Spicy Pumpkin Bread


I’ve been looking for an amazing pumpkin bread recipe for years.  But in all honesty, I’ve tried about 3 different pumpkin bread recipes in the last 3 years (all disappointing), and then I always convince myself that I’ll give it a go again the following year.  I blame this on the fact that my kids don’t like pumpkin bread, and I really don’t need a whole loaf staring at me every morning.

So this year, I decided it would be different.  Mostly because I scored 18 cans of pumpkin for 25 cents each (this summer) at my local Walmart, and I just bought 13 sugar pie pumpkins to roast.  So yeah, I have lots of pumpkin.  :-)  It’s a good problem to have.  At least, that’s my feeling on it right now, since I’m enjoying the sugar pie pumpkins as decorations for the time being.

My favorite part about this pumpkin bread (besides the spices) is the streusel.  Ugg, isn’t streusel the best?!  It’s just buttery sugary goodness.  It makes you forget (temporarily) about the kamikaze  teenage bike riders (in the neighborhood) who are just hell bent on riding into oncoming traffic.  Well, almost. 😉

Spicy Pumpkin Bread Adapted from The Pastry Queen

1 cup canola oil

3 cups sugar

4 eggs

1 (15 ounce) can pumpkin puree*

1 cup buttermilk

1 teaspoon vanilla

1 teaspoon baking soda

2 teaspoons ground cinnamon

1 1/2 teaspoons ground nutmeg

1 1/2 teaspoons ground allspice

1 1/2 teaspoons cloves

1/2 teaspoon coarse kosher salt

3 cups flour


1/2 cup brown sugar, packed

1/4 cup salted butter, cold

pinch of ground cinnamon

1 Tablespoon flour

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.  Line 2 tea loaf pans (or any 9 x 5 inch loaf pans) with parchment (I just stuff it in the pan until it stays put!) and spray with nonstick spray.  Set aside.

Start by making the streusel.

In the bowl of a food processor, add the cold butter, brown sugar, pinch of cinnamon, and flour.  Process until crumbs form.  It’s okay if it’s over processed, and it’s now in a ball.  No worries.  Pour the streusel into a bowl and set it in the refrigerator.

Now for the pumpkin bread.

In a large bowl, whisk the oil and sugar together.  Add the eggs, pumpkin, buttermilk, and vanilla, and whisk until incorporated.

Add in the baking soda, all of the spices, and salt.  Whisk to combine.  Then add in the flour – whisk until incorporated.  Then using a rubber scraper stir the batter to make sure there is no flour stuck to the bottom of the bowl.

Pour half the batter into each loaf pan.  Then portion half of the streusel for each loaf and place crumbs (or big pinches) of streusel on top of the batter.

Bake in the oven for about 50-60 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center of the loaf comes out clean.

Remove from the pans after 5 minutes (just lift the bread out holding onto the parchment edges), and let cool on a wire rack.

Cut into slices and store in a covered container for up to 4 days.  Or wrap individually and freeze for 2 months.

Just a few notes: go wild and add chocolate chunks or roasted pecans.  Also, increase the flour by 1 – 2 Tablespoons if you want a crisper streusel topping – this one is soft, buttery, and gooey.

*Feel free to roast your own sugar pie pumpkins!  1 – 2.5 pound(ish) sugar pie pumpkin should yield about 15 ounces (give or take) of pumpkin puree.  Wash the pumpkin, cut off the top, scrape out the innards, and place cut-side down in the baking dish.  Fill with water (about 1/2 an inch up the pan), and place foil over the dish.

Bake at 400 degrees for about 1 hour.  Test by poking the pumpkin straight through the skin with a fork.  It should give easily.  Let the pumpkin cool with the foil off for 20 minutes, or until easy to handle.  Then scoop the roasted pumpkin out of the skin, and puree the flesh in a food processor, or blender.  Be sure to take the venting lid off if the pumpkin is still hot so the steam can escape!

