Monday, September 30, 2013

Pumpkin Week - Streusel Topped Pumpkin Loaf

Blah, blah, I love fall, blah blah blah. So does everyone else. Here's some math (I love math) - fall is the favorite season of 1/3 of Americans. With 4 seasons, that's statistically significant. Trust me - I'm a scientist.

Is anyone still reading this? Nothing says "Hook 'em" like a math opener. Let's start over.


I do like fall. Just not in the Northwest. The rain has started. The rain is here to stay. The rain will continue, practically non-stop until May. What MOST people love about fall is the same sort of list that I used to have about fall in Denver. The bite of the first frost. The cooler days. The rainbow of leaf colors, with the still-green-grass, against the back drop of clear blue sky. A last chance to get outside and enjoy the weather before winter hits. Maybe the first snow. Pumpkin spice lattes blowing up my news feed.

Very few of these things overlap with Pacific Northwest falls. Except for the Pumpkin Spice Lattes (OMG, we get it, okay?). Another thing the PNW brings for fall is spider. Oh. Em. Gee. The spiders. They are EVERYWHERE. I honestly do not remember that the spiders were this bad here last year. And two years ago, we were in an apartment building with indoor entryways. Hardly any spiders there. Oh, those were the days. But now, on the ground level, surrounded by trees, and with lots of windows, I'm constantly afraid. And just when I let my guard down... BOOM! That black thread is actually a beast.

ANYWAY. Aside from fear, fall for me is about baking. Since I can't go outside and enjoy the color like everyone else, my weekends are full of fires, open blinds (to see the color), and a cranked oven. Recently, I cranked out this pumpkin loaf that I found online. It is so insanely good. It is so moist and crumbly that it goes down just a little too easily. Lots of pumpkin, just a bit of crunch on top, and just a hint of sweet. For something a little richer, it's great with butter, left over cream cheese frosting, or even a little Greek yogurt. I can easily see keeping a loaf of this on hand in the freezer for emergency cravings.

Before you get too far ahead, be sure to check out some of the other Pumpkin Week Specials!
Monday: Kirsten from Comfortably Domestic makes Pumpkin Cinnamon Rolls

Tuesday: Jeanne from Inside Nana Bread's Head makes Pumpkin Waffles
Carrie from Bakeaholic Mama makes Pumpkin Pie Macarons

Wednesday: Megan from Wanna Be a County Cleaver makes Pumpkin Cheesecake
Allison from Decadent Philistines Take Over The World makes Pumpkin Marshmallows
Shanna from Pineapple and Coconut makes Pumpkin Risotto

Thursday: Anne from From My Sweet Heart makes Pumpkin Donuts
Kat from Tenaciously Yours makes Marbled Gingersnap Tart
Mads from La Petite Pancake makes Pumpkin Spice Cake with Frosting

Friday: Madeline from Munching in the Mitten makes Savory Pumpkin Tart
Lauren from Climbing Grier Mountain makes Pumpkin Mousse
Kirsten from Comfortably Domestic makes Pumpkin Kiss Cookies

Saturday: Monica from The Grommom makes Pumpkin Ice Cream
I'm back with Pumpkin Scones

Pumpkin Streusel Bread
Adapted from Mommy, I'm Hungry

1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 tsp pumpkin pie spice
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp baking powder
3/4 tsp salt
1/2 cup (1 stick) butter
1 1/4 cups sugar
3 large eggs
1 cup canned pureed pumpkin (not pre-seasoned pumpkin pie filling)
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/3 cup milk

2/3 cup plus 2 Tbl rolled oats
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 cup firmly packed light brown sugar
1/2 tsp cinnamon
6 Tbl butter

