Tag Archives: baking

Apple Pie in a Bag

Apple Pie baked in a brown paper bag

Apple Pie baked in a brown paper bag

It’s getting closer to the big day, you know what day I’m talking about, right? Thanksgiving, of course. It’s my most special meal, well it seems every meal is my most special meal, but this one definitely is. In fact, I am so excited I can hardly contain myself.  It’s the one day I will eat with reckless abandon. For me it’s a food version of a perfect storm. Every food I consider to be one of my favorites will make an appearance at my Thanksgiving table.

I embrace this holiday not just for the food, but for the fact that I truly am thankful for the food, and for my family.

I was speaking to my sister-in-law, Wanda the other day and she told me about a pie she makes that is my brother’s favorite. Since Apple Pie is a requisite for any Thanksgiving dinner I thought I would try it out before the big day. I was intrigued because this pie was baked in a brown paper grocery bag. She said that the bag kept the crust from over browning and that the apples became soft and tender and stayed juicy. Hmmmm, sounds like Mama needed to give this a try. Well Wanda, I was quite pleased with the results. I used a pre-made crust for this pie, but hey, if you’ve got the energy then go ahead and make your own crust.

Apple Pie baked in a bag

Apple Pie baked in a bag

Apple Pie in a Bag 

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Removing Apple Pie from the paper bag

Removing Apple Pie from the paper bag

Recipe: Easy

Pumpkin Streusel Cake with Chocolate Glaze

Pumpkin Streusel Cake with Chocolate Glaze

Pumpkin Streusel Cake with Chocolate Glaze

Life is funny, nothing ever stays the same.  Friends, please forgive me for getting all sentimental and philosophical on you, but this time of year brings back lovely memories for me. It doesn’t seem so long ago that by mid-October every year my boys and I would spend hours planning their costumes for Halloween, who they would walk the neighborhood with, and which candy I should buy to give out to the local revelers. But things have changed, my boys have moved on to begin their own lives, and my husband and I have been left here to celebrate Halloween alone, just us and a few bags of mini Snickers bars. I know, so sad.

In fact, things have gotten so bad that the local children will not even walk up my long, steep driveway for a measly mini candy bar anymore. In recent years I’ve had to go stand at the bottom of the driveway with “full sized” candy bars if I wanted to see any action.

Halloween is also that time of year when I can use pumpkin with reckless abandon.  I love to use it in muffins, cookies, cakes and pies, and I really can’t understand why it’s not popular all year round. One of my fall favorites is this Pumpkin Streusel Cake with Chocolate Glaze.  The cake part is mildly flavored with those traditional autumn spices, and the streusel filling is a perfect little surprise in the middle of the cake. What could be bad about pumpkin, nuts and chocolate.

So, one last thing.  Do you think it would be weird if I asked my 25 year-old son to let me dress him up as a Power Ranger so we could go house to house trick-or-treating together? I’m just kidding, kinda’.

Pumpkin Streusel Cake with Chocolate Glaze

Pumpkin Streusel Cake with Chocolate Glaze

Pumpkin Streusel Cake with Chocolate Glaze

Adapted from “Very Best Baking”

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Almond Pear Cake-Gluten Free

Almond Pear Cake

Almond Pear Cake

 

My favorite time of the year is the end of September when summertime evaporates into a fond memory and leaves turn golden and the air turns crisp.  Oh wait, that was my former life growing up on the east coast.  As Jimmy Kimmel said in his monologue last night referring to the autumn in Los Angeles; that it was a “bone-chilling 95 degrees today”. He went on to say, “that we have one season…and it’s the good one!”  I’ll be honest with you, since moving to the west coast I definitely do not miss the other three seasons, but I do have a major hankering for the fall. After residing here for three decades I still bring out the heavy sweaters and boots this time of year, and yeah, I’m sweating profusely in my effort to embrace the season.

It’s time to say good bye to the summertime fruity favorites; strawberries, blueberries, peaches and plums and hello to cranberries, apples, pumpkins and pears. I do love the latter as they harken the start of the holiday season, and all the celebratory family meals ahead of me.

My personal favorite fall fruit is pears. In this gluten-free cake, they are paired with almond meal, sliced almonds and fresh pear puree which results in an overly moist and flavorful cake. I think this Almond Pear Cake-Gluten Free will become one of your go-to desserts for the upcoming season.