Puree until smooth.  Scoop the pumpkin into a sieve placed over a large bowl, and then cover with plastic wrap and store in the refrigerator – letting it drain, covered, overnight.  Use as desired.


American Makers & My Favorite Shops

I can’t believe it’s already September, and with Labor Day upon us so many retailers are throwing out sales!  Woohoo!

I have put together a list of some of my favorite online shops – some American made, and some not.  I know Christmas is a few months away, but I like to start my budgeting, and buying, in August.

I know that sounds crazy, but once I have a list it makes it so much easier to buy items when they’re on sale.

So, without further ado, here is my list!  I hope you love these stores as much as I do!

Be sure to sign up for newsletters, and stalk them on Facebook to keep up with sales/promotions.

Hedley & Bennett – American Made “Proper Bad Ass LA Made Aprons”

Photo Source: Hedley & Bennett

Photo Source: Dinner At Tiffani’s

If you ever watch Dinner at Tiffani’s with Tiffani Thiessen, then you’ve seen these aprons.  I’m not sure I’ve ever seen her wear a repeat, but can we agree that they’re all fabulous?!

I’ve bought a few aprons, maybe 1/2 a dozen.  No telling for sure (or at least, I’m not telling).  But they’re all made of solid, sturdy fabric, and they wash well (they may need some ironing after coming out of the dryer, but nothing major).

They have rapid fire shipping – everything I’ve ordered has been shipped in less than 24 hours – it’s unreal.

And I love that they always have something extra in the package, like a small sample of olive oil or salt.  It’s the little things my friends.  Oh, and their mascot is a pig named Oliver!  Sigh, can it get any better than this?!

So check out their website, even their warehouse is amazing.  And hello, I got an email from them to check in with me about my purchase from the “happiness deliverer” – sign me up for that title!

Piebox – American Made “Take Pie Anywhere (and Cake Too!)”

Photo Source: Piebox

Now who can resist a cute wood box to tote pie, cake, and cookies in?  Well, not me, that’s for sure.  In fact, I use these babies to store birthday cards/stationery and pre-cut parchment sheets, as well as cupcakes and muffins.  Just so we’re clear – not at the same time.

And right now, they’re offering a special edition, “Sugarbox.”

Magnolia Market

Okay, so truth time.  I have never seen their show “Fixer Upper.”  Not even once.  But somehow I ended up on their shopping website.  I must’ve read about them in a magazine.

They have lightning fast shipping (within 24 hours of ordering), and I’ve ordered several 1/2 dozen times.  My orders have all been correct, and well packed.

A lot of people have said online that the prices of Magnolia are equal to Pottery Barn.  I personally think PB is more expensive in (both) price of goods and shipping.

Antique Olive Bucket

Antique Olive Bucket            Photo Source: Magnolia Market      Regular price $68.00

Take this Antique Olive Bucket for instance – that’s an awesome price for one of these babies!  Shipping will be more than the $5 you would spend on Decor Steals, but you don’t have to wait until they offer them again.

"Magnolia" Market Tote

“Magnolia” Market Tote       Photo Source: Magnolia Market

And these tote bags are the ones that they let you use to shop with while you’re visiting their store.  Due to the demand, they are now selling them on their website!  Yay!

Seed & Supply Sack

Photo Source: Magnolia Market       Seed & Supply Sack

I had to include this Seed & Supply Sack because I get asked often about where I bought it.  Right now they’re $10 each, plus shipping.  It’s made from a thick kraft paper, and it should last for awhile, as long as my son isn’t carrying it (he likes to drag all of my bags on the concrete).

Another common complaint I saw, was that a lot of the décor items at Magnolia are made in China.  Unfortunately, that’s true about a lot of reproductions (and products in general) sold in most stores these days.  However, if you go on their website and search for “vintage” they list a handful of things that are truly vintage if that’s your thing.

Vintage Mechanic's Bin

Vintage Mechanic’s Bin       Photo Source: Magnolia Market
And since vintage is totally my thing, I had to have this mechanic’s bin.  I thought of using it to set out my dinner plates for Thanksgiving, turning it over and using it as a stand for cupcakes, or setting a large jug of punch on top of it.  I have one currently holding Weck Jars.  Options are limitless, and I thought it was a steal at $24.

