Tag Archives: pumpkin

Pumpkin Spice Granola

I’ve lived in places where fall is fleeting. At first sight of one yellow leaf in Central Oregon, I would fall myself – into a preemptive winter depression, knowing that we were in for 6 months of cold, icy days. North Carolina, however, has 4 legitimate seasons, and fall lasts a glorious 2-3 months, during which the rolling hills become sprinkled with color (“Like a pack of Lifesavers,” according to Grant) and the humidity blows away, but the hard chill hasn’t taken hold.

Many people head to the Blue Ridge Parkway to enjoy the foliage-gasm around us. We head to the mountains, too, and enjoy the smell of burning hickory logs and my pumpkin spice granola, punctuated with sweet fruit and crunchy nuts and seeds.

I baked this granola twice as long as it called for because I like really toasted granola – but don’t break your jaw, remember that the granola hardens as it cools. A wonderful, healthy fall breakfast…

Adapted from The Pastry Affair.

Pumpkin Spice Granola


  • 3/4 cup pumpkin puree
  • 1 T pumpkin pie spice
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 3/4 cup brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup maple syrup
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 4 cups old fashioned oats
  • 1 1/2 c. mixed dried fruit and nuts (I used almonds, cranberries, pumpkin seeds and soy beans)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Line a large baking sheet with parchment paper.

In a large bowl, mix together the pumpkin puree, pumpkin pie spice, vanilla extract and salt. Stir in the brown sugar and maple syrup until smooth. Add the oats, fruit, nuts and seeds, stirring until granola is evenly coated.

Spread out evenly on prepared baking sheet. Bake for 20 minutes and stir the granola around. Bake for an additional 30-40 min, or to your desired doneness, stirring occasionally. Allow to cool completely before storing in an air-tight container.

We spooned the warm granola over cool Greek yogurt and the mix of temperatures was nice.

Then we went out and looked at the prettiness – and the Christmas tree farms!

Deck view: Sunrise on our last day…

Hope everyone is having a great fall. Enjoy, friends! xoxo


Pumpkin Beer Pretzels

As you can see from the photo above, fall in The South hits us later than the rest of the country. Yes, we have pumpkin spice lattes and pumpkin beer, but we also have vine-ripened watermellon and ripe peaches fresh in the farm stands.

But that doesn’t mean we can’t still get into the seasonal mood, with an amber pumpkin ale and a yeasty pretzel to enjoy with fall football. I never really watch football, but I love just having it on in the background on the weekends. A great backdrop when I’m making rich curries or wine-soaked beef short ribs with bacon and wild mushroom polenta (THAT was amazing, recipes to come!).

These pumpkin beer pretzels are not really pumpkin-flavored. Or beer flavored. But while you’re making them, you can sure smell it. Originally from We Are Not Martha, I had to tweak this recipe quite a bit to make it work – adding way more flour and kneading more than it originally called for. Actually, they were kind of a pain and made a huge, sticky floury mess. But they baked up nicely and were tasty with a side of grainy mustard and a frothy beer in an iced glass. I snuggled into my new sectional couch with my steaming pretzel and a weekend game, and I was set.

Pumpkin Beer Pretzels


  • 1 packet active dry yeast (2 1/4 t)
  • 1/2 C warm water, plus 2 C warm water
  • 1/2 T sugar
  • 1/2 t salt
  • 1 t olive oil
  • 1 C pumpkin beer of your choice
  • 5-7 C all-purpose flour
  • 1 t baking soda
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • 2-3 T coarse salt
  • 1 T butter, melted
  1. In a large bowl, whisk yeast with 1/2 cup warm water. Let rest for about 5 minutes, until frothy.
  2. Stir in sugar, salt, and olive oil. Pour in the beer. With a wooden spoon, stir the flour in one cup at a time.
  3. Knead the dough on a lightly floured surface for about 8 minutes, adding more flour to keep it from sticking. It is done when it becomes a smooth, elastic ball. Put dough into a lightly oiled bowl, place in a warm spot, cover with a kitchen towel, and let sit for an hour or so to rise.
  4. Punch the dough down and divide into 12 balls. Roll each dough ball into a rope and shape the rope into a pretzel by forming into a “u” and crossing one end down, followed by the other end.
  5. Mix your remaining 2 C warm water with 1 t baking soda in a baking pan or other shallow dish. Dip the formed pretzels in. Place on a greased baking sheet. Continue with remaining dough balls. Cover with a kitchen towel again and let rise for another 20 minutes. Preheat oven to 425.
  6. Brush each pretzel lightly with beaten egg. Sprinkle with kosher salt. Bake for about 15 minutes, until lightly browned on top.
  7. Right when they come out of the oven, brush them with a little melted butter for an extra yummy taste.

