the pan, perpendicular to the first sheet. (If you have an 8-inch square springform, you can skip this and just butter it well.)
  2. Make the crust: Combine the flour, salt, sugar and cardamom in the bowl of a food processor. Cut the butter into chunks, and add it to the bowl, then run the machine until the mixture forms large clumps; it might take 30 seconds to 1 minute for it to come together, but it will. Transfer the dough clumps to your prepared baking pan and press it evenly across the bottom and 1/4-inch up the sides. Bake for 15 minutes, until very pale golden. For the sake of speed, transfer to a cooling rack in your freezer for 10 to 15 minutes while you prepare the filing. (Per Deb: don’t have a food processor? You might have an easier time using softened butter and preparing this cookie-style: cream it with the sugar with a hand mixer, then spoon in the salt and flour, beating until just combined. It might help to chill this mixture a bit before pressing it into the pan, or it might feel too greasy to easily spread.)
  3. Make the filling: In your food processor bowl (no need to clean between steps), grind your pistachios, sugar, flour and salt together until the nuts are powdery. Cut the butter into chunks and add it to the machine. Run the machine until no buttery bits are visible. Add any flavorings and egg, blending until just combined.
  4. Spread filling over mostly cooled (warmth is okay but it’s hoped that the freezer will have firmed the base enough that you can spread something over it) crust. Cut apricots in half (or, you might find that you can tear them open at the seams with your fingers) and remove pits. From here, you have a few decoration options: you can place the apricot halves in facedown or up all over the pistachio base. You can do as I did, which is cut them into strips, then slide each cut half onto a butter knife or offset spatula, tilt it so that it fans a little, and slide it onto your pistachio filling decoratively.
  5. Bake the bars for 60 minutes, or until they are golden and a toothpick inserted into the pistachio portion comes out batter-free. This might take up to 10 minutes longer depending on the juiciness of your apricots and the amount you were able to nestle in. Let cool completely in pan; you can hasten this along in the fridge.
  6. To finish, just dust a bit of powdered sugar on the top for extra prettiness.
  7. Cut bars into squares — chilled bars will give you the cleanest cuts. Keep leftover bars chilled.
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FRIDAY FAVORITES // AUG 15. 2014

August 15, 2014

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My, my, my. What a week, eh? Time flew by faster than I could even comprehend. I kept thinking Thursday was Wednesday. Wednesday didn’t even feel like it happened. But no, it’s Friday. Friday night, that is. I have to say I feel a little bruised by the last few days–emotionally, physically, mentally. All of the current events in the news have weighed on my heart and conscience. And work took a tole on my body. I am ready for some R&R like never before. My monthly massage can’t get here soon enough… one more week! My neck and shoulders are beginning to scream. I made some raw nut butter cups on Tuesday, but I’m not sure how esthetically pleasing they will look, despite their deliciousness. We’ll see how the photo shoot turns out this weekend.

In the meantime, more of this: (and less of this–makes me think of my favorite Vetiver song)

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Here are a few things that were on my radar this week…

  1. Another good nudge to start a regular meditation practice again.
  2. Why you will always think things will cost less than they do.
  3. Want to change a behavior? Read this first.
  4. What it was like to do improv with Robin Williams. Chills. Also- NASA. He will always have a fuzzy warm place in my heart.
  5. How yum does this honey lavender iced latte sound?!
  6. Hitting the “rest button” in your brain.
  7. Murakami has a new novel (!!!!!!)
  8. Five ways to make better small talk (without talking about the weather).
  9. The right oils to use in each beauty routine.
  10. 17 things women without children are tired of hearing. It’s true.
  11. This ombre mango cake is a work of art.
  12. Can I go here, like, right now?
  13. In love with the brightness and wood in this bathroom.
  14. Less than 50 pages away from finishing this, then it will be time for this, this, and this.

Cheers to a happy weekend with hopefully no to-do lists! I surely know I won’t be making one…

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PS. I made you guys some more popsicles! They’re ridiculous. Revealing soon…

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