Weck Jars

Photo Source: Weck Jars

Since I mentioned Weck Jars – I have to include them!  They’re sold at Crate and Barrel, Williams Sonoma, and Amazon.  But I prefer to buy them directly from their website.

I especially love the mold and cylindrical jars.  These are great for anyone who is trying to get away from plastic.  When you order the jars, they come with glass lids, rubber rings, and metal clamps.

If you’re like me and don’t mind the plastic lids so much, then I suggest going to the accessories tab and purchasing some plastic lids.  They wash up really nice and many of the lids work for a number of different jars.

And since these are actually canning jars, they’re great to bake in (using mold jars 740 or 741).

Photo Source:  Weck Jars

Heirloom Cookie Sheets – American Made “An Investment in Family Traditions for Generations to Come”

Classic Heirloom Cookie Sheet

Photo Source: Heirloom Cookie Sheets

These are my favorite cookie sheets.  They’re stainless steel, dishwasher safe, and they bake beautifully.  Did I mention they’re dishwasher safe?! 😉

At $28.95, plus shipping – they are an investment.  But like their slogan, these will last for generations.  I plan to buy each of my kids a set when they move out.

These would also make a lovely wedding shower/wedding gift, and they would be a fabulous gift for any baker on your Christmas list.  Oh, and don’t forget those high school or college grads!

Sometimes during December they run a sale/promotion, so hit up their Facebook page or website.

RunRunRun  “Where Eco Meets Luxury”

Photo Source: RunRunRun

I first heard about this company when my sister gave me a bag – the Italia Shopper.  I have never seen a nicer folding, reusable, bag before.  The handles are soft and comfortable, and the bags a colorful and washable.

They’re made from recycled plastic bottles, and they’re incredibly lightweight.  Run Run Run offers deals regularly on their website and Facebook pages.  I own both the Malibu and the Italia.  The Malibu is bigger, but for most small errands I love the Italia.  These would make super cute, and functional, stocking stuffers for your young high school kids and college students!

Bonus: they ship fast!



Photo Source: EtúHome; jars not sold with labels, or lids

This website is Europe 2 You, but sold to individual consumers.  I was giddy like a school girl when I stumbled onto their website, because I usually have to track down their products via another retailer.  So I was so excited to buy directly from them.

I just love Hungarian Jars (pictured above) – swoon.  They are so versatile – you can put fairy lights in them, fresh cookies, vintage dessert forks, etc.

Photo Source: EtúHome

Some items are reproductions, and some items are “found,” they usually specify in their listing/product description.

Aren’t these champagne buckets just to die for!  I think they’d make an fabulous table centerpiece all clustered (like the photo).

ColourPop – American Made

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Hands down I get asked the most about makeup while I’m out running errands.  And I love ColourPop, they have eye shadow, lip pencils, blush, highlighter, bronzer, lip glosses, brow pencils, etc.

They don’t carry foundation or powder.  I like to think of them more as icing on the cake, not the crumb coat.  Does that make sense?!

I’m really into eye shadows, and if you’re new to ColourPop you should definitely grab up one of their eye shadow collaborations, or some individual pots like: Nillionaire, I ♥ This, and On The Rocks.

But honestly, I have 25+, and I love them all.  And the eye shadows start at $5 each.  Free shipping, if you spend over $30.  It usually takes about 1-1 1/2 weeks to arrive in your mailbox, but totally worth it.

These are perfect for young girls, college girls, mothers, etc.  And their makeup is not tested on animals.

ColourPop products are super easy to apply, build up color, and they last!  All their makeup is super creamy, so make sure that you remember to put that lid on, or else your product will be sad and dry out.

Just a note – a lot of their colors are shimmery/glittery.  So look closely to the description, and reviews, if you’re looking for matte shades.

