Category: nuts

Spiced ginger walnut pumpkin cake with vanilla maple frosting.

Spiced pumpkin ginger cake with maple frosting.

Readers of my blog will remember when I said a few weeks ago that it was pumpkin time. Well, it definitely is. Pumpkin, pumpkin everywhere. As far as the eye can see! Pumpkin is the universal symbol- and flavor- of autumn. Pumpkin spice lattes, pumpkin bread, pumpkin pie, pumpkin Oreos… the thought of it makes me want to pull out my fuzzy knit socks and my favorite sweats and read a book. Because fall.

That’s how I feel about ginger too. It’s a fall and winter thing, for me.

Spiced ginger pumpkin cake with maple frosting.

Spiced pumpkin ginger cake with maple frosting and toasted walnuts.

I saw the original form of this cake in an e-mail from one of my favorite stores, Sur La Table. I decided to switch it up a bit, tweak it and bake it in a different way. The frosting I also changed completely, because I don’t like cream cheese frosting. So I made a vanilla maple buttercream-ish frosting instead.

I know it sounds like a lot going on- just like that apple pie, but I promise you it works beautifully and it is not “too much.” It’s a gorgeous cake that works perfectly for any fall Sunday dinner, or even Thanksgiving, but also just for your average cold fall weekend.

I made this cake twice. The first time I used a 1 1/2 qt. vintage glass Fire King baking dish  (this one actually) that was about 10″ x 6.” I just greased it lightly and skipped the parchment. The second time, I used this vintage loaf pan, but you can use any baking dish or pan that’s roughly the same size. It can be a little wider and shallower, square instead of rectangle, or even a little deeper… but regardless, you shouldn’t have to change the temperature. Just watch the time. You don’t want the cake to burn! Baking it as a loaf, it will take around 40 minutes to bake.

But both times it came out perfect- so don’t stress what kind of pan you use.

Pumpkin spice ginger cake with maple frosting and toasted walnuts.

The cake can also very easily be made vegan: just take out the eggs and substitute with an egg replacer, flax seed or tofu. And you can use a vegan frosting option too. Although you can definitely serve it without frosting and it’s awesome, too.

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Ossi di Morto and Day of the Dead.

Feliz Día de Los Muertos, everybody! And if you’re a person of faith, Happy All Souls Day. Today is a date on the calendar that holds a lot of tradition and meaning, in many cultures.

Ossi di Morto cookies, aka bones of the dead.

Traditionally, these cookies are Italian cookies used to celebrate All Souls Day, which is today. The name is Ossi di Morto or Ossa de Mordere, and that means “bones of the dead.” Because of the tie-ins between Día De Los Muertos (Day of the Dead) and All Saints Day/All Souls Day, my idea was that they’d be a fantastic way to celebrate both days and both celebrations together, as one. They are so similar it seems only right… and we’ll get to that in a sec.

OSSI DI MORTO, aka bones of the dead cookies.

Growing up, my nana told me all about All Souls Day. My nana was 100% Irish, born to a mother who was a first-generation American, and her mother in turn was right off the boat so to speak. The tales and superstitions were a plenty. I grew up hearing all about them, and all about the reverence and respect for the dead this time of year is about. Traditionally, today is a Christian day to remember the souls of the departed, which to Catholics is known as the Commemoration of The Faithful Departed. Its a day to pray for those who’ve passed on, to remember them. You may be thinking, “Uhm, thats the same thing that the Day of the Dead is.” And you’re right. But you might not know that originally, the Day of the Dead was celebrated in summertime.  During the 16th century Spanish colonization, Mexicans moved their celebrations of Día de Los Muertos to October 31, November 1 and 2 to coincide with the triduum of All Saint’s Eve, All Saints Day and All Souls Day. November 1st is All Saints Day, however in Mexico it’s known as Día de Los Inocentes (Day of the Innocents) or Día de Los Angelitos (Day of the Little Angels) and is primarily honoring deceased infants and children. The prayers were traditionally posed to the goddess known as Lady of the Dead, now known as La Calaveras Catrina– the popular skeleton woman we see in drawings and depictions.

Of course, the Mexican way of “celebrating” these days are actual celebrations; food- yes, those sugar skulls too, parties, parades, decorating ancestors graves and of course prayer too. The Catholic version of All Souls Day is more somber, however in Italy they do light candles in the streets and have a bigger, louder celebration of today than perhaps most other Europeans. Brazilians also have a similar way of celebrating today, they call it Dia de Finados and it’s a public holiday.

I did grow up loosely Catholic- so I’m well aware of the ins and outs of these days and I prefer the Mexican version myself, even though I am not of Mexican heritage.

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Maple, brown butter & bourbon apple pie… with walnuts.

Maple brown butter bourbon apple pie with toasted walnuts.

Wow. That’s a mouthful and a half, huh? It didn’t start out being all of that. It started out simple: bourbon apple pie. And then I said to myself, let’d add some toasted walnuts. But this finished pie is a result of me letting Jay get all up in the kitchen with me while I was making it. I mean, it’s only fair- it was HIS pie. I don’t eat apple pie.

I know. Blasphemy. I LOVE apples, though, if that counts for anything.

Granny Smith & Ginger Gold apples for a fall apple pie (with maple, brown butter and BOURBON)

I’m a purist. I prefer things to be straightforward and to the point. My cupcakes are never (and never will be) green tea and macaroni and cheese cupcakes with tangerine frosting and Maldon sea salt flakes. I like things to be good, original, sturdy. My apple pies are usually just that; apple pies. I add the spices, sure, and sometimes I’ll throw in some brandy or bourbon, but for the most part it’s a basic apple pie. Jay, on the other hand, likes to throw all kinds of things into his food. He comes up with these crazy (to me) ideas right before making whatever he’s making, or while he’s making it, and it’ll go from a basic brisket or barbecued chicken to something recognizable but yet completely new… with all these ingredients I never would’ve thought to add. And it comes out amazing. So he decided- as I was slicing apples- that it would be fantastic to add brown butter to it. Oh… and some maple syrup, too.