  1. Preheat oven to 350*F.
  2. Grease two loaf pans (or a 9x9 pan) and line with parchment paper.
  3. To make the topping, combine 2/3 cup oats, flour, sugar, and cinnamon in a food processor. Add butter and cut it just until crumbly. Transfer mixture to a bowl. Stir in remaining oats. Set aside.
  4. Whisk together the flour, pumpkin spice, baking soda, baking powder, and salt in a large bowl.
  5. In the bowl of a mixer, but the butter until smooth. Add in the sugar and whip until light and fluffy. Add the eggs, one at a time. Scrape in between additions, and stir until well-combined.
  6. Add the pumpkin and vanilla extract to the butter mixture.
  7. Gradually add the dry ingredients. Slowly add the milk. Transfer the batter to the pans. Spread the topping gently and evenly between the pans.
  8. Bake the loaves for about 45-55 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the middle comes out clean. If baking two, rotate halfway through.
  9. Allow to cool in the pan for about 15 minutes. Remove from the pan and allow to cool completely.
  10. Omnomnom

Friday, September 20, 2013

Sorry, dude, wrong number

This may not be a real post. There's certainly not any food in it... but today I really tickled myself. And then a friend suggested that I tell a bunch of strangers about it. Because how can I make this guy's day worse? Public humilation.

So I'm just minding my own business today at lunch, when I get a text from an unknown number. Not even an area code I'm familiar with. And unless I blacked out while running errands at the mall, I didn't (1) get hit on by any dudes, (2) tell him my name is Carlie, or (3) give him my number.

Below are some screen shots of my follow trol of this poor guy. I kind of hated to rub it in, but I really tried to help him out in the end, but he wasn't having any of it.

Here's the photo (a little larger) - it's a meme of Mads' dog Josie after she stopped moving mid-walk.

And then...

Here's the larger giraffe...

And the abrupt conclusion :-(

I was really trying to help him out with the pick-up line... but he was NOT interested. On the plus side, my whole day was a little bit brighter by these events.

How do you perk up when you're having a bad week?

Wednesday, September 18, 2013


Let’s talk travel recipes.

Last March, I went to Israel. I had some mind-blowing food. I was absolutely struck by the simplicity and intensity of the regional flavors. Even the flavor of the raw produce had a different (better?) flavor – more concentrated. I can’t really explain the difference. At breakfast we would be offered eggs, potatoes of some fashion, and a fresh salad bar. There was some canned fruit, but mostly fresh vegetables (tomatoes, cucumbers, salad, olives). I thought it was unusual to have fresh salad with my breakfast (but obviously I tried it). Basically it was like tasting cucumbers for the first time. My English skills are not advanced enough to appropriately describe the flavor explosion that happened in my mouth. And that seemed to happen with everything I tried.

About half-way through the trip, we stopped at our first market. There were baked goods and fresh produce and breads and olives and nuts and spices and ALL THE THINGS. All of them. It was like someone took Pike’s Place Market, put it on steroids, then put Bulked Up Pike’s Place on a flavor binge, and then rounded up Big Fat Pike’s Place’s fat friends and they all got together and staged a sit-in all over Israel. THAT much food. And things. And just… like whoa. (Did I mention I don’t really have the words?)

After visiting a few vendors, and completely gorging on outrageous baked goods (the highlight of the day being the fresh-from-the-oven chocolate rugalach. I could literally write a book on how good this pastry is, but it would be lots of “really really really really really really really good, like you don’t even know how really really really really really really really really really baller moist and delicious it is” and that gets boring in 1 sentence, let alone 200 pages) I set out on a spice mission. It was getting close to our meeting time to head back to the bus, but I happened upon our tour guide and another group leader having a snack just outside the plaza. First of all, the tour guide sent me back out IMMEDIATELY because I had failed to buy any za’atar. When I came back, I was able to try a bite of the left over shakshuka from our leader’s lunch. It was divine. I’d had baked eggs before, but never like this. And paired with the flavorful bread (of course it was flavorful) it was (not to be repetitive) a flavor explosion in MY MOUTH. Later on the bus, our fearless tour guide gave us his own personal recipe on making shakshuka at home. Believe you me, it did not take me almost 6 months to make this dish. In fact, it was one of the first things I made for myself during my stint of funemployment. But I did hoard the recipe and eat lots of it secretly under the table away from you because I didn’t want to admit how much this tomato-loathing Westerner had been shoveling this hand-over-fist. (…Oh and I kept eating it so fast I forgot to take pictures.)