And, while the colors and formulas are totally in for the young girls in your life, the names and descriptions might be uncomfortable to explain.  So pick out a few colors without the kiddos looking over your shoulders!  Don’t say I didn’t warn you. 😉










Nutella River Bar Blondies

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My family loves Nutella.  It reminds me of my favorite chocolate from Godiva – the open oyster.  Unfortunately, they don’t seem to be sold in any of their boxed chocolates.  Sigh.

This recipe is exactly like my blondie recipe, but instead of just a plain jane river of chocolate, it has a river of nutella swirled in the batter before getting baked off.

Yum.  Yum.  And Yum.  These are in fact, moist and dense, and downright “parbaked” according to my husband.  Why yes, yes they are.  Otherwise, they’ll be dry and sad.  And you don’t want your little blondies to be sad.

Nutella Swirled Blondies Adapted from Debbie Macomber’s Cookbook

2 sticks unsalted butter

1 cup granulated sugar

3/4 cup packed light brown sugar

2 large eggs

1 teaspoon vanilla

2 cups flour

1/2 teaspoon coarse kosher salt

2 cups semisweet chocolate chips

1/2 – 3/4 cup Nutella

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

Line a 9 x 13 inch pan with foil, and spray with nonstick spray.  Set aside.

In a large glass bowl, microwave the butter until almost completely melted.  Add the sugars and beat until incorporated (about 1 minute).

Add the eggs, vanilla, and salt – beat until light in color.  Add the flour and beat just until combined, then stir in the chocolate chips.

Pour the batter into the prepared pan and drop Tablespoons of Nutella all over the top of the dough.  Then using a knife, swirl* in Nutella until you’re happy, and bake for about 25-30 minutes.  The top will look crackly and lightly browned.  Cool completely in pan.


*Keep in mind you don’t want to over swirl – you want distinct rivers of Nutella!

Turtle Brownies

March 2016 282These are without a doubt some of the most popular brownies that I make.  In fact, I ran into a former coworker of my husband’s and she was telling me that she was on a cruise in Alaska a few years ago and just happened to be on a hike with another couple that live in Arkansas.  They got to talking and it turns out they both know me, and love my turtle brownies.  Small world, right?!

I make my own caramel – I think it makes a huge difference.  This caramel recipe makes enough for 2 batches of brownies, but you can also use the extra to make caramel dipped apples, or homemade turtle candy.

I know the photo is of huge brownies, but I actually cut them 1 1/2 x 1 1/2 inch pieces for parties.  They’re just so rich and gooey, a little goes a long way!!

Turtle Brownies Adapted from The Pastry Queen

Homemade Caramel Adapted from my mom

2 sticks butter, unsalted

2 1/3 cups light brown sugar, packed

Dash salt

1 cup light corn syrup

1 (14 ounce can) sweetened condensed milk

1 teaspoon vanilla

In a large saucepan add the first 5 ingredients.  Cook on medium high heat (5-6) until the butter is melted: stir constantly with a wooden spoon.  Once the butter is melted, set a timer for 14 minutes.  Continue to stir constantly with the wooden spoon.  Remove from heat, and add the vanilla – stir.  Set aside.


1  cups pecans, roasted and coarsely chopped

2 sticks butter, unsalted

12 ounces semisweet chocolate

1 1/4 cups sugar

2 teaspoons vanilla

1/2 teaspoon coarse kosher salt

4 eggs

1 1/4 cups flour

1/2 batch of caramel

1 cup chocolate chips

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.  Line a 9 x 13 pan with foil and spray with nonstick spray.  Set aside.

In a medium pot on medium heat, warm the butter and chocolate until melted – stirring constantly.  Once the butter and chocolate is melted, whisk in the sugar, vanilla, and salt until combined.  Add in the eggs, beating after each addition.  Stir in the flour until incorporated.  Pour half of the batter into the prepared pan.

Bake for 20 minutes.  Remove from the oven and let cool in the pan for another 20 minutes.

In the meantime, add 3 Tablespoons of heavy cream to the 1/2 batch of caramel and place it on a low burner.  Stir in half of the chopped pecans.

