Friday, November 30, 2012

all i want for christmas...

I know creating a Christmas wish list is silly.  Especially one filled with impractical items like the world's most amazing truffles and black diamond earrings.  I should be asking for things like towels and sheets and umm a place to sit on (sorry Tyler I am guessing we wont have a couch until 2013!), but after spending the last month being utterly practical (well kind of, I guess I didn't really need the vintage crystal nightlights I bought but they were so beautiful!), I feel like its time for a little bit of frivolousness and asking for things that make my heart skip a beat.  Yes I do need a toaster, but below is what I am really lusting over.  

From top left.

Dannijo Vala Necklace - Because I have a soft spot for all forms of bling and if the holidays aren't the best time to be sporting a lot of bling (everyone wants to look like a Christmas tree) well then I need to reevaluate my life.  

Wool Throw in Fushcia - Because once I have an apartment that somewhat resembles a home, I don't plan on leaving for a very long time and since I live with a boy who is a little more thrifty, I don't see the heat being turned on or up very often.  So really this is a super practical gift.  And it happens to be pink which I adore.  

Agate Bookends - Because I am having a agate stone moment and these bookends are so beautiful that they elevate the everyday practical item into something special.  I also would be happy with just about anything from the Etsy store High Street Market.  She really does the most unbelievable job of curating a collection of things you never thought you needed.  

NYC Dougnut Map - Because if you know me you know I can pretty much find something sweet no matter where I am in the city, but this doughnut map would be perfect for when I want to spend a Saturday eating my body weight in fried dough.  

Black Diamond Earrings - Because I am currently obsessed with black diamonds since they seem to be the cooler cousin to regular diamonds.  These are simple and understated and wearable with just about everything in my wardrobe.  Plus I've had my eye on these for about a year, so maybe its time to get them. And who doesn't want to get diamonds for Christmas?

Bourbon Barrel Smoked Sugar - Because I love bourbon and I love sugar even more and I am pretty much imagining the plethora of cookies (and savory foods!) this would be amazing on the top of.  Smoked bourbon sugar cookies? I need this now.  

Champagne Bucket - Because when New Years Eve hits I will be toasting the fact that I survived this year and still have a boyfriend who loves me (I think), a roof over my head, and some of my more prized possessions that survived the great flood of 2012.  Most likely we will be toasting with Proececo or Cava but no matter what bottle of bubbly you buy, it looks a thousand times chicer in a bronze bucket (and it would look amazing on my bar cart!).  

Passion Fruit Truffles - Because if you want to know the quickest way to my heart its with a half a dozen of these guys packaged in the most beautiful box ever.  I have had a lot of chocolate in my life and nothing compares to these.  

Jerusalem the Cookbook - Because I have just enough room on my bookshelf for a couple of more cookbooks and since I love the cookbook Plenty so much, I figure his second book will probably win me over as well.  (Actually I know it will because I read the appendix on Amazon and I was drooling.)  

Gold Wishbone - Because wishbones are sentimental to me for a lot of reasons, and this one is the perfect size to sit a top my collection of photography books as a decorative object.  Plus it's gold and everyone knows how I feel about gold.  

Thursday, November 29, 2012

orecchiete with brussel sprouts and bacon.

As a child, I despised brussel sprouts.  I would sit at the dinner table refusing to eat even a single one and eventually my parents would tell me I couldn't leave the table until I ate them.  When that happened I would hold my nose as tight as possible to avoid smelling them and tasting them and when I choked them all down I would run from the table as fast as I could.  Thankfully, I now fully embrace them (sometimes when you get older you realize how silly you were as a child) and when the cooler temps arrive, I get super excited for the arrival of the mini green cabbages on the stem.  My favorite way to eat them is by roasting them (obviously) and then making a tangy vinaigrette with Dijon mustard and maple syrup, but I yearned to make the side dish merge into a pasta dish so I could make a one pot meal (obviously).  Inspiration struck in the form of the NYTimes last week, when apparently Melissa Clark was thinking the same thing as me and decided to make the pasta of my dreams.  It's earthy and green and salty (yay bacon!)  and substantial which is what I look for in every one pot meal I make.  I ate it straight from the bowl for dinner and proceeded to devour it at lunch the next day which is always a sign I love it.  