Shakshuka is really a simple, rustic dish. In Israel it was on the menus for all times of day, but it seemed to be mostly a breakfast dish. I’ve eaten it at all times of day and am never mad at it. It’s savory enough to play with dinner - probably a flavor palate most of us Westerners are used to having with dinner. But it’s a great day starter – protein from eggs, fruits from the tomatoes, carbs from the dipping bread, and quick to throw together. The eggs poach right in the sauce, and it’s encouraged to eat directly from the pan it’s cooked in – family style! I recently made this for my family in California – I accommodated a large crowd by cooking the sauce on the stove, then putting it in a bake-ware pan and finishing the eggs in the oven. It took a little longer this way, but was easier than cooking in batches. Everyone, from my gluten-free little cousin, to my picky big cousins, enjoyed it.

Crusty bread is best to dip, but you could probably use just about anything. As a bread connoisseur, I recommend a French loaf or sourdough as your first pick. A focaccia or ciabatta would also be a great.


Serves 3ish
Adapted from my Israeli tour guide

1 Tbls olive oil
1 Tbls butter
1 small onion, diced (yellow or sweet)
1 tsp salt (ish)
A few cloves of garlic, minced (more or less, depending on your taste. I like ALL OF IT)
28 oz can San Marzano crushed tomatoes (fresh tomatoes are great, too)
A few generous pinches of za’atar (available in exotic spice sections or Middle Eastern markets. Fresh parsley may be replaced)
6 eggs (the fresher, the better – I use farm fresh because I know a guy)
Feta, if you’re getting crazy

1.      Heat a large non-stick pan over medium-high heat. Add the olive oil and butter (you can use just olive oil if you prefer) and allow to heat up. Add the onion and salt and cook until the onion is translucent, but not yet browned.
2.      Add the garlic and cook until fragrant.
3.      Add the tomatoes and za’atar (or some parsley – be sure to reserve some). Stir, and then lower the heat to medium-low. Cook without a lid until the sauce reduces slightly. If it sputters, turn down the heat. If it reduces too quickly, losen it with a few spoonfuls of water. Season with salt and pepper.
4.      Add the 6 eggs evenly throughout the pan. Add a lid and cook 5-6 minutes, until the whites are set. You make cook longer if you aren’t wildly about loose yolks.

5.    When the eggs are set, remove from heat. Sprinkle a little feta (to taste) and some za’atar or parsley. Maybe a salad on the side. Enjoy!

Monday, September 16, 2013

Hangover: Part Kvetchin'

In May, my family descended upon Vegas. Most of it was innocent fun, but like every Vegas story, there were moments when I thought we'd lost people forever. Please to enjoy this travel post filler as I get my blogging ish together.

When I turned 21, my parents took me to Las Vegas. It was partly for me, but a little bit for them, too. My mom had a conference there near my birthday, so it was a little bit kismet. Six years later, my second youngest cousin turned 21, and two grandparents, three aunts, three uncles, four cousins, and a girlfriend all got together to celebrate! 

So you can only imagine the chaos that followed...

I love getting together with my family on these weekends - all these years later, now that the siblings are (mostly) getting along, it is so much fun to get everyone together. The shouting, the laughing, the joking... Did I mention the shouting?

The trip included a fantastic trip to the dam (insert all of the dam jokes - they are still funny!!). We didn't take the dam tour, but we walked around, got some sun, and stood in two states at once (anyone else a little weird about borders and being in two places at once? I love it).

Also featured on the trip was flavored sake, spicy edamame, excellent sushi, enough buffets to burst your belly, and a fantastic comedy show complete with long island iced teas spiked with red bull. 

The highlight (low light?) of the weekend was when my husband went missing (Hangover style). He left to play poker with my parents, they got separated, and suddenly it was time to leave for the comedy show and we couldn't reach him. They are not keen on phone use at the card tables, and he was deep in a tournament at a different casino than either dinner or the show. Luckily he wasn't out getting any strange face tattoos, but he was winning seats at poker tournements (he had to give them up because of our flights).

That wasn't the only time people went missing. At one point, over half of the thirteen of us were unaccounted for by the group leaders. There was almost always a core group, but as people trickled away (without a plan or a cell phone), we lost so many of them. Vegas has them now.

Just kidding, we found them and everyone got home safe and sound. The end!