The crust is crunchy and the inside is nice and chewy. These aren’t as good as those ones you get at the mall, but still…

Spoon some spicy mustard into a dish for serving, or just eat away! They would also be good sawed in half for a sandwich.

Enjoy, friends! xoxo

Baby pumpkins roasted with applesauce

Oh my. I am not doing a pumpkin challenge again this year, but I cannot resist the orange cuteness that exists in these soft gourds. As if nature created the perfect receptacle for soups, dips and — in this case — homemade applesauce.

I found this recipe in Ina Garten’s Barefoot Contessa cookbook. Her version  takes hours longer to make (baking the applesauce first in a dutch oven), but my abridged version still has all the fall-friendly ambiance that you want from apples baking in cinnamon, allspice, cloves and nutmeg. Place the smooshy apples into hollowed pumpkins, then bake, and you have a pretty side dish or dessert in an edible container.

First, you must make my applesauce…

Write Gal’s Smooshy Applesauce


  • 5 lbs. apples, mix of Jonagold and gala (or ask the farmer which apples are best for sauce – I used a mixture of those that break down and those that remain chunky)
  • Juice and zest of 2 oranges
  • Juice and zest of 1 lemon
  • Apple cider
  • 2 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp allspice
  • 1/2 tsp nutmeg
  • Pinch cloves
  • Pinch salt

Peel, core and chop apples into chunks. Add to heavy-bottomed saucepan over medium heat. Add zest and juice of lemon and oranges. Stir to combine. Add 1 c. apple cider and all the spices and salt. Stir to combine and bring to a bubble. Reduce to simmer and stir occasionally, adding apple cider to prevent it from drying out (note: watch the heat, if the apples begin to brown on the bottom, turn it down). Check for seasonings (it’s always okay to add more spices) – and you’re done! Stored in an airproof container, this will keep at least a week.

Now, for the pumpkins…

  • 6 baby pumpkins, hollowed, tops saved (try to find those that are the same size – farmers’ market pumpkins are sweeter and easier to cut)
  • S&P
  • Homemade applesauce

Coat rimmed baking sheet with cooking spray. Get your pumpkins ready…

Sprinkle pumpkins liberally with salt and pepper.

Fill each with reserved applesauce (can be cold).

Then, place the lids lightly on top and roast in a preheated 350 degree oven until sauce is bubbling and pumpkins are tender – around 45 min. The house will smell wonderful! Like both an apple pie and pumpkin pie are baking in the oven.

These would also be great with a scoop of vanilla ice cream over the top, or freshly whipped cream. Enjoy, friends! x0x0

A Pretentious Thanksgiving

Ever since I knew that friends of ours have hosted a Pretentious Thanksgiving at their D.C.-area home for the past five years, I’ve wanted to be invited.

This year was the best to join: it was the best-of Pretentious Thanksgiving, meaning that guests voted on their favorite dishes from the past five years, all of which would be featured at the dinner.

So, a little context: A couple that Jesse will soon be related to began this tradition based on their love of hosting parties and the idea that making it pretentious would be funny. People could dress all uppity and the food would be ridiculously full of itself. A wine pairing would be included in each course, with a tobacco course between before the dessert course.

Over the years, the party has grown from eight people to 24 people, making it quite the pretentious social event. People drive from all over the East Coast to attend, partying like a bunch of Gatsby guests lingering well into the night.