Orecchiete with Brussel Sprouts and Bacon
Recipe adapted from the NYTimes

Serves 1, generously 

1 cup orecchiete or penne
1/4 cup diced pancetta or bacon (the good stuff!), diced
2 garlic cloves, diced
1 large pinch crushed red pepper flakes
2 cups thinly sliced brussel sproouts
Salt and pepper to taste
Fresh lemon juice for serving
Generous 2 tablespoons parmesan or pecorino

Bring a large pot of heavily salted water to boil.  Add the pasta and cook until al dente.  

In a large saute pan, cook the pancetta until the fat has rendered about 3 minutes.  Add the garlic to the pan and cook until the garlic is golden brown in color.  Add the sliced brussel sprouts to the pan and toss them in the pancetta fat.  (If the pancetta or bacon does not release at least a tablespoon of fat then add some extra olive oil to the pan.)   Toss the brussel sprouts with the red pepper flakes and salt and pepper to taste.  Continue to cook in the pan until the brussel sprouts begin to char and wilt.  

Drain the pasta from the pot and add the pasta to the pan.  Toss to combine with the brussel sprouts.  Add the cheese and lemon and taste.  Adjust the seasonings as necessary.  Feel free to eat the final product straight from the pot.  

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

black and gold.

Tyler and I have been eating Indian style on our hardwood floors since moving in since we lack a table and chairs (I have no one to blame this situation on but me and my indecision to commit to stools for our island). If I had my way (and money for a bigger apartment - maybe if we win the lotto!) we would be sitting around a dinning room table like the below since I am currently lusting over black, gold, and dark hardwood. There is something to be said about a masculine table and chairs paired with more feminine shaped lights.  It's the current look I am striving for in our apartment - a place where boy meets girl.  It's sexy and cool without trying to hard which is kind of how I wish I was.  

Image via Pinterest.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

browned butter blondies with pretzels and chocolate chunks.

I am working in a “hurricane edited” version of my kitchen – a version that has only one spatula and no pepper mill (which means I’ve been grinding pepper with a mortar and pestle, I feel so old fashioned).   I have a rather large box coming from Amazon this week and once that arrives, I will (hopefully!) be able to tackle a couple of the recipes from my growing pile ripped out magazine pages that have made a home next to my bed.  Until the presents I have purchased myself pour in, I will have to stick with the basics, which means many one-dish meals.  This also means that when my craving for sweets hits (which it did with abandon last night), I need to rely on simple bar cookies like the blondie.  The blondie is somewhat underappreciated; it plays second fiddle to the brownie and the chocolate chip cookie which is really a shame because I think it’s rather lovely, especially if you fancy it up with browned butter, chunks of dark chocolate, and chopped pretzels which gives it the most wonderful salty crunchy bite.  I managed to eat three for dinner last night while browsing cyber Monday sheet sales, maybe it wasn’t the healthiest of dinners, but I enjoyed myself immensely. 

Browned Butter Blondies with Pretzels and Chocolate Chunks
Recipe adapted from Bon Appetit

This is the first time where I really noticed the difference in the regular butter vs. browned butter, and I will be the first to tell you it makes all the difference in the world.  BROWN THE BUTTER – it gives an unbelievable nuttiness to the cookie as well as giving the cookie the most beautiful tan color ever.  The addins are optional – but the pretzels and chocolate chunks are spectacular (nuts would be lovely as well). 

