November is here, which means Thanksgiving planning season has officially begun in my family. The emails start to pour in just as the last trick-or-treaters head home. October ends with Halloween and November begins every year with an enthusiastic email from my aunt titled “THANKSGIVING!!!!!” What are your plans for Thanksgiving? Where should we have for Thanksgiving dinner? Who is bringing the pie? Your cousin might be in town, can someone forward this email to him? What are your in-laws’ plans? Is this your first Thanksgiving as a married couple??? (Nope, it’s our third.) Does anyone even like sweet potatoes? YES WE LIKE THE SWEET POTATOES. And so on and so forth.
I’ve had Thanksgiving on my mind all week, and with all the talk of turkey and my cousin’s favorite sweet potatoes, I’ve been craving my favorite Thanksgiving treat- Pumpkin Pie. If you’ve been following the blog for a while, you know I have a pretty serious pumpkin addiction. I bake pumpkin spice bagels year round, and I started drinking iced pumpkin spice lattes in July with no shame. Flipping through my recipe book, I found my overnight cinnamon rolls recipe. Scrumptious, hearty whole wheat cinnamon rolls just waiting to be pumpkin-fied. And just like that, pumpkin pie rolls were born.
People often ask me why I bake so many gluten-free recipes when I don’t follow gluten-free diet myself. It’s true- as an avid baker, I love my gluten! However, I have some dear friends and family members who are gluten-free, and it’s very important to me to develop and perfect treats they can enjoy.
I was struck by something my aunt said a few years ago about being gluten-free. We were at her daughter’s wedding and the bride (my cousin and best friend) and groom had carefully picked a menu they knew their guests would enjoy. Dinner was delicious- chicken with vegetables and mashed potatoes. We assumed my aunt would enjoy the same dish we did- except with grilled chicken instead of breaded, and without the thick gravy. Instead, servers brought her a gluten-free pasta dish. It was delicious, my aunt said, but it was different. When everyone else is eating chicken, you feel left out eating pasta. And no one likes being left out.
That story has stuck with me, and whenever I’m cooking or baking for someone with dietary restrictions, I do my best to make a comparable dish. I love to bake for family and friends, and I want everyone to be able to participate and enjoy, not pick around the things they can and cannot eat. Food is supposed to bring people together, not leave people out.
Don’t these cupcakes look delicious? No, the picture above isn’t of hard boiled eggs. Just cupcakes. Or as we like to call them, Easter Egg Cakes.
Five years ago, I was living in Southern France with a host family. Their four-year-old son was very excited to paint eggs for Easter. Like most kids in the US, I grew up dyeing hard boiled eggs, which were eaten within a few days. I was very curious when my host mom pulled out a set of shadow boxes, holding an eggs her sons had painted each year for Easter. How could she save eggs year after year without them rotting? The answer was by only saving the shells. My host family showed me how to drain, clean and prepare eggs to paint. Once dry, everyone picked their favorite egg for the shadow box, and the rest were displayed around the house. I so enjoyed this twist on a familiar tradition that I brought it home and painted eggshells with my family for Easter the next year. I’ve always broken and discarded eggshells, and the idea of carefully preserving them was foreign and intriguing. What other unexpected ways could I use eggshells?
Would you have ever believed that eggshells make terrific cupcake molds? At first glance, these eggs look like hard boiled eggs decorated for Easter. Crack them open, and they are full of cake! Magic. Do you remember being a kid a getting completely caught up in the magic and wonderment of every holiday? These cake-filled eggs bring me right back to those days.
Hands down, this is the best ever banana cake. It’s rich, moist and very, very banana-y. While some banana cakes have a subtle banana flavor, this one is unapologetic. If you love bananas, you will love this cake. The tangy cream cheese frosting balances perfectly with this sweet cake.
This recipe is from my cousin Dani. Several summers ago she and her family were visiting from Arizona and we decided to make a cake. We had a big group, so we decided to double the recipe. Except we forgot to check how much cake the original recipe would make. As we added ingredients, our batter got larger and larger, and we started searching for bigger mixing bowls, and eventually ended up using one of Grandma’s large stock pots to mix the batter. Whoops. We baked enough banana cake to feed our entire family, extended family, and still have left overs.
One of the many perks of working at a university are the beginning of semester festivities. One of the favorite traditions (for students and staff alike) is “cookie week”, when university staff pass out cookies to welcome students and faculty back to campus. The most popular cookies are cranberry walnut. These massive cookies are soft and gooey and packed with enough oatmeal, cranberries and nuts that we can pretend they are healthy (they’re not, I read the nutrition facts once). Now that we are half way into the spring semester, the next cookie week (and batch of cranberry cookies!) is more than two months away. Instead I made my own!
I decided to swap out the walnuts for pecans because I prefer pecans, and I didn’t have any walnuts and was not in the mood to run to the store. I think the pecans go nicely with the cranberries- even better than the walnuts! My go-to oatmeal cookie recipe actually came from the side of a can of oats, and it lent itself well to oatmeal cranberry pecan cookies! I’d recommend using dark brown sugar for a richer flavor, and if you like, you can use coconut oil instead of vegetable shortening (the cookies will spread out more, so make sure they have plenty of space).