I am basically in love with this party idea. I enjoy themed parties and I love wearing pearls and argyle even more! The weekend was so breathtakingly awesome that I’ll tell the rest of the story with pictures, from our shopping trips to food preparation to the meal itself.

We started at the farmers' market, full of beautiful fall bounty

All these colorful radishes! Whoever heard of black radishes?

Brussel's Sprouts

We came for haricots verts and got caught up by the wild mushrooms.

When we got home from the market, Merissa and I began making the mantle decoration, for which she had bought some small squashes. She hollowed them out and inserted a scented votive candle. Then, we foraged for pretty leaves, acorns and pine cones around the garden. I even clipped some beautiful Japanese maple branches to add to the decor.

I am obsessed with these!

Martha Stewart, feel free to call us anytime

All decorations aside, the night was about the food. Here is the menu:

First course: Sweet-potato ravioli with browned-butter sage sauce, toasted pine nuts and fried shallots.

Ravioli is stuffed, ready for boiling

It was simply amazing. A-Maze-Ing. Red pepper flakes added a nice pepper kick and those shallots on top...I will be making this again SOON.

Second course: Cranberry salad with spiced pecans, goat cheese and a sweet vinaigrette.

I can love any salad with spiced nuts and goat cheese. And healthy!

Third course: Haricot verts with roasted potatoes, walnuts and Roquefort

They make this dish every year. I guess I hadn't had Roquefort cheese before because this blew my mind. It tasted rich, savory and somehow smoky. Drool.

Fourth course: stuffing…

Wild mushroom stuffing, which was the most expensive dish of the night.

Oyster stuffing: I always dreamed that oyster stuffing would contain that much butter...and be that delicious. Heaven.

And turkey two ways: smoked…

The boys fussed over this all night.

And roasted with herbs:

A beautiful scene

(Tobacco course)

Dessert course: Pumpkin profiteroles with rum-caramel sauce

Paired with a sweet sherry.

And let’s not forget a whole lotta wine:

I’ll be hosting my own Thanksgiving dinner in a couple weeks, and while it may not be pretentious, it hopefully will be as delicious as this special meal. I just hope I get invited next year!

Cheers, friends. xoxo

Roasted pumpkin seeds

Happy Halloween!


I always try to make roasted pumpkin seeds when we carve pumpkins. They are so easy and fun to munch on. I’ve found that one pumpkin’s worth is plenty, so don’t drive yourself crazy collecting everybody’s seeds.

Some people have special recipes for these things. I’ve seen the sweet and the savory. But I just do mine simply:

Once you’ve carved the pumpkins, separate the seeds from most of the goop. Leave some goop on, it will be yummy roasted. DO NOT WASH THE SEEDS. Spread the raw, slimy seeds on a cooking sheet and sprinkle with seasoned salt (or salt and pepper) and paprika. Roast at 400, tossing a few times, until crisped up. We like ours still a little soft in the middle.


Enjoy, friends! xoxo

Pumpkin-bourbon bread pudding with maple cream

Cobbled pumpkin goodness

Cobbled pumpkin goodness

Pumpkin Challenge No. 6!!! Are you guys getting tired of this yet? We only have a couple more to go, and my waistline would like to thank me for that fact. Why does pumpkin always have to be in the most rich, fattening recipes?

Alas, fattening = delicious. This is a recipe that I got from Smitten Kitchen. Although this time I made it, I used fresh brioche from Ollie’s Bakery. It was a hugely awesome change. That dense, eggy bread all baked in a custard … heaven. I also left the crusts on for added color, and because I’m too old to be cutting off my crusts (remember that, mom?).

Ollie's brioche

Ollie's brioche

I also put way too much bourbon in. Probably 1/4 c. instead of the 2 T that they recommend. But I thought, we bought all this Maker’s Mark…why waste it? I would recommend holding off, because it can be really strong. Not the worst thing to happen, but still.

SK originally got this recipe from Gourmet (RIP).