¾ cup all purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
½ teaspoon kosher salt
6 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 cup packed light brown sugar
1 large egg
½ teaspoon vanilla extract
¾ cup pretzel twists, coarsely chopped
3.5 ounces (100 grams) bittersweet chocolate, chopped

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.  Line an 8x8 pan with greased parchment paper and set aside.  In a small bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder, and salt. 

Stir butter in a medium skillet over medium heat until brown bits begin to form, about 5-7 minutes.  (Note – do not leave the butter unattended, the bits will appear suddenly and very shortly will burn.) 

Transfer to an electric mixer and beat with brown sugar until it resembles wet sand, about 2-3 minutes.  Add eggs and vanilla, mix until fluffy.  Add dry ingredients, mix until just combined, then add the chocolate chunks and the pretzel twists.  Using an offset spatula, spread the mixture into the pan (it will be very thick). 

Bake until it pulls away from the sides and a tester comes out with a few crumbs, about 20-25 minutes.  Let cool.  Try to avoid eating them all in one sitting. 

Saturday, November 24, 2012

white shelves and thoughts on redecoration.

Since returning home for Thanksgiving, I've spent the better part of the last couple of days indulging in absolutely nothing.  I've slept in (nothing felt better then getting a solid 8 hours of sleep), I've eaten pie for breakfast (and scones and left over turkey dipped in cranberry relish), I read cookbooks in bed surrounded by puppies, and I browsed furniture and fabrics and chairs online, a lot.  I am pretty sure I've looked at what feels like every rug available to me.  I've zoomed in and analyzed photos of hundreds of fabrics as potential curtains.  I've made myself slightly crazy.  

I am impatient by nature (I imagine if I was reading this blog post out loud to my mom when I reached this line she would be shaking her head repeatedly because she is always the first to remind me how impatient I am).  I don't like things to take time, I want to make decisions and see results and be done with it.  Rebuilding you entire apartment is not for the inpatient because it takes time, a lot of time.  Do you know when deciding on curtains and fabrics that you are suppose to order samples, wait for them to be delivered, and then analyze them in your new home to decide which is best! Do you know how much longer the process takes when you have to do these things?  It takes a lot longer and it's driving me crazy.  

In the meantime, while I wait for my 12 billion samples I've had to order, I am trying to tackle things that can be accomplished today and then be crossed off - like buying zebra printed pillows (for my non-existent couch because I obviously had zebra printed pillows on my list and perhaps I forgot to add it to my list in the beginning and maybe I added it as I was purchasing it because it made me feel better about life to have something I could cross off.  Maybe.) 

But! I can proudly say that we do have shelves now because Tyler made me shelves and I can happily cross the "something to hold something so we don't have boxes all over the place filled with our crap" off the list. They look like the below (but better).  It did take me about 10 hours to decide on which white brackets I wanted.  (I love to make almost everything very difficult.)

When my counter tops aren't cluttered with rolls of paper towels and random pieces of mail, I will post photos, hopefully that happens sooner rather then later.  I also went to the farmers market today to buy vegetables so I also hope to return to the kitchen soon and cook because this blog needs more food dishes.  I am sorry. 

Image via Pinterest.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

brussel sprout hash with fried eggs.

Until the world returns to order, the boy and I will continue to live off of one pan meals that involve little prep and even less clean up.  (I plan to counteract the lack of cooking I have done over the last couple of weeks by taking over my mom's kitchen and trying to single handly cook as much of Thanksgiving as possible - I see a mess ensuing.)  One pan meals have turned into a lot of breakfast for dinner where we end up eating some form of vegetable hash with a fried egg on top.  Served with toasted sourdough bread that has a slathering of butter and jam, I find this to be the most satisfying of all meals.  It's comfort food and easy to make and when your home is nothing more then a construction zone where boxes are scattered about and drop cloths fill almost every surface you only want to eat food that makes you feel warm inside.  Of all the hashes I've made over the last couple of week (and I have made a lot of hashes) the best version involves shredded brussel sprouts.  The brussel sprouts get caramelized in the pan (by the addition of honey) which gives them a slightly sweet and smoky taste.  The only other spices needed is some salt and pepper and a little sprinkle of smoked paprika, oh and of course some grated parmesan, because all comfort food in my mind involves cheese.  

