Friday, October 30, 2009


Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Cookies

Love, love, love the combination of pumpkin and chocolate chips. These are lovely soft cookies and can be made with either chocolate chips or butterscotch chips. I made them both ways and preferred the chocolate variety. If you make them with the butterscotch chips leave out the nutmeg and cloves.

From Joy the Baker adapted from Big Fat Cookies

2 cups all-purpose flour

1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder

1 teaspoon soda

1/2 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1/4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg

1/4 teaspoon ground cloves

2 eggs

1 cup sugar

1/2 cup canola or corn oil

1 cup canned pumpkin

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1 cup chocolate chips, or any chip you like

Position a rack in the middle of the oven . Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper and butter the paper.

Stir the flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt and spices together in a medium bowl and set aside. In a large bowl, using an electric mixer on medium speed, beat the eggs and sugar until smooth and lightened in color, about 1 minute. Stop the mixer and scrape the sides of the bowl as needed during mixing. On low speed, mix the oil, pumpkin, and vanilla until blended. Mix in the flour mixture to incorporate it. Mix in the chips.

Using an ice cream scoop with a 1/4-cup capacity, scoop mounds of the dough onto the prepared baking sheets, spacing the cookies at least 2 1/2-inches apart. You could also simply use a 1/4-cup measuring cup if you don’t have a scoop. Use a thin metal spatula to smooth and flatten the rounds.

Bake the cookies one sheet at a time until the tops feel firm and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out dry, about 16 minutes. Cool them on the baking sheet for 5 minutes, then use a wide metal spatula to transfer the cookies to a wire rack to cool completely.

Dust the cooled cookies lightly with powdered sugar. The cookies can be stored in a tightly covered container at room temperature for up to 4 days.

Monday, October 26, 2009


Well, I succumbed and bought a Kindle. I love it. Fortunately I bought it after a few price drops although it is still pricey. However, for traveling it is such a treat. I loaded it with a bunch of classics which are free or at the most 99 cents. And I boarded the plane with only my 10.2 ounce Kindle for reading--not my usual two or three books.

Amazon has a nifty no-charge option to order a sample of a book which is about one chapter in length. I ordered three samples: The Shipping News, The Lost Symbol, and The Children's Book. And of course, I will still be buying (cheaply through Abe, etc.) or borrowing beautiful books!

But in the meantime, I have read a few books this month. Watching the English, written by Anthropologist Kate Fox, was an educational read about the quirks and manners of the English. Sometimes tedious so I skipped a few sections, but I learned a lot about the English which is interesting to an Anglophile like me.

Cider with Rosie, an autobiography by Laurence "Laurie" Lee, is about Lee's growing-up years in a small village in the Cotswolds during World War I. He didn't write this book until the late 50's yet his writing details very specific incidents as if they had just happened. I didn't expect Lee's writing to be so finely crafted and lush. He could describe a leaf 17 different ways and I would enjoy reading each description.

Cemetary Yew was another Cynthia Riggs book set in Martha's Vineyard. Her series with Victoria Trumbull are well-written escapes for me. I love to read a book that includes a change of season that I'm not experiencing!

Finally, Speech-Less: Tales of a White House Survivor was a lot of fun. Written by my friend Matt Latimer, it is far more harmless than former Bush staffers have whined about publicly. If you are political you will enjoy the inside view from the Pentagon and the White House.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009


Solarizing our flower bed seems to have worked on those rotten weeds. But here is the odd thing: it appears the Freesia bulbs have survived. So the Arizona sun baked the dickens out of those insideous weeds but the sweet little Freesias may be blooming soon? I never would have guessed. Sweet peas (remember to soak your seeds overnight before planting) and a whole slew of bulbs will be planted next month. The ground is ready. We added 11 bags of manure and some of our own compost. Isn't that soil gorgeous?

The basil went wild this summer--I've been pruning it back weekly. I recently planted fennel, cilantro, and dill seeds and they are all coming up right on schedule. I also planted a herb I've never heard of--pennyroyal. I haven't done a bit of research on it but thought it was pretty so I bought it. I also transplanted flat leaf parsley (my favorite parsley), don't you find the curly parsley annoying?

Last month we planted (from seed) Choggia beets, Olympia spinach, various lettuces, a couple varieties of chinese cabbage, French Breakfast radishes, and green onions. All are peaking their little heads out now. More of our compost in the garden boxes above. We are now cooking up our Fall batch of compost.