1 c. heavy cream plus 1/2 c. whole milk

3/4 c. canned pumpkin

1/2 c. sugar

2 eggs plus 1 yolk

1/2 tsp. salt

1 tsp cinnamon

1/2 tsp. ground ginger

1/8 tsp. ground allspice

Pinch ground cloves

2 T bourbon

5 cups cubed day-old bread (3/4 loaf for me)

3/4 stick unsalted butter, melted.


Preheat oven to 350 with rack in the middle.

In a large bowl, whisk pumpkin, cream, milk, sugar, eggs, yolk, salt, spices and bourbon.

In another bowl, toss the bread with butter. Add the pumpkin mixture and toss gently to coat. Transfer to an ungreased 8-inch square baking dish. Bake until the custard is set, 25-30 min.

Dark parts are the brioche crusts

Dark parts are the brioche crusts

This can be served warm or cool. I whipped up a cup of heavy cream with a splash of maple syrup to put on top and I thought the maple was a nice addition. Reminded me of another recipe from the pumpkin challenge.

Brioche layers

Brioche layers

Enjoy, friends! xoxo

Marbled pumpkin cheesecake


Taking a bite into this silken wonder, I am transported to a cozy kitchen with a turkey roasting in the oven, cranberry sauce bubbling on the stove and fresh rolls steaming on the counter.

The roasted nuttiness of the pecan-gingersnap crust, the bite of cream cheese and the wonderful smell of spiced pumpkin – These are the things that make this recipe my favorite in the Pumpkin Challenge. Here we are at #5 – a recipe I’ve had for years and that people seem to LOVE.

And I must say, the swirled top does give it a rather professional look…


Here’s the recipe:

1.5 c. crushed gingersnap cookies

1/2 c. chopped pecans

1/3 c. butter, melted

16 oz. cream cheese, room temp.

3/4 c. sugar, divided

1 tsp. vanilla extract

3 eggs

1 c. canned pumpkin (I used the whole can)

3/4 tsp. ground cinnamon

1/4 tsp. ground nutmeg


Preheat oven to 350. In a bowl, mix cookies, pecans and butter. Press into a 9-inch springform pan and bake for 10 minutes. Set aside to cool.

In a medium bowl, use and electric mixer to combine cream cheese, 1/2 c. sugar and vanilla. Add eggs in one at a time, beating well after each. Set aside 1 c. of mixture. Blend in 1/4 c. sugar, pumpkin, cinnamon and nutmeg. Spread pumpkin batter into the crust. Drop plain batter in spoonfuls. With a knife, swirl the two around to create a marbled effect.

Bake the cheesecake for 55 minutes, or until the custard is set (just barely wiggles in the center). Run a knife around the edge of the pan and let it cool before removing rim. Chill at least 4 hours before serving.


Yum Yum Yum. I used 1/3 less fat cream cheese on this, but whatever floats your boat. Enjoy, friends! xoxo

Brownies with a pumpkin swirl

When chocolate attacks

When chocolate attacks

Sometimes, you have one of those days when you accidentally put twice as much butter in a recipe as it calls for. Oh, and then you put in too much chocolate. Yeah, Pumpkin Challenge #4 is the result of these amateur’s errors.

You can find the recipe here. I’m not going to post it because…you probably don’t want to make what I made. Not that it tasted bad – quite good, actually – it’s just bad for you.

I was surprised that the brownies actually came out brownie-like. Same texture, very chocolatey, nice and moist. The pumpkin was easily overwhelmed by the chocolate, though, but that was my bad.

Still, they are pretty and a nice rich treat that will inspire you to run a mile.

Enjoy, chocoholics! xoxo


Pumpkin-ginger waffles

Pumpkin challenge No. 3!

A sweet brunch

A sweet brunch

I found this recipe in Country Living. It takes less than 30  minutes to make and is surprisingly healthy, according to the nutritional info in the magazine. I also like this recipe because it only uses 1/2 c. canned pumpkin puree, which is all I had left. The original recipe includes chopped up crystallized ginger, but I decided that I didn’t need it. It is still QUITE gingery without those chewy pieces.


