‘Tis the season for gingerbread cake. It’s so easy to whip up this festive dessert because it’s all done in one bowl! Easy prep, easy clean-up. That in itself is a wonderful present. While the cake is baking, your home will smell amazing. Just for fun, go outside and then come back inside to inhale the fragrance and warmth of Christmas. I do it all the time, which earns me strange looks from Connie. You think she’d be use to me by now. Back to the recipe. When the cake is cooled, you can either sprinkle it with powdered sugar or dollop it with some freshly made whipped cream. Or, both! After all, it’s the holidays.
We’re a few weeks into summer and let’s just say I’m looking forward to fall. It’s my favorite season because it’s filled with all the things I love – pumpkins, sweaters, mums and cozy nights. While summer is filled with things I really could do without – humidity, humidity hair, poison ivy and sunburn. I know complaining won’t get me anywhere because it is what it is and that’s summer. So rather than complain, I’m creating special moments to get me through the hot, humid months. This past weekend, I baked. There’s something so special about starting a Sunday with a basket of freshly baked blueberry muffins out on the patio. These muffins burst have a buttery flavor that mingles with the tartness of the blueberries and were the perfect way to start my day. I hope they do the same for you!
It’s finally starting to feel like autumn. There’s a cool breeze, no humidity (thank you! thank you! thank you!) and the leaves are starting to become more intense in their color. Thanks to a storm on Monday night the walkway is covered with fallen leaves so when I walk to the street, there’s the comforting sound of rustling leaves.
I had the urge to bake the other day and I wanted to make cupcakes. But I didn’t want to make the usual. I wanted something different. When I was in the grocery store I saw boxes of Pumpkin Spice cake mix and I thought “that’s it! I’ll make Pumpkin Spice cupcakes and the perfect frosting would be cream cheese”. I bypassed the boxes of mix because I’d make my own when I got home after putting the groceries away. And I did!
Biting into these cupcakes was like taking a bite out of autumn. Everything I love about the season was packed into this tiny little package of yumminess. The spices swirled with the pumpkin and the flavor burst in my mouth as the cream cheese frosting added a creamy richness. In a nutshell, these cupcakes were sweet, simple and very seasonal.
It’s the middle of the week and I think it’s a perfect time to share one of my favorite go-to snacks. I love these Oatmeal Raisin bars because they’re healthy and they’re easy to make. I used to reach for those protein bars and then those other “nice” bars (you know the ones I talking about) and various other bars for my mid-morning snack with a cup of tea. Then I got to a point where I realized some of those bars are just as bad as a candy bar. Go ahead, read some of those labels. And the other bars while they have real foods in them (don’t get me started on the ingredients that I can’t pronounce in packaged foods) I found them to be held together by something gooey and sugary and I didn’t like the taste or texture. Ugh. So I now make my own bars. And today’s recipe is an Oatmeal Raisin bar that is easy, fast and flexible. Best of all, you know exactly what you’re putting into the bar.
When I’m in the mood a little chocolate, I had a handful of chips to the batter. When I want to take the bars up a notch I substitute the raisins with dried cherries and add in dark chocolate chips. Like the bars as is but like and added kick of cinnamon, then sprinkle a little extra. You really can’t do anything wrong to this recipe.
Ready for the recipe?
Oatmeal Raisin Bars
Author: Debra Sennefelder
2 cups old-fashioned oats
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 cup packed brown sugar
1/2 cup canola oil
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1 cup raisins
– Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
– Spray 8″x8″ baking pan with non-stick cooking spray.
– In a large mixing bowl, combine all ingredients thoroughly.
– Spread the batter into the prepared baking pan. Bake approximately 24-30 minutes until bars are cooked all the way through.
– Cool completely in the pan then cut into squares.
The amount of squares depends on how large you cut them.
There are days that are just meant to be soup days. You know the kind of days I’m talking about. Rainy, dreary, chilly or snowy and bone-chilling cold. The Sunday that I made my first big pot of this soup for the season wasn’t snowy or bone-chilling, just rainy and dreary with a gray sky. A perfect soup day. And what was the soup of the day you ask? Roasted Butternut Squash soup.
This soup says to me “Autumn” like no other soup but on a cold, wintry day it’s just as comforting. I love curling up, yep, this is that kind of meal, with a big bowl on the sofa while the changing leaves whirl around outside as the day slips into cool darkness. But before I can do that I need to make the soup. Some people opt not to make this soup because lets face it, a butternut squash can be a beast to work with. It’s awkward shape an thickness can lead to mishaps with a knife and since we don’t want that to happen it’s easier just to buy a can a soup at the store or pick-up a to-go container at a local restaurant. Since I love a challenge I’ve taken the butternut squash head on for several years, peeling and chopping and roasting until a light bulb went off over my head (seriously, I swear that happened) and the word “duh” escaped my lips. I don’t peel or chop or risk digits to make my beloved soup. I now simply cut the squash lengthwise and scoop out the seeds. Now, when I cut the squash in half it still is a little difficult to hold straight, it tends to want to roll a little so I simply slice off a small sliver of the squash on one side of the bottom (where it’s wider) so that the squash lays flat against the surface of my carving board and then I work my knife through it to slice in half. Once I have two halves I then sprinkle with salt and pepper and drizzle olive oil over both halves.
All right, enough with talking, lets get onto the recipe.
Oh, one more thing before we get to the recipe. I’ve used an immersion blender in the past to puree this soup and it’s worked fine. But this time around I used my Vitamix blender and I was left with the creamiest, silkiest soup I’ve ever made. In the recipe I refer to the immersion blender but if you have a blender that will handle a big batch of hot soup then go for it.
Okay, now the recipe.
Roasted Butternut Squash Soup
Author: Debra Sennefelder
1 butternut squash, halved
1 onion, peeled and chopped
1 baking potato, peeled and chopped
1 McIntosh apple, peeled and chopped
1 Granny Smith apple, peeled and chopped
3 cloves of garlic, peeled and chopped
3 tbs extra-virgin olive oil
1 quart chicken broth
1/2 – 1 cup milk
salt and pepper to season
Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
Rub both halves of the butternut squash with olive oil and sprinkle salt and pepper over both halves. Roast for one hour or until tender.
In a 9-by-13-inch baking dish, toss the onion, potato and garlic with olive oil to coat; season with salt and pepper. Bake for 30 minutes, add the apples and continue to bake until tender. Transfer vegetables and apples and any juices to a large soup pot, add the chicken broth and bring to a simmer over medium-high heat. Remove from heat and using an immersion blender, puree until smooth. Add milk to get desired thickness, season with salt and pepper.