Pumpkin Oatmeal Cake with Cream Cheese Caramel Frosting

FullSizeRenderHi friends– have you noticed the uptick of pumpkin recipes on Pinterest?  Well, I’m joining right in.  Picked up a few cans of pumpkin at the market this week to see me trough til Thanksgiving and it’s been fun to pour over the possibilities.

Here’s a homey little cake that just seems right with a mug of tea on a cool fall day.   It’s pretty and hearty and has that sweet caramel to set it all off.  Happy fall to you!!


1/2 cup brown sugar
1/2  cup white sugar
1/2 cup canola oil
1/2 cup pumpkin puree
1 tsp. vanilla
1 egg
1 cup flour
1 cup whole oats
1/2 tsp. salt
1 tsp. baking powder
2 tsp. pumpkin pie spice

4 oz. cream cheese
4 oz. butter (1/2 stick)
2 cups powdered sugar
1 tsp. vanilla
1 tab. whole milk or half & half
2 tab. caramel sauce (I like Hershey’s)

Stir together the brown and white sugar.  Then mix in the oil, vanilla, pumpkin and egg.  Add in the flour, oats, salt, baking powder and pumpkin pie spice and stir just until it’s all blended.

Scoop the batter into a 9″ cake pan* and pop it into a 350 degree oven for 30 to 35 minutes until it’s firm to the touch.  Set the cake aside to cool.

For the frosting, mix together the cream cheese and butter with an electric mixer.  Then beat in the powdered sugar, vanilla and milk

Spread the frosting over the top of the cake.  Then drizzle on the caramel and swirl it with the pointed end of a knife to make it pretty!  Real autumn food!

*I use a springform pan, so it’s easier to remove the cake from the pan for serving.


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End of Summer Reading

tumblr_mofeghPx5z1rv2dfko1_500“Vilma Reading on the Sofa ” by Tavik Frantisek Simon, 1912

Hello there book loving friends– One (of the many) reasons I love summer is all that unfettered time to lounge around with a book in hand.  I was able to tear through a few this summer and here are my faves:

I ran across this title when we were planning our travels in New York in July.  I had read a few of Rutherfurd’s other books, London, Moscow, Sarum and my favorite, Paris!  And so I knew this would be a perfect to tuck into my suitcase for a read along.  As in this other books, Rutherford writes across generations and centuries, starting with Indian fishing villages on Manhattan and moving through Dutch and British colonists, the Revolutionary War, the excesses of the guided age and the explosion of immigrations… on to nearly the present day.  The stories are centered around one main family with a varied cast of supporting characters.  Each chapter pulls you in to a new tale of people shaped by this city and it’s events– a wonderful way to pick up a little New York history while you are fascinated by the people who built this grand city.

Ever since I read Mrs. Dalloway, I’ve been curious about Virginia Wolf.  And this book explains a lot. This gossipy historical novel was just what I was looking for to fill me in– on Virginia and the whole Bloomsbury group early in the last century.  The group centers around Virginia and her siblings, Vanessa, Toby and Adrian and their outrageous band of companions made of artists, critics and writers.  The story is told in the form of a diary written by Vanessa Bell, Virginia’s sister and a gifted painter.  When Vanesa falls in love and marries, Virginia feels abandoned, losing her sister’s constant ministering care, she careens on the edge of madness.  The group centers around fragile Virginia and her privileged life.  The book seems to be meticulously researched and pulls you along with each twist and turn of the many varied relationships in this talented, bohemian circle of friends (and sometimes enemies).  If you love historical fiction (like I do) I think you’ll find this fascinating.

Our Lit group couldn’t wait to get our hands on this book once it was announced, months before it was available.  We (like so many) had loved To Kill A Mockingbird.  But it was inevitable that this book could scarcely live up to the earlier books high bar.  I found the first half of the book pleasant as Scout returns home to Alabama from New York and chafes at the cultural differences of her hometown.  But the characters so admirable in To Kill a Mockingbird lost their luster and seemed a bit like caricatures.  And the second half of the book became bogged down in tedious conversations, trying to resolve disappointments.  I slogged through to the end, but as my book buddy,  Jenni said– this is probably one of the most purchased books that will not be read completely though.

Anna Quildlen is the perfect author for summer reading.  Interesting involving characters and a story with enough heart and twists and turns to see you through.  I think I may have liked this book because the protagonist, Rebecca Winter was about my age.  A well known photographer, a bit past her peak and with a declining bank account to match.  She rents her NYC apartment and lives in a woodsy cabin on the proceeds.  Here she meets Jim Bates who rescues her from a raccoon in her attic. Her son, and parents also figure into the story as she cares for them through family crisis. It’s a story of a woman coming to know her own heart and mind and a book about starting over– and has that unexpected romance.  The telling details give you a true feel for the time and place and keep you hoping it will all turn out well for Rebecca.

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Orange Chili Chicken

FullSizeRenderHi all– You’d think that now that all our kids are grown and far flung around the country and Larry and I are on our own, that we’d have all the time in the world.  I should have hours to cook leisurely gourmet dinners that we would linger over by candlelight.

