Category Archives: Desserts

Mind-Numbing Pumpkin Bread

When I started this blog, I was so determined to post at least twice a week … and here I am, a little over three weeks since last writing. D’oh! In my defense, I have been fervently getting ready to welcome a new baby. And by fervently, I mean thinking about it a lot, not necessarily doing anything to prepare. I still haven’t packed my hospital bag, and my kitchen floor is begging to be mopped — among other, more important things screaming for my attention.

130919_pumpkinbread

So in a few short weeks (if not sooner), I’m going to have two kids. Two. That’s double the number I currently have, if you’re keeping count. It’s kind of overwhelming. I find myself thinking, “How did I get here?!” I feel like I just graduated from college and started my first job, then I blinked and ended up married with a mortgage and two kids. Don’t get me wrong, I love my life, but it sure is flying by quickly! And I don’t really plan on having any more babies after this one, so I’ve been kind of mourning not being pregnant again. It’s a weird thing. I feel so very “done,” and am looking forward to having a more agile and comfortable body again soon, but there’s also something really special about carrying a baby. I’ll miss it in an odd way. Especially the kicks. There’s just something about the kicks.


I also have been a little weepy about my solo time with Lucas coming to an end. For his first 13 months of life, I wanted nothing more than to leave my full-time job and stay home with him. I was so unhappy at work and missed my baby to the point it physically hurt. And so I finally did quit, and these past 15 months with him have been the most special, happy months of my entire life. I am overjoyed to bring a sibling into this world for him, not to mention having a new child in our family, but change can be tough and scary. Soon, I am sure that I barely will be able to remember our family as it currently is with only three members. But that will take time, and I never do very well with the unknown. So a couple of days ago, as I stared out into a dreary, grey day, mourning summer, the end of my [probably] final pregnancy, and thinking about how odd it is to try and patiently wait for one’s entire life to be turned completely inside out, I decided to make pumpkin bread. Because it seemed like the thing to do. Thankfully, it worked. I felt totally relaxed and the baking process managed to take my mind off life. And Lucas was happy because it’s his absolute favorite. I have to hide it from him. Seriously.

I’ve been making this recipe for several years and it’s one of the easiest, tastiest things in my regular fall/winter rotation. It puts Starbucks’ pumpkin loaf to shame, and that’s saying a lot, because I love Starbucks’ pumpkin loaf. This recipe is slightly adapted from the Downeast Maine Pumpkin Bread recipe on Allrecipes.com. I’ve also made a healthier version with whole wheat flour, half the sugar, and applesauce instead of oil/butter. It’s decent, but the real thing is much better. So if you’re not counting calories, go for the original.

Mind-Numbing Pumpkin Bread

Ingredients

  • 1 (15 ounce) can pumpkin puree
  • 4 eggs
  • 1/2 cup vegetable oil
  • 1/2 cup melted butter
  • 2/3 cup water
  • 3 cups white sugar
  • 3 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons salt
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground ginger

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C). Grease and flour three 7×3 inch loaf pans or two 9×5 loaf pans.
  2. In a large bowl, mix together pumpkin puree, eggs, oil, melted butter, water, vanilla, and sugar until well blended. In a separate bowl, whisk together the flour, baking soda, baking powder, salt, cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves and ginger. Stir the dry ingredients into the pumpkin mixture until just blended. Pour into the prepared pans.
  3. Bake for about 50 minutes (three 7×3 pans) or 70 minutes (two 9×5 pans) in the preheated oven. Loaves are done when toothpick inserted in center comes out clean.

Construction Cake

Lucas turned two back in April, but I just came across these pictures of his construction party and realized I hadn’t yet shared them with you.

130808_constructioncake

I was so completely overwhelmed by his first birthday party (I went a little overboard with handmade decorations, party favors, etc.), that I decided to take a step back this year and keep things relatively simple. Anything truck related is very popular around here, so we went with a construction theme.

