Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Vegan Spicy Pumpkin Bread with Ground Pepper Topping (Super Moist, Super Easy . . . and Puppy "Frankenstein" Update)

I baked pumpkin bread with one hand tied behind my back and a teething, nipping, "crazy-town" puppy rolling around at my feet. I wouldn't recommend this, but it was how my bread came together. Simple is what I'm about in the kitchen these days. Pumpkin is like my favorite veggie of all time. The ginormous display of pumpkins I nearly ran smack into at the grocery store the other day (as I navigated the aisles in a sleepy haze of hunger and loyal duty to keep the home stocked with food stuffs not related to canines) gave me the inspiration to run home and FOR ONCE bake. This bread turned out to be one of my best yet. (Of course I say that every year I bake pumpkin bread.) Lo the pumpkin bread gods were shining down on me. I love a spicy pumpkin bread--nothing too wimpy or too cake-y. I want to taste fall: cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves and ginger and new this year: fresh ground pepper on top. We shared a slice this morning over coffee as I was screaming at "Frankenstein" to stop it making breakfast. 
Funny thing happens after several weeks of a new routine. Adaptation to the order of things, as abnormal as they may seem, kicks in. Sure, I'd love a good eight hour beauty sleep night. But those are gone for the time being. Yes, Francine is sleeping better, but her murmurings and movements during the night wake me every single time. (I'm the light sleeper in the family.) 

Meantime, our growth spurts and puppy outlandishness continues. The other day she tried to leap over her sissy in an unsuccessful attempt at "play". This landed her on all fours with a bigger problem of how to explain to her counterpart that she was not intending her to be an indoor slide, just saw her as an impediment on her way to the water bowl. (We are a ways off from being polite and learning to  "just go around the sleeping adult dog".) 
Puppy Kindergarten begins this Thursday! 
It suddenly dawned on Dr. Thyme that she was the only puppy out of her litter without a "shadow". She had her second doctor visit and puppy shot day this week. She is now nine weeks old and weighs in at a 16.7 lbs.! Whoa. 
This weekend we went on yet another excursion. She met her first "Lake". Quite the big deal. Almost too much for her little brain (but large head) to take in. 
Meantime, there is the problem of my having to watch for birds of prey staring down into the back yard at white fuzz ball with appetizer longings curiosity.
Ahhh. Knitting. Where would I be without you? The world has just begun to smack of "normalcy" as I was able to pick up my knitting needles for the first time in weeks. I would sneak a stitch in here and there and be frustrated with the lack of total immersion one who knits seeks as they count off a row. I have three projects stopped cold--with middles of rows completely left idle. WHAT is happening cannot keep happening. This is crazy! My sanity depends upon that string and those sticks working in my hands.
 This yarn arrived the other day from Yarnbox this month. Is it not lovely?
Delicious Yarns, Sweet Sport in Green Tea and Blueberry. I can hardly wait to begin knitting with this. I have to wait for the Yarn Project Whisperer to tell me what exactly it wants to be first. 

Vegan Spicy Pumpkin Bread
*Makes one 8- by 4-inch loaf

1 1/4  cup unbleached all-purpose flour
1/2 cup spelt flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
3/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
3/4 teaspoon ground cloves
3/4 teaspoon ginger
1/2 teaspoon fresh ground nutmeg
fresh ground pepper *ground over the top of the bread before baking--optional
1 1/4 cup canned pumpkin
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 brown sugar
1/2 cup canola oil, plus 2 tablespoons
1/4 cup water

Preheat oven to 350. Lightly spray a loaf pan with non-stick baking spray. In a medium bowl, sift together all dry ingredients--including the spices. Set aside. In another bowl, add the pumpkin, sugars, oil and water. Mix well. Add the dry ingredients to the wet and stir with a spoon just until the dry ingredients are moist. Don't over mix! It will be lumpy--and that's okay. Pour into prepared loaf pan. Add a couple turns of fresh ground pepper over the top of the batter before baking (this is optional, but completely took the bread to a whole new level IMHO). Bake for about 45-50 minutes. Keep an eye on the bread toward the end, test for doneness by sticking a knife in the middle of the bread--if it comes out clean with only a few crumbs sticking to it, it is ready and can removed from oven. (The key to the moist bread is to have the bread fully baked, but not over baked--I know, it's a fine line here, but you really want to have it baked through--so testing it helps.) Allow to cool completely in pan. Remove from pan when cool and wrap in plastic wrap and foil and store in the fridge. Enjoy! 