The photo above makes my little garden boxes look a bit tipsy, they aren't. Apparently the photographer (me) was tilting a little more to the right than usual.

Saturday, October 17, 2009


What's your favorite Autumn treat? I'm torn between apples and pumpkins. Both are gorgeous creations and both have that yummy taste that says, "Fall has arrived!" Their smell, taste, and appearance gives us low desert dwellers hope that it is finally cooling down and triple digits are a thing of the past (fingers crossed) .

This recipe is adapted from Simply Recipes (one of my favorite cooking blogs).
I added 1/3 more oatmeal and brown sugar since I like a lot of crunchy topping. Nutmeg is also a favorite so I added a dash. And I prefer chopped versus sliced apples in these types of recipes.

I made this for a Sunday night dessert and my family loved it. My brother-in-law Steve noticed the flavor of the apples was very pronounced since there wasn't as much sugar to mask its flavor. I agree.

Apple Crisp Recipe

Adapted from Simply Recipes

Ingredients7 tart apples, peeled, cored and sliced
4 teaspoons fresh lemon juice
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
1 1/3 cups brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1 1/3 cups rolled oats
1/2 cup butter, room temperature


1 Preheat oven to 375°F. In a mixing bowl, combine apples, lemon juice, and vanilla. Toss to combine.

2 Place chopped apples in a 9 x 12-inch (I used slightly smaller) baking pan.

3 Combine brown sugar, cinnamon, nutmeg, and oatmeal in a bowl. Cut in the butter. Sprinkle sugar mixture over apples.

4 Bake 45 minutes or until topping looks crunchy and apples are tender.

Serves 8. Serve with whipped cream or vanilla ice cream

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

MINESTRONE SOUP - Simply Recipes

I love a recipe that is delicious, easy, smells great, and is forgiving when you trade ingredients out for those you have on hand. Plus I love making (and eating) soup.

This comes from Simply Recipes. I had most everything already in the fridge and pantry but I did swap out a few ingredients--I didn't have parsley but I had an abundance of rosemary and it tasted great. I didn't have cabbage but I had plenty of swiss chard (spinach would also work) and that turned out great, too. I used canned cannellini beans and pancetta (bacon would also work).


1 - 1 1/2 cups dried Cannellini or Great Northern Beans
2 ounces salt pork or pancetta
10 to 12 cups beef or chicken broth
1 onion, chopped
1 celery stalk, chopped
1 carrot, chopped
2 garlic cloves, chopped
1 cup loosely packed parsley, chopped
1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
1/2 head savoy or curly cabbage, sliced
1 potato, diced
2 zucchini, diced
2 carrots, diced
2 cups chopped Italian styled peeled plum tomatoes
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
Parmesan cheese, grated for garnish

1 Soak beans overnight in cold water. Drain beans, rinse, and place them in a large saucepan or stockpot. Add salt pork or pancetta and 6 cups of broth. Cover and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and cook gently for about 1 hour.

2 Heat oil in a separate large stockpot. Add chopped vegetables (onion, celery, carrot, garlic, parsley) and sauté gently 5 to 8 minutes or until lightly browned. Add remaining vegetables and tomatoes. Add remaining 5 cups broth. Simmer for 40 to 50 minutes or until vegetables are tender.

3 Remove salt pork or pancetta from beans. Dice finely. Transfer half of the beans to a food processor or a blender and blend into a paste. Add mashed beans to the vegetables. Add remaining whole beans, broth, and diced pork to vegetables.

4 Simmer 5 minutes longer. Season soup with salt and pepper. Serve with a sprinkle of grated Parmesan cheese.

Serves 10-12

Saturday, October 10, 2009


There have been a few interior design books I've had my eye on for quite a while. But even with a 40% discount from Border's or Amazon I haven't wanted to spend the money. But lo and behold they've been parked at my local library this whole time!

What a treat to pick up these books and take them home to peruse at my leisure. Kathryn M. Ireland (the Brit, not the former model), Bunny Williams, and Charlotte Moss are some of my favorite interior designers. It's always interesting to me to see just what they do to make a room comfortable and stylish. Some of what they do is waaay too over the top for me and over done. But I can usually learn something from each of the rooms depicted. Maybe it will be a color combination I hadn't thought of or using an item a different way than it was intended.

