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The Original Ole’ Mood Pumpkin Bread

Last week marked the official start to Autumn, but someone needs to tell whoever sets the dates for seasonal transition (congress? The UN? Al Roker?) that Autumn really began way back on September 3. No, it wasn’t the reds and oranges of fall foliage that marked the transition and it wasn’t the cool night breeze or the first football game of the season. It was actually almost 100 degrees in good ole’ Tulsa, OK, but I knew Autumn had arrived when I walked into a work meeting at my neighborhood Starbucks coffee shop only to be greeted by a line that snaked through the shop, out the door and half way down the block.

“Did the iphone 5 change its release date and open a pop up shop at Startbucks?” I wondered to myself—and since I’m typically oblivious to any pop culture or technological happening in my vicinity (I literally sat next to Bono IN HIS TRADEMARK SUNGLASSES last time I was in New York and didn’t know it was him until someone told me)—I decided I’d just have to endure the look of shame and disappointment from the Gen-Y hipster in front of me and ask why it was going to take so long to get my Americano. As I anticipated, Gen-Y Hipster looked appalled that I failed to recognize the importance of this day (well, I am appalled you aren’t living up to your beanie wearing stereotype and buying coffee locally so take that) but not visibly shaken like the college girl in the shortest jean shorts I’d ever seen and Ugg boots (did I mention it was almost 100 degrees) in front of him. She jumped in before Gen-Y hipster could answer me:

Sorority Girl (in glass shattering shriek): “WHAT??? YOU DIDN’T KNOW IT WAS PSL DAY AT STARBS?”
Me (silently): Huh?
Sorority Girl: “PSL DAY IS LIKE MY FAVORITE DAY OF THE YEAR AND IT’S LIKE THE 10 YEAR ANNIVERSARY!”
Me (looking to my former nemesis and now maybe friend Gen-Y Hipster for reassurance that this girl is bat shit crazy): “I have a meeting. I was just trying to get a coffee. Is this the line for Starbucks?”

Apparently Gen-Y Hipster decided he was going to save me from this shriek fest before he put his giant headphones back on his head so he said, “Today is the day Starbucks officially releases the Pumpkin Spice Latte. Everyone gets really excited about it.”

Let me give you some advice, friends, if you’re ever in this Starbucks line on PSL release day. Do NOT say “Why are they releasing it so early? It’s 100 degrees outside and fall is at least a month away” unless you want to risk being overtaken by a mob of Starbucks lovers hopped up on espresso, whipped cream and pumpkin syrup.

Luckily I escaped in time, but I had to endure my early morning meeting without coffee. I thought I might be afraid of all things pumpkin for life, but now that the weather is a little cooler and Halloween (and Thanksgiving!?) decorations are popping up in Target and beyond I find myself mysteriously craving that spunky orange veggie that inspired the latte that has become more of a harbringer of fall than the first signs of foliage.

Our friends “The Ole’ Moods” brought us an amazing loaf of pumpkin bread that my family demolished in about 2 hours and I begged for the recipe immediately after (partly to make sure it didn’t have some kind of crack in it because it was so addictive…just kidding). The Ole’ Moods make extra loaves of this bread and freeze it in case of pumpkin bread emergencies and I almost had to break into their house to get some because the Ole’ Moods were out of town when I asked for the recipe and we needed more bread badly.

I make this bread every fall, but this year I decided to try to make it healthier. The original recipe calls for 1 cup of oil and since I give it to Foodie Baby for breakfast (I put it in a muffin tin and call it a cupcake) I wanted to see if I could add some whole grains and fruit to it. Yes, I realize the recipe still has a full 3 cups of sugar, but it makes two full loaves so it’s not too bad!

I substituted ½ cup of banana and ½ cup of unsweetened apple sauce for the oil and I added flax seed to the top of the loaf instead of “pecan nut dust”. I also subbed walnuts for pecans…mostly because I didn’t have any pecans. Both recipes are below. Enjoy!