Brussel Sprout Hash with Fried Eggs

This is the kind of dish where you can adapt it to what you have on hand (god only knows we've been doing that a lot).  The meat is optional, but I love cooking the sprouts in the meat fat.  If you choose to keep it vegetarian, just cook the sprouts in a little olive oil.  This also works with other fall vegetables like spinach!

4-5 cups of brussel sprouts, washed and thinly sliced
2 slices of bacon or 1 link of sausage (casing removed), diced
1/2 teaspoon smoked Spanish paprika or regular paprika (but the smoked is wonderful here)
1 tablespoon honey (Mike's Hot Honey is also wonderful here!)
1/4 cup parmesan or pecorino
Salt and pepper to taste
4 eggs

Heat a large skillet on medium-high heat, until hot.  Once hot, add the diced bacon or sausage, stirring to break up the meat, and continue to cook until the meat is cooked through (if sausage) or crispy (if bacon).  Removed the meat from the pan and set aside.  Add the sliced brussel sprouts to the pan and stir so they all get coated in a little bit of the grease.  Lower the heat to medium and add in the honey and smoked paprika and stir so everyone in the pan gets a little bit of the spice and honey.  Continue to cook until the brussel sprouts char and wilt, about 5-7 minutes.  Taste the sprouts and add salt and pepper accordingly.  Add half the cheese and stir.  Remove the brussel sprouts from the heat and divide the mixture onto two plates and set aside.  

Return the skillet to the stove and turn it onto medium high heat.  Add some oil to the pan or some cooking spray in order to cook the eggs.  Cook the eggs two at a time, until the whites are set and the yolks are runny.  Place the eggs on top of the hash and top with a sprinkle of salt, pepper, and some additional parmesan.  Repeat with the other eggs. 

Monday, November 19, 2012

industrial island.

It was love at first sight.  The second I saw the below island I knew I had to have it.  It's the single most beautiful piece of furniture I have ever laid eyes on - it has history and weight and its rustic and industrial all at the same time.  I am envisioning myself (finally) mastering the art of puff pastry, baking hundreds of cookies, and rolling out thousands of rounds of pizza dough on it's slate top.  I have never spent my money more wisely.  

I found it at the most lovely shop in Jersey City called Beekman Lane which sells the kind of eclectic mix of antique items that I fall head over heels for.  Living a block away could become very dangerous.  

Friday, November 16, 2012

italian batter bread.

The other week I went to one of the neighborhood “gourmet” supermarkets to buy some bread to go with my cauliflower soup.  I selected an innocent looking sundried tomato baguette.  It looked good – toasted brown in color, a crusty looking outside, and I could see bits of sundried tomato peeking through. I brought it back to the office, and tore into it only to discover a thoroughly disappointing loaf.  The crumb was terrible and it was devoid of any flavor.  I felt disheartened, my cauliflower soup deserved a better companion.  This got me thinking about bread and how so many people have never had a quality loaf of bread. One that’s dense and moist with a heavy crumb and a wonderful chewy bite, the kind of bread that elevates all sandwich meats and makes the perfect vehicle for dunking into soup.  I have a handful of bread recipes that I turn to on a regular basis, they are easy to make but the final product is outstanding.  This Italian batter bread is at the very top of my list in terms of favorites.  It is easy and oh so delicious that the boy and I have been known to finish half a loaf minutes after it emerges from the oven, which is a shame because it keeps well, ensuring that you can have homemade bread throughout the week (that is if you have better self control then me, which most people in this world do). 