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Like A Bridge over Water with Trouble

Week two. Today Frankie and I and her sister went to the park. And Frankie saw her very first bridge, and her very first creek. Will the wonders never cease? She was absorbed by this bubbling brook and this wooden structure prohibiting her from cascading head first into that funny looking clear stuff. It was precious. However, last night, anything but "precious" came to mind. 

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Bringing Our Great Pyrenees Puppy Home! (Dear Sleep . . . Please Come Back)

World, meet Francine, aka "Frankie". Frankie, meet world. It's day four and eight hours of sleep later--TOTAL hours, just to be clear. Who needs sleep when you have this little precious soul totally dependent upon you. Oh the love we have poured into this hellion, sweet, sweet baby girl is beyond words. Well, there probably are words, I just haven't the brain cells right now to convey them. We picked Frankie up on Saturday. As you can see, she slept most of the way home. We made formal introductions to the pack, and from the get-go two things were abundantly clear. 

Sunday, August 24, 2014

Here She Grows! (. . . this is the story of how we keep ourselves sane during August in Missouri)

Two weeks left before the "baby" comes home. We can hardly wait. The anticipation is made even more maddening (though we have no complaints) by the puppy updates we receive from our new girl's human mommy (because canine mommy doesn't have opposable thumbs, she can't send photos). The photo from the top is from this past Friday. The one below is from the week before. We can see every week the weight she's gaining--how big her paws are getting and how much her head has grown. 

Pyrenees puppy-ness is getting me through these miserable days of this summer. While I type, the temperature outside is at a chilly ninety-nine degrees with a heat index of 110! Not real keen on cooking at all here lately, I do have a pot of my homemade marinara filling the air conditioned tomb we're relegated to with yummy Italian aroma. So at least I was able to throw that together, or else we may starve. 

Thursday, August 14, 2014

We're Expecting A New Member of The Family Soon So I'll Share Something Happy for A Change (and a reflection: My St. Louis, Missouri Today . . . My Gary, Indiana circa 1970s)

Well, we're preparing for the arrival of our newest member of the family in three weeks. My heart is melting over this. As you all know, Dr. Thyme and I have suffered several losses of our most cherished pets. And with each loss, we felt an emptiness that was difficult to overcome. Very. Difficult. Lots of tears. The last loss, Merlin, was perhaps the tipping point. The point at which we both looked at each other and said, Gee, it'd be great to have a dog for its entire life: from puppyhood to adulthood. Because truth be told, the time we have to share a life with a dog is never long enough.

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Vegan Heirloom Tomato Devil's Food Cake with Fluffy White Buttercream Frosting (Yup, it's chocolate and tomatoes . . . and my rollerblading/knitting escapades)

If you think you're a purist with chocolate, like I am, you may very well look askance at the very idea of tomatoes and chocolate and tsk-tsk this recipe away. Well don't. It's rich, decadent, moist, chocolate-y and has a to-die-for crumb. Top it off with a luscious vegan buttercream frosting and you'll be sooo happy your kitchen has become tomato central--you'll keep this cake in your weekly rotation. . . because the world would be a much better place if we all sat down and had a piece of cake at least once a week. Right now, we're on the "daily" piece of cake ration plan.
 Happiness ensues. 

The tomatoes starting rolling in about three weeks ago. And they haven't stopped. Something had to be done. And with tomatoes coming in by the bucketfuls, I've made every iteration of pasta you can imagine. No. Seriously. I have. Basil's the same way--coming in by the bunches! Normally, I would never in a million years complain about eating pasta. Ever. It's in my DNA to love it: Croatian/Italian--we LOVE our pasta. But a woman has her limits.

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Vegan Brown Butter Chewy Oatmeal Raisin Cookies (. . . and summer canning tips for the "cherry" obsessed)

This is one of those recipes that came about because another oatmeal raisin cookie recipe didn't. I was insane to bake today in this ninety degree gawdawful heat. Cravings have priority. While I was at it--baking, that is, I whipped up some cinnamon raisin bread, too. It was a little steamy in here. (Something about the cinnamon being out made me crave the bread. But I don't know.) I can barely concentrate enough to stay on task going from one room to the next. But somehow today I was able to accomplish both bread and cookies thanks to a little cinnamon-obsessed moment.  

I think of the oatmeal cookie in the way I was raised to think of them: chewy. There are other schools of thought on the matter of oatmeal cookies. And I won't eat them. You know who you are: dry and crumbly. Save that for the shortbread cookies. So after one huge, messy kitchen cookie disaster, I did what any other woman would do, I baked another batch of cookies again, only this time, I wasn't messing around. And brown butter showed up to take these to the next level of yum. It wasn't on purpose, sort of a happy accident with the butter. I wasn't paying attention. But it worked, okay?   


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