1 1/2 c. flour

1 1/2 tsp. baking powder

1 1/2 tsp. baking soda

1/4 tsp. salt

2 tsp. ground ginger

1/2 tsp. cinnamon

2 large eggs

1/4 c. buttermilk

1/2 c. canned pumpkin puree (about half a can)

1/2 c. sugar

1/4 tsp. vanilla extract

3 T unsalted butter, melted and cooled

Get out your waffle iron and heat it.

Combine flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, ginger and cinnamon in a large bowl.

In another bowl, whisk eggs, buttermilk, pumpkin, sugar, vanilla. Whisk in flour mixture until combined. Stir in butter.

Scoop about 1/2 c. of the batter into the waffle iron and cook to your desired doneness. Keep the finished waffles in the oven at 200 degrees to stay warm.

With these, I browned up patties of chicken Italian sausage that was 50% off at Harris Teeter’s a while back. Horray for the discount meat bin! The sausage was a nice addition to the waffles, which totally smelled like pumpkin pie. They weren’t too pumpkiny, but were more spiced tasting.

Both Jesse and I  really, really liked the waffles. They were very sweet, especially with all the maple syrup we poured over them. You’ll definitely need a glass of cold milk to wash it down, and this recipe made enough for two mornings’ worth of breakfast (stretching those $$$).

Enjoy, friends! xoxo

Pumpkin ice cream sandwiches

Like a pumpkin-spice latte in dessert form!

Like a pumpkin-spice latte in dessert form!

So far on the pumpkin challenge (my one-person challenge to make a new pumpkin recipe each week from now until Halloween), I’ve made the chocolate-pumpkin tart. Recipe No. 2, also courtesy of Martha, is her pumpkin ice cream sandwiches.

I must say that I’m continually impressed by my ice cream-making skills since I moved to The South. I don’t know if I’m just choosing better recipes or the milk is creamier here, but the ice cream always comes out thicker, almost frothy, and so, so smooth.

However, I did have some hiccups. Let me chart out this multi-day baking experience:

Day one: I made the ginger-molasses cookies. I had all the ingredients on hand, so I made the dough one night when I had the time. They needed to chill overnight.

Day two: I got up early after a late night at The Opera House (dive bar in W-S) so I could bake the cookies and make the dulce de leche, which you need for the ice cream. Dulce de leche takes two hours to cook (sweetened condensced milk stirred over a double-boiler).

My rental oven bit back by burning the entire bottom sheet of cookies = trash. Luckily, I had 12 perfect cookies on the top sheet. I just love that gingerbread smell…


Finally, I decided that the dulce de leche was done. It had been cooking about 160 minutes.


Next, and this is still day 2, I made the ice cream custard, which included heating, cooling, reheating, then mixing milk, cream, cinnamon, eggs, sugar, pumpkin puree and cloves. And the dulce de leche. I poured the custard into what I would soon realize was only a partially-frozen ice cream bowl (fail). I poured the custard out of it and put the ice-cream thing back in the freezer.

Later that night and after another five-hour experience (pot roast), I thought the ice cream thing would be ready….it got part of the way there, but then melted again. Fail! For those who don’t have an ice cream machine, here’s what: you need to freeze the mixing container that you pour the custard into. When it spins, the custard freezes evenly. But you need to freeze that thing at least 24 hours, especially if you live in a hot, humid climate.

Day three: After work, I attacked the ice cream situation again. This time: success! After the ice cream firmed up in the freezer, I scooped it, sandwiched it between the ginger cookies and froze everything again.

The ginger cookies taste like a gingersnap crust for a pumpkin pie or something. I like that crunchy texture with the creaminess of the ice cream. Watching Top Chef has taught me that dishes should have complimentary textures, so I think this is a win.

Until I noticed that the container holding my ice cream was covered in cat hair. How does she do it??!?

Kitty, eyeing the rainbows on the wall

Kitty, eyeing the rainbows on the wall