The Original Ole’ Mood Pumpkin Bread
Ingredients
3 cups sugar
1 cup vegetable oil
4 eggs lightly beaten
16 oz canned, unsweetened pumpkin
3 1/2 cups flour
2 teaspoons salt
2 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 cup chopped pecans
1/3 cup water
1/3 cup pumpkin spice syrup

Preparation

Grease and flour two loaf pans
Stir in sugar and oil
Stir in eggs and pumpkin
Sift dry ingredients in separate bowl, adding pecans
Add dry ingredients to wet, alternating with water/syrup mixture
Divide batter into two pans
Top with raw sugar and pecan nut dust

Bake in oven at 300 degrees for an hour (generally it takes almost an hour and half – recipe said one hour – I just stick a toothpick in it when it comes out clean it is done)

Lightened Up Pumpkin Bread
Ingredients
3 cups sugar
½ cup mashed banana
½ cup unsweetened apple sauce
4 eggs lightly beaten
16 oz canned, unsweetened pumpkin
3 1/2 cups whole wheat pastry flour
2 teaspoons salt
2 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 cup chopped walnuts
1/3 cup water
1/3 cup pumpkin spice syrup

Preparation
1. Grease and flour one loaf pan and one muffin tin (or use muffin liners)
2. Stir in sugar and oil
3. Stir in eggs and pumpkin
4. Sift dry ingredients in separate bowl, adding pecans
5. Add dry ingredients to wet, alternating with water/syrup mixture
6. Divide batter into two pans
7. Top with raw sugar and ground flax seed
8. Bake in oven at 300 degrees for an hour (generally it takes almost an hour and half – recipe says one hour – I just stick a toothpick in it when it comes out clean it is done)

 

Super simple pesto

Made with basil fresh from the farmer’s market!

Super Simple Pesto
Ingredients
2 cups Basil
3 cloves garlic
½ Cup Grated Parmesean Cheese
2 Tablespoon pine nuts
Salt and Pepper to taste
7 Tablespoons Olive Oil

Preparation

1.  Combine the first 4 ingredients in a food processor and pulse.
2.  When ingredients are combined, add olive oil in a slow drizzle while pulsing.  If you need an extra hand, recruit a kid!  They love to pulse.
3.  Refrigerate in an airtight container and use atop chicken, seafood, pasta, caprese salad…pretty much anything!

Superfood smoothie perfect for toddlers

This is a perfect breakfast for a busy morning and if you involve your toddler in “making” the smoothie he will be much more likely to eat it!  Blueberries have tons of antioxidants and protect against heart disease and diabetes, all while improving brain function.  Spinach is rich in iron and bananas pack a powerful dose of antioxidants.  If your kid has seasonal allergies like mine, incorporating local honey into their diet (as long as they are old enough) can help battle runny noses and congestion.  Protein and calcium in milk provide fuel for the brain and body.  And cinnamon?  Some studies show it helps regulate blood sugar which can help prevent the all to common mid morning meltdown.

Ingredients

1/4 cup unsweetened apple sauce
1/4 cup frozen blueberries
7 frozen strawberries
1/2 cup fresh spinach
1/2 banana
1/8 cup whole milk
1 Tablespoon ground Flax Seed
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 Tablespoon honey
Preparation
Pre measure the ingredients and let your toddler help you pour them into the blender*.
Add all ingredients to the blender except 4 strawberries.

Allow your toddler to push the button (or flip the switch) to turn the blender on and off.

Open the blender top a few times and allow your toddler to add a strawberry
Get a spoon and ask your toddler to taste the smoothie.  If he approves, pour it into a cup with a lid and straw.
Enjoy!
For added fun, rinse your blender and pour a small amount of dish soap in the blender along with about 1 cup of water.  Ask your toddler to turn the blender on again and voila!  You have a bubbly clean blender!
*If you have a kid that will be weirded out by spinach in the smoothie, mix everything but the banana, blueberry and strawberry together before you ask for his help.  Then ask your toddler to help you add the fruit and blend.  Also, you should be warned that this smoothie has a greenish color.  If this will be a problem for your toddler, you can either a) add cocoa to make it brown (make sure it’s at least 70% cocoa and not processed with alkali/dutch processed which removes the flavanoids) or b) pour it into a dark colored cup so your kiddo can’t see it’s green.