Pour the pecan caramel over the brownies.  Spoon remaining brownie batter on top and spread it out.  Dust the top of the brownies with the remaining pecans and chocolate chips.  Bake for 20 minutes.

Let cool in the pan.  Then refrigerate the brownies in the pan overnight, lightly covered.  Cut into small pieces when you’re ready to serve.

*I prefer to keep these in the refrigerator because the caramel oozes at room temperature, but it’s optional.  Either way, be sure to store them in a covered container.

My Favorite Lemon Bars

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Here’s another rustic dessert for you – and this time it’s lemon!!  I’ve been making these lemon bars since I was a kid. . .which was a bit ago.  ;-)  I love this recipe because it has a lot of lemon filling (to me the ratio of filling to crust is perfect) and a delicious buttery crust.  And it’s big on lemon flavor – what’s not to love?

lemon bars 2015 058

Don’t omit the baking powder from the filling – I know it’s odd, but it makes the bars set up like a dense pie filling.  And be sure to take these out when the middle is no longer jiggly – mine take about 25-27 minutes.

Lemon Bars Adapted from Better Homes and Gardens


6 Tablespoons unsalted butter, softened

1/4 cup sugar

pinch of coarse kosher salt

1 cup flour

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.  Line an 8 x 8 inch glass pan with foil and spray with nonstick spray.  Set aside.

Using a handheld mixer, beat together the butter, sugar, and salt until creamed.  Then add in the flour and beat until the mixture turns sandy.  Then use your hands to continue mixing the dough together – making sure to incorporate any remaining butter mixture with the flour.  It will be sandy, but will hold its shape when squeezed together.

Pour the mixture into the prepared pan, spread it around evenly, and then press the dough into an even layer with your hands.

Bake in the oven for 15 minutes.  In the meantime, make the lemon filling.

Lemon Filling:

4 eggs

1 1/2 cups sugar

3 lemons, zested with a microplaner

6-7 Tablespoons of lemon juice (fresh squeezed from the lemons you zested)

1/4 cup flour

pinch of coarse kosher salt

1/2 teaspoon baking powder

In a medium mixing bowl, beat the eggs, sugar, lemon zest, lemon juice, flour, salt and baking powder with a handheld mixer on medium speed for about 2 minutes.  Pour the lemon mixture over the hot crust when it comes out of the oven.  (The lemon mixture will look foamy on top – that’s okay).

Bake in the oven for 25-27 minutes, or until the top is golden brown and the center doesn’t jiggle when shook.

Take the pan out of the oven, and let the bars cool in the pan for about 30 minutes.  Then place the pan in the refrigerator covered with a paper towel on top.  Let chill for 5 hours (if you can wait that long) before cutting.  Dust with powdered sugar before serving.

Store any leftovers in the refrigerator covered.



Molten Lava Cakes

January 2016 1007

Okay, so this is one of those desserts that’s been on my to-make list for awhile, and darn if it’s not incredibly simple & delicious!  I just can’t believe I waited so long to make it.  Don’t make the same mistake – make these right now!

January 19 2015 014

Molten Lava Cakes Adapted from Baking Illustrated

2 Tablespoons flour

1 stick unsalted butter

8 ounces semisweet chocolate (I used Baker’s)

4 eggs

1 egg yolk

1 teaspoon vanilla

1/4 teaspoon coarse kosher salt

1/2 cup sugar

powdered sugar & raspberries for decorating, if desired

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.  Line a baking sheet with 4 (8 ounce) disposable baking cups,  I used these.

On the highest speed – using the whisk attachment, beat the eggs, egg yolk, sugar, vanilla, salt, and sugar in the bowl of a stand mixer.  Beat for 5 minutes.  The mixture should become thick, yellow, and double in size.

In the meantime, melt the butter and chocolate in a large microwave-safe bowl, in 30 second intervals, stirring in between until the chocolate is almost completely melted.  Stir together the butter and chocolate until completely incorporated; set aside.