Interior design books and magazines help me to think a little differently about design--and I'm a great copycat. For instance, I needed something to hold the piles of mail received at home, not just stacked on the counter. So I found a deep lid from a square basket and now I have something good looking to hold the mail.

Then I took a pottery bowl that I seldom use and put it to use holding all of my half-empty seed packets. Functional and good looking. These are minor changes but they perk things up a bit around the house.

I know I've gone off a bit about interior design when the real purpose of this post is to say, "Yea for libraries!". New technology has made it so easy to check-out a book. A click to find out if the library has the book, then a click to put it on hold, another click to have it delivered to the branch nearest you. Then an email is sent stating "your book is ready for pick-up". You can even renew on-line. It couldn't be easier. So, three cheers for libraries! Use them.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

SNICKERDOODLES - Smitten Kitchen

Don't you think "Snickerdoodle" is one of the great words in the English vocabulary? I do.

A friend of mine did me a very nice favor and when I asked him how much I owed him he answered, "Well, a plate of Snickerdoodles would take care of it."

Not having made Snickerdoodles before, I went straight to Smitten Kitchen and found just what I was looking for.

These cookies are easy to make and just the right thickness--not too thin to be crispy and not too thick to be too doughy. It would be a great cookie to make with children, they would love rolling the dough into little balls and then rolling them through the cinnamon-sugar mixture.

Adapted from Martha Stewart
Makes three dozen 3 to 4-inch cookies. Your mileage will vary by the size scoop you use.

2 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons cream of tartar
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
16 tablespoons (2 stick or 8 ounces) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 3/4 cups sugar, plus more if needed
2 tablespoons ground cinnamon, plus more if needed
2 large eggs

Preheat the oven to 400°, with one rack in top third and one rack in bottom third of oven. Line baking sheets with silicone baking mats or parchment paper; set aside.

Sift together flour, cream of tartar, baking soda, and salt; set aside. In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, combine butter and 1 1/2 cups sugar. Beat on medium speed until light and fluffy, about 2 minutes. Scrape down sides of bowl. Add eggs, and beat to combine. Add dry ingredients, and beat to combine. I chilled the dough for an hour (or you can overnight) before scooping it, because I otherwise found it too difficult to scoop into balls and roll but the original recipe doesn’t find this step neccessary.

Once dough has chilled, in a small bowl, combine remaining 1/4 cup sugar and the ground cinnamon. Use a small ice-cream scoop to form balls of the dough, and roll in cinnamon sugar. Place about two inches apart on the prepared baking sheets. Bake until the cookies are set in center and begin to crack (they will not brown), about 10 minutes, rotating the baking sheets after five minutes. Transfer the sheets to a wire rack to cool about five minutes before transferring the cookies to the rack. They can be stored in an airtight container up to one week.

Friday, October 2, 2009

COCONUT CUPCAKES - Barefoot Contessa

Heavenly. Lovely. Pretty. Enjoy.


3/4 pound (3 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature
2 cups sugar
5 extra-large eggs at room temperature
1 1/2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
1 1/2 teaspoons pure almond extract
3 cups flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1 cup buttermilk
14 ounces sweetened, shredded coconut

For the frosting:

1 pound cream cheese at room temperature
3/4 pound (3 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon pure almond extract
1 1/2 pounds confectioners' sugar, sifted


Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F.

In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream the butter and sugar on high speed until light and fluffy, about 5 minutes. With the mixer on low speed, add the eggs, 1 at a time, scraping down the bowl after each addition. Add the vanilla and almond extracts and mix well.

In a separate bowl, sift together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. In 3 parts, alternately add the dry ingredients and the buttermilk to the batter, beginning and ending with the dry. Mix until just combined. Fold in 7 ounces of coconut.

Line a muffin pan with paper liners. Fill each liner to the top with batter. Bake for 25 to 35 minutes, until the tops are brown and a toothpick comes out clean. Allow to cool in the pan for 15 minutes. Remove to a baking rack and cool completely.

Meanwhile, make the frosting. In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, on low speed, cream together the cream cheese, butter, and vanilla and almond extracts. Add the confectioners' sugar and mix until smooth.

Frost the cupcakes and sprinkle with the remaining coconut.

Makes 24 regular sized cupcakes