So that’s what I did. And it smelled quite fantastic the entire time.

For this pie, we chose a mix of Ginger Gold (kind of a Golden Delicious variety, a cross between them and an Albemarle Pippin) and Granny Smith, the classic apple pie apple. We decided to make this pie randomly the night before, so we grabbed about 2 1/2 lbs. of apples to be on the safe side. This pie uses 5 apples, which is (usually- unless you have HUGE apples) less than that.

Maple brown butter bourbon apple walnut pie... whew, what a mouthful!

I SUCK AT CRUST. Always. It starts off great, and then I always have some kind of problem, particularly with the top crust. This time, I was all set to make a covered pie, not this garbage-y lattice I have going on. But disaster struck and I was forced to do this. It was a HUGE DISASTER. I won’t even say what it was… but it sucked. And the shitty thing is, it looked pretty decent pre-disaster. *sigh*

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Fruit & walnut jammy bars.

Fruit & walnut jammy bars!

So school has started. It’ll be about a month until Christmas decorations start to show up in stores. Things are only going to start getting more hectic from here; now that the slow & easy days of summer are gone. So how about some comforting treats? Like cookie bars! I love cookie bars. Cookie bars are so easy, fun and delicious. Plus they’re even kinda cooler to make than cookies, because you can just throw it all in a pan and not worry about the shape. Or removing it too quickly before it’s cooled and ending up with a smooshed falling apart cookie and a burned mouth.

Or is that just me?

Yeah. So cookie bars. Jammy bars. Cookies filled with jam, basically.

Fruit & walnut jammy bars!

Anyway, this is a great recipe for many reasons. One, you can use up some of those half-filled jars of jam in your fridge. Two, it’s a great school lunch item. And three, it’s 100% customizable. Literally any kind of nut and any flavor jam/preserve can be put in it. Including lemon curd or Nutella, if ya wanna get crazy! You can literally do anything you want and they’ll come out sweet. Get it? Sweet? Ha. Or hey, even pumpkin pie filling! GO NUTS.

And the best thing is, if you have problems taking it out of the pan & it crumbles, it makes a fantastic ice cream or yogurt topping! SO WHO CARES! PAAAAARTYYYY!

*ahem* The only reason I mention that is because the first time I made them, that’s what happened. Still delicious, but I didn’t use enough butter/flour on the pan. Ooopsie.

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Baby bundts.

A gift! (side note: look at the baby whisk!)


This post has nothing to do with babies. Not human ones. It has to do with another kind of baby: bundt cakes.

Did I mention I was getting married? Yep. No, no… really. Seriously. I’m actually actively planning a wedding. CRAZY, right? For someone who never wanted or thought she’d get married and who’s been engaged for almost two years it seems strange. But it’s true. And when you announce this fact, similar to when you announce the engagement, you end up with a few surprises showing up at your door, gift wrapped very sweetly from gorgeous houseware stores. The other day I got another one of these beautiful boxes, and I almost hated to even open it. Almost.

Pistachio mini bundt cakes.

Inside were a set of bakeware from Williams-Sonoma, and two Silpats. Right off of our registry. From my lovely Matron of Honor & her husband. So sweet! We’re spoiled. One of the baking pans was a Nordic-Ware mini bundt pan, which I had wanted forever. No really. ForEVER.

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Toasted walnut maple cupcakes… with a maple rye whiskey butter glaze.

Toasted walnut maple cupcakes with a glaze made from Tap 357 maple rye whiskey.

For some reason, I always associate the maple-y flavors with fall. Maybe because that’s when maple syrup is tapped? Maybe because it goes great with pumpkin & cinnamon & nutmeg- all fall/winter flavors. Who knows. And even though it isn’t “fall” yet, the kids are back at school, the stores are shoving Halloween & Thanksgiving stuff in your face, and- like me- you probably have baking season fever. It’s a real thing, I swear.

So… here’s a cure.

No, not having a drink. Making cupcakes! Maple cupcakes. With an extra oomph: a maple glaze using maple syrup, maple rye, and butter.

It’s that time of year when it’s maybe SLIGHTLY (I emphasize slightly) more comfortable for baking, or having the oven on. Maybe if you’re lucky, the humidity is down too. The windows can perhaps be open during the day, as opposed to the constant hum of the air conditioner. Either way, it’s just that time. The time when I transition from canning my ass off to baking. It’s a slow transition, granted- especially when my garden is still in full swing & I’m wearing shorts. But it’s starting.

The smell of autumn isn’t far away.

Which means that it’s time to get started baking again, forreals.

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Olive oil cake with orange zest, rum & pistachios.

Yeah, I know. I know. It’s the beginning of June, and “who wants to be baking in a hot house?” I get it. I really do, no one knows better than I do about how horrid it is to bake a big complicated cake or bread in 90° weather.

But… this is OLIVE OIL CAKE. It’s easy. It’s refreshing, citrus-y, it travels well and it has rum in it. It’s like the perfect summer cake.

Believe me.

Olive oil cake with orange, rum & pistachios.

The citrus flavor & olive oil are very Mediterranean in taste, the rum adds a kind of pirate-y note and the pistachios add a mildly salty crunch. All in all it’s the best cake to serve at a summer party or picnic- and you can make it into muffins, a two-layer cake with mascarpone or ricotta frosting, or leave it as is.

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