Italian Batter Bread
Recipe from Bernard Claytons New Complete Book of Breads

1 ¾ cups hot water (120 – 130 degrees)
4 ½ cups bread flour
2 packages dry yeast
1 teaspoon salt

Pour hot water into 2 cups flour in the mixer bowl and mix at high speed for 3 minutes.  Measure in additional flour by ¼ cup increments, switching to the dough hook when the batter becomes too heavy for the flat mixer. 

Beat at high speed for 25 minutes, watching to make sure the dough does not climb the hook of the machine gets too hot.  If that happens, turn the machine off and let rest for 5 minutes, and then resume beating. 

Scrape down the sides of the bowl, cover with plastic, and let rise at room temperature until tripled in volume, 2-3 hours. 

Uncover the bowl, but do not stir or punch down the dough.  Gently pour it onto a baking sheet, which has been greased and dusted with cornmeal or flour.  Carefully tuck the dough edges to shape the rounded loaf so it is 12 inches in diameter. 

Sprinkle the dough with flour and covered with a floured cloth.  Let rise at room temperature until doubled and very puffy, about 1 hour.

Preheat the over at 400 degrees 20 minutes before baking. 

Bake on center shelf until golden brown and crusty, about 50 minutes.  Turn the loaf over to be certain it is well browned on the bottom and sounds hollow and hard when thumped. 

Cool on a metal rack.  

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

on love and moving and kitchens.

If you ever wanted to know if the person you are dating/married to/have a crush on is meant to be, I highly suggest having your apartment flood, loosing the vast majority of your possessions,  moving into a friends apartment where you sleep on a pull out couch in the living room, and then be forced to make a series of very big decisions very quickly.  It also helps if one of you is super frugal and the other is super frivolous, one of you is keen on aesthetics and the other is keen on practicality, and one is incredibly impatient and quick with things and the other is a little more slow and steady.  I guarantee there will be several screaming matches where one ends up crying and the other ends up sulking.  It will be hell - you will both go with out sleep and when you can sleep you wont be able to as you mind will be racing with a list of 1000 things that need to be done.  But, I guarantee if you are meant to be with this person that during this whole ordeal you will find something to laugh about - and not just giggle about, but have a great big belly laugh about, and tears will fall down your face from laughing so hard, and then maybe your better half will hold your hand and kiss your nose and tell you he loves you and you will remember why you are with this person and why you love them so much.  

I can't wait to move into a new home with the boy and cook in a chic-ly messy kitchen like this.  

Image via Pinterest.  

Monday, November 12, 2012

grey and gold and white.

I am having a grey moment.   Word's can't describe my love for the below kitchen.  Grey and gold and white and black - this is the most perfect color scheme especially when you have an open living room, kitchen, and dinning area - it makes the whole space feel rich and warm and cozy which is the exact look I am going for in our new space. 

If only I could find the below chandelier.  And that chef painting is pretty amazing as well.  

Image via Pinterest.

Friday, November 9, 2012

stove-top mac-n-cheese.

Growing up when my parents would go out to eat, they would leave my siblings and I at home with a babysitter and we would get to eat one of two things for dinner – Stoffer’s French Bread Pizza or Stoffer’s Mac-n-Cheese and Weaver Chicken Tenders (and usually some applesauce to round out the meal).  As much as I loved my mom’s home cooking, I also adored those evenings where we got to eat the creamy and cheesiest mac-n-cheese around and sit at the kitchen table and (gasp!) watch T.V. while eating dinner.  For one night every couple of weeks we got to feel rebellious. (You can tell I lived a very tame childhood if frozen foods and watching T.V while eating dinner was rebellious.)  I have spent a good part of my adult life searching for homemade version of the mac-n-cheese I adored as a child, because when you’re a 27 year old who loves to cook, it’s sad to buy frozen food.  I have tried many recipes and I found most to be a little too pretentious and grown up for my taste, that was until I tried the Alton Brown stove-top mac-n-cheese recipe and was brought back to my childhood.  This is exactly what mac-n-cheese should be – rich and creamy, super cheesy, and indulgent.  I love eating it on rainy evenings with homemade chicken tenders and roasted broccoli, it makes me feel like a happy little kid.