When the egg mixture is done, pour it over the melted chocolate mixture.  Then sift the flour on top, and fold it all together.  This will take about a minute of constant folding.

Using a 4 ounce scoop, place 2 scoops of batter into each disposable baking cup.  Place in the oven for about 12 minutes.  Watching carefully towards the end.  The edges will puff up and the middle should still be sunken.  Take out of the oven and carefully remove from the baking pan; serve immediately with powdered sugar, raspberries, whip cream, ice cream – or all of the above!!

If you cook these completely through they are still delicious, almost like a dense, moist, chocolate cake (if you want your cakes like this, then bake for about 15 minutes – they’ll still jiggle just a little in the center), if they are baked for too long, the cake ends up dry).

*This recipe makes only 4 – 8 ounce cakes.  Store any leftover molten cakes (covered) in the refrigerator for up to 3 days.  The dense cakes do not require refrigeration.


Rustic Orange Cake

January 5 2016 033

I love books.  Maybe it’s because my mother was a librarian for a time when I was growing up, and we spent many summers at the library while she worked?  Who knows!!  I do imagine however, that it would be no surprise to anyone that I own a lot of cookbooks.  I even have a closet under the stairs that we affectionately call the “Harry Potter closet,” and that is where I store all of them.

Unfortunately it’s not big enough for my entire collection. . .anymore.  So I’m cooking and baking my way through them.  This cake came from one of those cookbooks!

It’s quite deceiving because of the brown color (brown often = dry), but it is incredibly moist, light, and has a delicious slight orange flavor.  I contemplated adding orange extract, but my husband loves it just like it is and even requested it for his birthday a good 11 months from now!   However, I did add the orange extract as an option below if you’re interested in punching up the flavor.

And just a heads up, there is a soaking syrup so be sure to make that while the cake is baking!

Rustic Orange Cake Adapted from Grace’s Sweet Life

6 large eggs, at room temperature

2 cups flour

2 teaspoons baking powder

1/2 teaspoon coarse kosher salt

1/2 cup canola oil

1 teaspoon vanilla

1 cup, plus 2 Tablespoons sugar, divided

grated zest of 3 oranges (using a microplane grater)

1 cup of freshly squeezed oranges, approx. 3-4

1 teaspoon pure orange extract, optional

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees, and spray a tube pan with nonstick spray.  Set aside.

Separate the eggs: place the egg yolks into a large mixing bowl and the whites into a medium mixing bowl.

In the bowl with the egg yolks, add the canola oil, vanilla, orange zest and 1 cup of sugar.  Set aside to beat in a moment.

With a hand mixer, beat the egg whites until frothy and slowly add in the 2 Tablespoons of sugar in small increments, while continuing to beat until stiff peaks form; set aside.

Using the same hand mixer, beat the egg yolk mixture together for about 2 minutes, or until light in color.  Beat in the orange juice, orange extract (if using), baking powder, and salt until combined.

Beat in the flour until completely incorporated.  Then fold in the beaten egg whites until there are no more white streaks or lumps.

Pour the batter into the tube pan and bake for 35-40 minutes (rotating the pan halfway through), until lightly browned and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.

Pour the orange syrup over the cake right out of the oven.  Let it soak in for about 5 minutes.  Then invert the cake (the top will be sticky from the syrup – so perhaps invert the cake onto a parchment lined baking sheet, and then flip it right side up onto a cake round or serving platter, and carefully peel the parchment off the top.  I flipped mine straight onto a wire rack and that is why it has those ridges on top – I’m trying the parchment method next time!

Dust the cooled cake with powdered sugar before serving.

While the cake is baking make the orange syrup!

Orange Syrup Adapted from Grace’s Sweet Life

1/2 cup of fresh squeeze orange juice (1 – 2 oranges)

1/2 cup sugar

strips of zest from 1 orange, using a zester

In a small pot, add all of the ingredients and boil on high just until the sugar is completely dissolved.  Take it off the stove and strain through a sieve, set aside to pour over the baked cake.