Almond Pear Cake

Almond Pear Cake

Almond Pear Cake – Gluten Free

From USA Pears

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Chocolate Chip Cornbread

Chocolate Chip Cornbread

Chocolate Chip Cornbread

It’s September, and son #2 is out of the house again living the high-life as a student in Santa Barbara where he’s studying to be an EMT. It’s a hard program, so let’s all pool our positive thoughts together and send them in his direction. Thanks guys! Anyway, he’s been up there about a month, but he’s coming home this Sunday and we’ve decided to have a little brunch in his honor…cause his mama misses him so much!  My parents are coming over, because they too miss him a great deal, and his big brother, son #1 is coming, but he won’t admit how much he misses his younger brother.  Ah, kids!

I’m preparing all his favorites; homemade waffles, fresh fruit and crispy bacon. He has requested that I bake this Chocolate Chip Cornbread which he likes toasted and topped with a big slab of butter. I’ve made cornbread a million different ways, but I particularly like this one for breakfast because it’s a little bit sweet and a little bit savory. If you can, it’s a treat to serve it right out of the oven.

Chocolate Chip Cornbread

Chocolate Chip Cornbread

Chocolate Chip Cornbread

From Bon Appetit

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Chocolate Chip Cornbread

Chocolate Chip Cornbread

Mama’s Tips: 

As with all batters, mix this one just until all ingredients are incorporated. Do not over mix.

Chocolate Chip Cornbread

Chocolate Chip Cornbread

Recipe: Easy

Coconut Blondies

Coconut Blondies

Coconut Blondies

So, you’ve been invited to a Labor Day barbecue this weekend. That’s so nice. And the hostess asked if you would bring dessert, but you’re a little baffled right now because you can’t come up with something that’s sorta easy to make but tastes really good, huh? Well, Mama has a suggestion that you might like. It involves all the things I hold dear in life, which is chocolate, brown sugar, coconut and salted nuts. Yes I know, all rolled up into one!

I just can’t get enough of these Coconut Blondie Bars, each layer of these bars is delish on their own. You’ve got your chocolate shortbread crust, your creamy sweet Blondie layer, and then it’s all topped off by a chewy coconut macaroon topping. Now how good does this sound?

Your going to line your pan with foil so that when the Blondie’s have finished cooling in the pan, you can lift them out using the edges of the foil so that you can cut them into professional looking bars. To get extra clean cuts, I chilled mine for about 4 hours before cutting.

Coconut Blondies

Coconut Blondies

Coconut Blondies

From Better Homes & Gardens 

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Lemon Pine Nut Biscotti

Lemon Pine Nut Biscotti

Lemon Pine Nut Biscotti

For years I was the proud owner of a 1980’s flip phone.  My life was good, and it was simple.  I could make calls and receive calls, and I lived in the moment. I wasn’t distracted by my electronic device like the masses of people around me. Yeah, you know who you are.  Sadly, I haven’t had a conversation with either one of my son’s in years because I can’t get them to put down their phones for more than three minutes. I wondered to myself, what was happening on these phones that was so riveting.  Was I missing out on something? Was I suddenly becoming obsolete.

I started getting a lot of pressure from my friends regarding my lo-tech device. They were frustrated because I couldn’t text them, or send them photos.  And so, much to my dismay, I gave in and recently purchased an iPhone 5 as well as an iPad. These devices, which I had regarded as the downfall of civilization as we know it, have become my new obsession. So, here I am totally detached from the people around me because I’m so busy texting, tweeting and Instagraming because lord knows, the world is dying to see another photo of the burger I’m having for dinner. I want to go back to my old life where I had meaningful conversations with people, but I’m afraid that’s no longer possible.  I have an app that helps me convert ounces to grams, and one that tells me which transit to take when I’m in New York City, and honestly that’s a whole lot more interesting than talking to people. Am I right, or what.

However, today, I told myself  “Mama, step away from the phone”.  I pulled out the cookie sheets and decided to return to my old obsession…baking. I decided to share with you one of my all time favorites, the Lemon Pine Nut Biscotti, which I will undoubtedly enjoy as I tweet a photo of the finished product.