Stove-Top Mac-n-Cheese
Recipe from Alton Brown

½ pound elbow macaroni
4 tablespoons butter
2 eggs
6 ounces evaporated milk
½ teaspoon hot sauce
1 teaspoon kosher salt
Fresh black pepper
¾ teaspoon dry mustard
10 ounces sharp cheddar, shredded

In a large pot of boiling, salted water cook the pasta to al dente and drain.  Return to the pot and melt in the butter.  Toss to coat.

Whisk together the eggs, milk, hot sauce, salt, pepper, and mustard.  Stir into the pasta and add the cheese.  Over low heat continue to stir for 3 minutes or until creamy.  

Thursday, November 8, 2012

cocoa brownies.

I have been craving sugar with abandon since Hurricane Sandy.  When I walk into Duane Reade for practical items like shampoo and a tooth brush, I find myself drawn to the discounted Halloween candy aisle where I end up loading my cart with bags and bags of processed sugar for a pittance.  It really amazes me that you can currently buy a bag of fun size Twix for 75 cents.  I like to think my sugar binge is because of lack of sleep and a lower level of energy since this whole hurricane thing occurred and I hope that once things return to normal I will return to my normal levels of sugar.  When I have an intense sugar/chocolate craving (and when I have a kitchen at my disposal), these brownies are the first thing I make to curb my craving.  They are the kind of rich and intense brownie that dreams are made of.  They are a dark and fudgey affair - the kind of brownie that screams for a large glass of milk.  I adore adding dried sour cherries and toasted walnuts to the batter to give a bit of crunch and a tangy bite but trust me those add in's aren't required, they are pretty perfect without any extras. 
Best Cocoa Brownies
Recipe adapted (barely) from Smitten Kitchen
These are my favorite brownie recipe thus far (the search is never over!).  They are quick and easy to make and they come out well every single time.  I highly recommend the really good cocoa powder like Valrhona, it makes all the difference here.
10 tablespoons (140 grams) unsalted butter
1 1/4 cups (250 grams) sugar
3/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons (65 grams) unsweetened cocoa powder
Heaping 1/4 teaspoon flaky sea salt
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
2 large eggs, cold
1/2 cup (65 grams) all-purpose flour
1/2 cup toasted walnut pieces (optional)
1/2 cup dried cherries (optional)
Position a rack in the lower third of the over and preheat to 325 degrees.  Line the bottom and sides of an 8x8 square baking pan with parchment paper or foil, leaving an overhang on two opposite sides. 
Combine the butter, sugar, cocoa, and salt in a medium bowl.  Place in the microwave for 30 second intervals and then stir every 30 seconds (watch carefully as you don't want to burn it!).  Continue to microwave for intervals until the butter is melted and the mixture is smooth.  (You can also do this with a double boiler on your stove but the microwave is far easier).  Cool the mixture down until it's warm and not hot. 
Stir in the vanilla with a wooden spoon.  Add the eggs one at a time, stirring vigorously after each one.  When the batter looks thick, shinny, and well blended, add the flour until you can not see it anymore, then beat vigorously for 40 strokes withe the wooden spoon or a rubber spatula.  Stir in the nuts and cherries, if using.  Spread evenly in the lined pan. 
Bake until a toothpick plunged into the center emerges slightly moist with batter, about 25 - 30 minutes.  Let cool completely on rack.  (You can place in the fridge to cool so you can cut clean lines). 
Life the ends of the parchment or foil liner, and transfer the brownies to a cutting board.  Cut into 16 or 25 squares. 

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

new kitchen.