Make your own olive oil bottles

We all know olive oil has the “healthy fats” that you’re supposed to eat to decrease your “bad cholesterol” (do you like my super technical medical terms?  Yeah, that’s why I went to law school).  But do you ever walk into your supermarket’s vinegar and oil aisle only to have a mini anxiety attack over the plethora of choices (and price ranges!) of olive oil?  No? Oh, me neither…that must be some other foodie family blogger.  Moving on…

When I was at the store yesterday, I estimated there were 20 different olive oils on the shelf, priced from $3.86 all the way to $34.00.  In addition to the price difference, there are also different virginity levels or “grades of the oil: Premium Extra Virgin, Extra Virgin, Virgin, Standard, Super Slutty (just kidding). Some bottles say the olives are hand picked and others brag that the oil is cold pressed or filtered.  To add an extra layer of confusion, you can also choose the country of origin for your olive oil: Spain, Greece, Italy, California, France–and sometimes they blend oil from different countries together to make an olive oil meritage.

I love dipping bread in olive oil while I drink a glass of wine…but if you’re like me you can easily do without the bread and olive oil and just double up on the wine if you have to put too much thought into it.  So here’s what you really need to know about Olive Oil Varietals, a few tasting notes and some great ways to use olive oil after you’ve had your first glass of wine.

Olive Oil: The Quick and Dirty
•    Look for olive oil in a tinted or metal bottle—OO is like a vampire—sunlight kills it
•    Look for “born on” date—olive oil starts to lose its taste after 1 year—Extra Virgin Olive Oil keeps longest
•    If you’re not using it for high heat cooking, make sure it says “unrefined”
•    Store your olive oil in a dark cool place to keep its flavor intact

For dipping, dressing & drizzling: Use Extra Virgin because the acidity level is the lowest and its aroma and flavor can be most fully appreciated.  Premium or Estate Extra Virgin, though more expensive, will make a favor difference in your cooking.
•    One of the best meals I ever had in my entire life was at Don Alfonso on the Amalifo Coast.  I bought two bottles of Olive Oil while I was there and savored every dip and drizzle.
•    On my honeymoon, we did an Olive Oil tasting at Round Pond in Napa Valley, CA.  The Meyer Lemon Olive Oil is perfect for salads.
•    Last Summer at the Farmer’s Market in San Francisco, this guy recommended we try his unfiltered olive oil.  He said it’s like “your favorite song, turned up.”  He was right.  It’s peppery, olive(y) and so flavorful.  Drizzle atop pasta or fish off the grill.

For quick sautéing or when mixing with other ingredients: Use Virgin because the taste will be somewhat diluted by the cooking and mixing with other ingredients.  I don’t have a favorite virgin oil.  I usually look for the best price.
For high heat cooking: Use olive oil or grapeseed oil.  Although Olive Oil’s smoke point is relatively high (400 degrees F) he flavor of the olive oil will disintegrate at higher heat so you might as well use a cheaper oil for high heat cooking.

How to Infuse Olive Oil

Infused olive oil is a great way to add a little extra kick of flavor to your standard olive oil and it makes a GREAT gift.  I still recommend using Extra Virgin Olive Oil, but you can save a little bit of money by adding your own depth of flavor with herbs and spices.  There really isn’t a precise science to infusing olive oil.  I’ve included a few of my favorite combinations, but you can really experiment and use whatever you like!*

Tools and Ingredients
Glass or nonreactive metal container
Funnel
Extra Virgin Olive Oil
Herbs (i.e. Rosemary, Thyme, Basil,
Spices (i.e. Peppercorn, Crushed Red Pepper Flakes)
Citrus Fruits (i.e. meyer lemon, orange or kumquat)

•    Find an awesome bottle.  Remember: Olive oil is like a vampire and sunlight kills is so try to find a bottle with a dark tint.  Ideally, you also want it to be air tight.
•    After preparing your herbs, spices or citrus fruits by washing, grinding or zesting, place them in the awesome bottle.
•    Pour olive oil into the bottle through the funnel. (Note that most recipes below call for heating the olive oil.  This makes the flavor infuse more quickly but is not necessary)
•    Allow ingredients to “awesomate” (technical term) for about two weeks (feel free to taste intermittently).
•    Make a cool label (or just handwrite the ingredients like me).
•    Enjoy.

Infused olive oil can be kept for up to a year, but tastes best when used in the first six months.
*Beware of using garlic to infuse your olive oil.  When homemade garlic-infused oil is left unrefrigerated or kept for too long, the chance of botulism growing is very real. There have been a number of documented cases of people getting sick from their homemade garlic oils.
*I should also tell you to refrigerate infused oils.  Refrigerated is the safest way to store infused oil.  I store my oils at room temp, but then again, I’m a pretty bold risk taker.