Lemon Pine Nut Biscotti

Lemon Pine Nut Biscotti

Lemon Pine Nut Biscotti

From Great Cookies by Carole Walter

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Cinnamon Chocolate Coffee Cake

Cinnamon-Chocolate Coffee Cake

Cinnamon-Chocolate Coffee Cake

It’s 12 o’clock at night, and here I stand in the dark over the kitchen sink eating hunks of this Cinnamon Chocolate Coffee Cake. Suddenly the lights flick on, and my son Michael looks at me in surprise or horror, I’m not sure which one and asks “Mom, what in the world are you doing?” Oh, the shame I felt. Yes, caught in the act of scarfing down light and airy cake laced with nuts, chocolate and cinnamon. Since having this cake at my sister-in-law’s house I’ve been obsessed with it, so much so that my family has considered planning an intervention. Okay, I’ll try and get a hold of myself.

As you can see from the picture below, you need not restrict yourself to baking this in a 10-inch tube pan. If you’re feeling wild and crazy, you might want to try baking this cake in mini loaf pans or in mini bundt pans. The choice is up to you. Either way I think you’re gonna love this cake as much as I do. I just hope that if you do get up in the middle of the night to eat it over the kitchen sink, that no one catches you. It’s very embarrassing. Trust me.

Cinnamon Chocolate Coffee Cake

Cinnamon Chocolate Coffee Cake

Cinnamon Chocolate Coffee Cake

From My Sister-In-Law “Wanda”

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Blackberry Cake

Blackberry Cake

Blackberry Cake

It’s practically summertime here in Southern California and there’s beautiful berries everywhere. Everywhere I look from supermarkets, to farmer’s markets and roadside stands all I see are berries. It’s my personal observation that strawberries always seem to get top billing with blueberries and raspberries coming in at a close second. It appears to me that the blackberry just doesn’t get the same notoriety as it’s cohorts. Since today was designated as a baking day, I thought I would show the blackberry a little love and make it the star of this particular baking project.

I found that this cake tasted even better when I added a nice dollop of freshly whipped cream to it and then sprinkled it with a few juicy blackberries. This rustic, homey dessert is best when served warm from the oven.

Blackberry Cake

Blackberry Cake

Blackberry Cake

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Polenta Cake with Citrus

Polenta Cake with Citrus

Polenta Cake with Citrus

As I started to write this post I realized that not everyone would be familiar with polenta, or realize that you could actually use it in a cake. Polenta, a ground cornmeal which can be white or yellow in color, has its origins in Italy. This humble “peasant” food has been a staple of Italian cooking for hundreds, and hundreds of years. And need I remind you that the best food comes from Italy.

This “Mama” is a lover of comfort food and rustic desserts, and that’s exactly what this Polenta Cake is…rustic. It’s simple and straight forward. It’s not overly sweet, and almost gritty in texture, and that’s what I love about it. Imagine if you will that you’re sitting in the hills of Tuscany under an olive tree having a picnic lunch of bread, cheese, olives and wine. This Polenta Cake would be the perfect ending to that meal. I like to top mine with a huge dollop of freshly made whipped cream and my homemade strawberry sauce. As we head into the summer months, I find myself serving this dish quite often at my backyard barbeques’.

Polenta Cake with Citrus

Polenta Cake with Citrus

Polenta Cake with Citrus

From Women’s Health Magazine

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Chocolate Biscotti

Chocolate Biscotti

Chocolate Biscotti

I love crunch and I love nuts, and come on friends, we’ve been over this again and again…you know how obsessed I am with chocolate. So here we have it, Chocolate Biscotti, it’s a virtual no-brainer!  And, as if this cookie is not already sheer perfection, yes, you guessed it, it’s dipped in a lovely chocolate glaze. Need I say more?

Well…of course I’ll say more, that’s what I do. I love to make biscotti simply because they’re so easy.  You shape the dough into logs, bake ‘em, slice them while they’re still warm, and then, bake ‘em again. These biscuits are really perfect to accompany a cup of coffee or a hot cup of tea, but seriously I eat six of these before the coffee’s even brewed. I’m so bad.

But I’m still not done touting the virtues of this humble confection. These little gems will store for at least a couple of weeks in an airtight container (yeah right, like these would last at my house for a couple of weeks!) And, if you’re like me and you love to send your friends and loved ones homemade treats, these will arrive at their intended destination fully intact. So what more could a girl ask for…well, maybe a flat stomach and longer legs, but that ‘aint gonna happen.

Chocolate Biscotti

Chocolate Biscotti

Chocolate Biscotti

From “Great Cookies” by Carole Walter

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