I Googled “construction cake” and found inspiration looking at pictures from A. Party Style and Fredellicious. Since I went very light on the decorations and we kept the guest list quite small, I wanted to make him a really cool cake. For how simple this cake actually was to make, I thought it looked pretty darned good and was really pleased with myself when all was said and done.

I started by baking two nine-inch round layers of my favorite chocolate cake from Hershey’s — recipe below — along with their “perfectly chocolate” chocolate frosting (throwing in eight ounces of cream cheese for good measure). If you don’t feel like making cake or frosting from scratch, go ahead and use a boxed cake mix and canned frosting. Your guests still will be impressed. Promise.

After your cake rounds cool, you’ll want to level them. For the “excavation,” take a long serrated knife and carve a large chunk out of the top cake layer, cutting at about a 45-degree angle. You’ll just need to eyeball it and go with your gut for the shape. Flip the cut piece/chunk over so the flat sides of the cake meet. Then frost the whole cake, treating the excavated piece like a third cake layer. For the “dirt,” run a package of Oreos through your food processor and lightly press them into the frosting to make them stick. If you don’t have a food processor, you can place the Oreos into a Ziploc bag and crush them with a rolling pin. (A big shout out to my friend Kim who talked me through the cutting — I was super nervous about wrecking the cake!)

For Lucas’ name I used Wilton fondant cut outs and Wilton neon colors fondant. Using the same fondant, I hand-shaped the construction cones. The candy rocks are sold in bulk at my local grocery store, but you also can buy them on Amazon. I found the small digger for the top of the cake at the dollar store — they came in multi-packs, and I used the others as a party-favor component.

I kept the decorations simple and printed these letters on orange construction paper using Microsoft Word (!). We affixed them to the wall using painters’ tape. So simple, and I think the banner turned out pretty cute.

130808_constructionbanner

But most importantly, my boy thought everything was extra special and he had a great day! Four months later and he’s still talking about his “excavator party.”

130808_happyboywithcake

Hershey’s “Perfectly Chocolate” Chocolate Cake

Ingredients

  • 2 cups sugar
  • 1-3/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 3/4 cup Hershey’s cocoa
  • 1-1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1-1/2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 2  eggs
  • 1 cup milk
  • 1/2 cup vegetable oil
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1 cup boiling water

Directions

  1. Heat oven to 350°F. Grease and flour two 9-inch round baking pans.
  2. Stir together sugar, flour, cocoa, baking powder, baking soda and salt in large bowl. Add eggs, milk, oil and vanilla; beat on medium speed of mixer 2 minutes. Stir in boiling water (batter will be thin). Pour batter into prepared pans.
  3. Bake about 45 minutes or until wooden pick inserted in center comes out clean. Cool 10 minutes; remove from pans to wire racks. Cool completely. Frost with “Perfectly Chocolate” Chocolate Cream-Cheese Frosting. 10 to 12 servings.

“Perfectly Chocolate” Chocolate Cream-Cheese Frosting

Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) butter or margarine
  • 8 oz. cream cheese
  • 2/3 cup Hershey’s cocoa
  • 3 cups powdered sugar
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Directions

  1. Melt butter. Stir in cocoa.
  2. Alternately add powdered sugar and milk, beating on medium with a hand mixer. Beat in cream cheese.
  3. Add small amount additional milk, if needed. Stir in vanilla. About three cups frosting.

Milk Makin’ Oatmeal-Flaxseed Lactation Cookies

When I went back to work after having Lucas, I pumped my boobs off to meet my daily breastmilk quota. It was difficult and stressful, but I discovered a few things along the way that really helped my supply, namely these lactation cookies. They’re also just dang tasty, whether or not you’re breastfeeding. Tell your husband not to worry if he can’t help himself and eats a few, he will not spontaneously lactate. Promise.

130707_lactationcookies

There are a lot of recipes for similar cookies floating around. I combined a few and after many, many batches, think I have the recipe perfected. I’m due with our second baby this October and plan to have a large stash of this dough in the freezer before our little one arrives. I also like to make them for new moms as a baby-welcoming gift. (And if you just don’t feel like baking, you can buy the Milkmakers brand of pre-made cookies. I hear they’re yummy, but haven’t tried them myself.)