Meyer Lemon Olive Oil
Ingredients
1 cup olive oil
Peel from 2 Meyer lemons
Preparation
•    Warm the olive oil and the peel over very low heat for 20 minutes.
•    Allow to cool for half an hour.
•    Strain and pour into an antique stoppered bottle, or any bottle you may have.

Chili Infused Olive Oil
Ingredients
2 cups olive oil
4 teaspoons dried crushed red pepper flakes
Preparation
1.  Combine the oil and crushed red pepper flakes in a heavy small saucepan. Cook over low heat until a thermometer inserted into the oil registers 180 degrees F, about 5 minutes.
2.  Remove from heat. Cool to room temperature, about 2 hours. Transfer the oil and pepper flakes to a 4-ounce bottle.

Basil Infused Olive Oil

Ingredients
4 cups of packed basil leaves
2 cups of virgin olive oil (the flavors of extra-virgin olive oil will compete too much)
Preparation
1.  Combine basil and olive oil in a blender.
2.  Puree the mixture until smooth.
3.  In a saucepan, simmer the olive oil and basil puree over medium heat for 45 seconds.
4.  Pour the heated mixture through a fine-mesh strainer into a bowl to remove the basil.
5.  Let the mixture sit for a few hours.
6.  Pour the oil into an airtight jar. (don’t include the dark liquid at the bottom of the bowl, which is water mixed with finely ground basil)

Rosemary Infused Olive Oil
Ingredients
1/2 cup olive oil
3 fresh rosemary sprigs
Preparation
1.  In small saucepan, combine oil & rosemary. Cook over low heat until a thermometer reaches 180 F, about 5 minutes. Remove and let cool to room temp.
2.  Transfer the sprigs to a bottle, then add the oil. Seal and refrigerate up to 1 month

Now, if you’re really interested, here is an in depth lesson on Olive Oils:

Read more

Simple pork stir fry for a fun friend dinner

I always want to add dinner with friends every week to my hectic schedule but worry it takes too much preparation—so regretfully I don’t do it as often I as would like.  However, a quick and spur of the moment dinner with friends worked out well this week!  I offered veggies from my garden and pork from the farmers market—and they offered to cook.  The simple but delicious result—a beautiful tomato, basil and  mozzarella salad (tomatoes from my garden) with Steve’s special balsamic and stone ground mustard dressing—rice prepared simply in my rice cooker and pork, peppers, onions and mushrooms from the wok!  Dinner with friends at home—can be simple, delicious, and stress-free—and laughing with friends is the best nourishment.   (I did help with the dishes).

Simple Pork Stir Fry
Making a good stir fry is an easy and essential way to make a quick meal—with most anything you happen to have in the frig.  Substitute celery for peppers, add tomatoes—substitute firm tofu for  pork—it is a process to mix some healthy vegetables together with some great spice—use your creativity.

1 lb. pork tenderloin (a lean cut of pork) sliced in strips
1 red pepper and 1 green pepper—sliced in strips
1 yellow onion- sliced in strips
1 lb. sliced mushrooms (I love mushrooms-if you don’t—you can decrease or not use).
3 cloves of garlic—finely diced
1 lime
1 red chili (spicier the better for me!)
1 tbs sesame oil
1 tbs low sodium soy salt (Yamasa is my favorite)
2 tbs. sweet chili sauce
3 cups jasmine rice

Put thinly sliced pork in a bowl—add juice and zest from the lime, add finely diced garlic, chili and garlic to the bowl.  If you have time, let it stand for 15 minutes in the fridge so the ingredients can get friendly.  Meanwhile, back to slicing—peppers, yellow onion, mushrooms.

Start rice (package directions) in a pan or a rice cooker! Set TIMER!!
Pull out your wok, put the heat high, add the sesame oil—and let it heat up for a minute or two
Add pork (and all those friend that have been chilling with the pork)
Stir a bit until pork starts to brown—add onions and peppers.
When the peppers are losing a bit of crispness and the onions are becoming clearer—add in the mushroom….stirring all the while! Add soy sauce and chili sauce—keep tossing!

Have your friend plate up the rice and serve your stir-fry on the side or on the rice as you prefer.

Condiments—a bottle of Lee Kum Lee Sriracha Chili Sauce!  Enjoy!