I have spent much of the past week dreaming about returning to the kitchen and making pots of stews and soups and braised meats.  I am dying for any and all comfort food. The kind of thing that sticks to your ribs and makes you feel warm inside and keeps that warm feeling inside hours after the meal finishes.  Sadly, I am going to have to keep dreaming since I don't see a kitchen filled with spices and fully stocked pantry in my future (at least for a little while).  While the boy and I search for our new home, I have been browsing Pinterst with abandon.  It's an odd feeling to have only a few possessions and being able to make over your whole life and start fresh.  I've always been a girl who has been drawn to color (and lots of it) but as of recent I've found myself drawn to neutrals and pop's of color.  A more streamlined and mininimalistic look - something was a 70's feel and a little bit of glamour and shine.  I know it's going to take a long while to rebuild but the first thing that will be completed will be a bright and airy kitchen space.  Below is what is inspiring me.  

All images via Pinterest 

Friday, November 2, 2012

autumn harvest cake + hurricane sandy.

On Monday evening, I lost my entire apartment to Hurricane Sandy and the 6 feet of water she brought into our home.  I’ve spent much of the past few days in a daze (lack of sleep and seeing most of your possessions soaked and littering the flour of your apartment will do that to you).  I’ve cried a lot and about stupid things like the loss of $16 smoked sea salt, bags of Jacques Torres chocolates, and bottles of aged vinegar.   I know in the grand scheme of things these are small and impractical things to be upset about (I should be more upset about the mattress and sofa..), but I find the little things that I come across while cleaning up to be the items that cause me to get overly emotional. 

As the water began to trickle into the apartment (and eventually pour in), I took this cake out of the oven.  It’s been the only thing I could stomach eating this week and the only thing that’s brought me solace.  It tastes like home and the warm spices and fall ingredients have brought me an immense amount of comfort.  I plan on having this be the first thing I make in my new apartment.  Here’s hoping we find one soon. 

I have been beyond fortunate to have the world's most amazing family, friends, and co-workers.  The sheer amount of kindness that has been bestowed upon us literally amazes me.  I have no words to express my gratitude and I hope one day when our life is in order I can pay this all forward.  (I have a lot of love around me and that is the most beautiful feeling in the world.)  There is nothing I can ever do to express all my thanks, but I am going to do everything in my power to try which means when I have a kitchen, I will be baking a lot of cookies and cakes and pies.  

Autumn Harvest Cake
Recipe adapted (barely) From One Girl Cookies by Dawn Casale and David Crofton

Makes one 9 inch cake

1 medium butternut squash
1 teaspoon olive oil or canola oil
2 cups all purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon table salt
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon ground cloves
1/8 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 cup packed light brown sugar
2 tablespoons granulated sugar
3 large eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 crisp apple (such as Empire, Crispin, or Honey Crisp)
1 tablespoon turbinado sugar

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.  Prepare a 9 inch round cake pan by greasing it with cooking spray.  

Cut the squash in half and scoop out the seeds and the strings.  Rub the oil all over the cut surface of the squash, and place it, flesh side down, in a baking dish.  Bake for 40 minutes, or until the squash is soft to the touch.  Let the squash cool.  When it is cool enough to handle, scrape the flesh from the skin.  Measure out 1 1/2 cups of the baked squash.  

In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, baking soda, baking powder, salt, cinnamon, cloves, nutmeg, and ginger.  

In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat together the butter, brown sugar, and granulated sugar on medium speed until the mixture is light and fluffy, about 3 minutes.  Add the eggs and vanilla, and mix on medium speed for 1 minute.  Add the squash and the apples, and mix for 30 seconds.  With the mixer running on low speed, add the flour mixture and mix for only 10 seconds.  Take the bowl off the mixer and finish mixing the batter with a rubber spatula.  Pour the batter in the prepared pan, and gently rap the pan on the countertop to even it out.  Sprinkle the turbinado sugar over the top of the batter.  

Bake, rotating the pan halfway through, for 50 minutes, or until a cake tester inserted in the center comes out clean.  Let the cake cool in the pan for 20 minutes.  Then turn the cake onto a clean plate, and then turn the cake back over onto a wire rack.  Let cool completely