Lactation cookies help boost milk supply with three key ingredients; oats, ground flaxseed, and brewer’s yeast. My lactation consultant originally recommended this recipe, which also details why all of these ingredients are so important for nursing moms. I like to use coconut oil instead of butter, since the lauric acid it contains has beneficial antiviral, antibacterial, and parasiticidal properties that support the immune system of both baby and mama. If you just want a terrific, fiber-rich cookie recipe, feel free to leave out the brewer’s yeast.

Milk Makin’ Oatmeal-Flaxseed Lactation Cookies

Makes about 2 1/2-3 dozen.

Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup coconut oil
  • 1/2 cup creamy peanut butter
  • 1/2 cup applesauce
  • 3/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 3/4 cup brown sugar
  • 2 large eggs
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1/2 cup ground flaxseed
  • 3 T. brewer’s yeast
  • 2 cups whole-wheat flour
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 1/2 cups whole oats
  • 1 cup dried cranberries
  • 1 cup chopped walnuts
  • 2 cups chocolate chips

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 350F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or silicone mat.
  2. In a large bowl, whisk together flour, baking soda, baking powder, and salt. Set aside.
  3. In KitchenAid or other stand mixer, slowly mix together coconut oil, sugars, eggs, peanut butter, applesauce, vanilla extract, ground flaxseed, and brewer’s yeast until mixture is smooth.
  4. Slowly add dry ingredients to wet, mixing on level 1-2 until almost combined. Then, one at a time, add in oats, cranberries, walnuts, and chocolate chips, and mix until the dough comes together with no streaks of flour remaining.
  5. Drop 1-inch balls of cookie dough onto prepared baking sheets, leaving a little room for the cookies to spread.
  6. Bake for 10-12 minutes, until cookies are set.
  7. Cool for a few minutes on the baking sheet, then transfer cookies to a wire rack to cool completely.
  8. To freeze dough, flash freeze dough balls on a cookie sheet covered with wax paper. Once frozen, place individual dough balls in Ziploc bag to store. Bake from frozen, adding 1 to 2 minutes to final baking time.

Four-Ingredient Oatmeal Breakfast Cookies

My kiddo cannot get enough of these ridiculously easy, four-ingredient “breakfast cookies.” And to be honest, neither can I. They’re a great snack for this pregnant, on-the-go mama, and Lucas thinks it’s pretty freakin’ awesome that I’ve been letting him eat “cookies” for breakfast … and snack, lunch, etc.
130625_fouringredientcookies

Yes, it has been a cookie bonanza around our house since I discovered this recipe a couple months ago — variations are plastered all over Pinterest. These cookies seriously take only about five minutes to whip up, around 15 minutes to bake, and they will disappear faster than you can blink!

I only have made these with bananas, but any very ripe, mashable fruit will work. My friend Camille made them with half bananas and half strawberries, and said they were amazing. I’ll be trying that combo soon!

Four-Ingredient Oatmeal and Fruit Breakfast Cookies

(Makes about a dozen cookies)

Ingredients

  1. Two very ripe bananas (Or equivalent amount of other ripe, mashable fruit, e.g., strawberries.)
  2. One heaping tablespoon of creamy peanut butter
  3. One cup of raw oats (I always have old-fashioned oats on hand, but quick-cooking oats will work, too. Just don’t use steel cut.)
  4. One-quarter to one-half teaspoon of cinnamon (Use your own taste preference.)

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 350F.
  2. Mash up the bananas and peanut butter, mix in the oats and cinnamon, and drop by the tablespoon onto a greased cookie sheet. (I never have used my Silpat Non-Stick Silicone Baking Liner as much as I have since beginning to make these cookies all the time!)
  3. Bake for 15 to 17 minutes. The cookies will not brown or spread very much. And by very much, I mean at all.
  4. Slightly smash with the back of a flat spoon when you remove from the oven, then let cool.
  5. Enjoy!