But that’s not happening.  So any super yummy and quick to fix dinner I can find is just fine with me. This marinade/glaze has so much flavor– sweet, citrusy and just enough heat.  And it’s ready in about 20 minutes.  I’ll be making it again and again.

3 boneless chicken breasts
1/4 cup olive oil + 2 tablespoons

1/2 cup fresh squeezed orange juice (about 1 large orange)
1/2 cup orange marmalade
1/4 cup honey
2 tab. hoisin sauce
2 tab. soy sauce
2 tab. red wine vinegar
2 tab.brown sugar
2 tsp. Thai sweet chili sauce*
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 tsp. ground ginger
1 tsp. salt
1 tsp. freshly ground pepper

green onions, sliced
zest from one orange

Grate the zest from the orange and set aside sealed in a baggie.

In  mixing bowl whisk together all 12 (!) ingredients for the marinade/glaze.

Slice the chicken breasts horizontally to produce 6 flatter filets.  Put them into a heavy zip loc bag along with 1/2 cup of the marinade and 1/2 cup olive oil.  Set into the fridge for at least an hour or up to overnight.  Refrigerate the remaining marinade/glaze.

When your ready to get dinner going, heat the 2 tab. of olive oil in a skillet and set the chicken into the pan.  Cook just about 2 minutes on each side to brown the chicken.  Then add in the remaining marinade and simmer on low for about 10 minutes until the chicken is cooked through.

Serve up the chicken on a pretty platter (maybe with some brown rice) and cover with the glaze from the pan.  Garnish with the green onion and grated orange peel.

* The recipe I worked from calls for sriracha sauce, but I like this milder chili sauce.  It depends on how much heat you like, and what you have in the fridge!



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Plum Nut Cake

IMG_8023Hi there– Well, it’s the beginning of fall and I just have to bake up something.  And with the end of the summer fruits still in the market, I settled on sweet ripe plums in this friendly little cake.  I don’t like to play favorites– but this is the best cake I’ve had in quite a while…

It’s sweet and nutty, really more fruit than batter.  With a scoop of vanilla ice cream and a mug of tea, it’s the perfect way to celebrate the advent of Autumn.

4 perfectly ripe plums
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup canola oil
1 tsp. vanilla
1 tsp. amaretto*
1 egg
1 cup flour
1 tsp. baking powder
1/4 tsp. salt
1 cup walnuts (or pecans), coarsely chopped
1 little powdered sugar to dust on the baked cake

Cut the plums into polite little chunks, discarding the pits.  Set aside

In a mixing bowl stir together the sugar, oil, vanilla, amaretto and egg.  Then mix in the flour, baking powder and salt.  Finally fold in the plums pieces and chopped walnuts.

Spoon the batter into a 9″ or 10″ cake pan** that has been sprayed with cooking spray.  Pop it into a 375 degree oven for 30-35 minutes until it’s cooked through and golden. (Test for doneness inserting a toothpick).

Lovely eaten warm or at room temperature.  Fist taste of Autumn.

*I use Amaretto in place of almond extract– less expensive and a bottle will last about forever!
**I use a springform pan–easier to remove the cake onto a plate.


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Quiet Big Bear Weekend

DSC04290Hi you all– Home from a super relaxing weekend up in Big Bear, just Larry and me.   Two days of mostly sitting on the porch with something cold to drink at hand and a book in our lap.  Plus a few brisk walks and plenty of good food.

DSC04278 DSC04281We walked over the village for a reading breakfast and spotted this vibrant vine on the way back to the cabin.  I’ve never seen it before.  Anyone know what it is??

View down the boardwalk, from our post-lunch, windy trek along the estuary– which was a little sad because it is completely dry now due to the drought!

DSC04266   DSC04268
Saturday morning, I slipped over to Foxfarm Antiques–spent an hour browsing and picked up a couple pretty things (no mounted deer heads!) to bring home to my kitchen.

On the way down the mountain, Larry picked the best turnout spot to stop at sunset to watch the lunar eclipse as the moon came up over a distant mountain.  It was glorious and more vivid than I can show with my little camera.

I loved the these days, seeing God’s hand in the mountains and trees as the wind rustled the branches overhead.  Time slowed down to thank him in the quietness.  I am grateful.

Posted in Just thinking, Travel | Tagged , , | 13 Comments

Chocolate Chip Dump Cookies


Hi all– with a “glamorous” name like that, these cookies are bound to be good.  The dump part pretty much describes them.  You open your kitchen cupboard, pull out all the goodies you can locate  and throw them into the batter.

They’re  rather homely, downright lumpy to look at, but on closer examination (with your mouth!), you find they are exquisite– salty, sweet, crunchy, nutty and of course, chocolatey.  I think you’d like them just fine.

1 cup of butter (2 sticks), room temperature
1  1/2 cup brown sugar
2 eggs
1 tab. vanilla
1  1/2 cup flour
1 cup whole oats (oatmeal)
1/2 cup granola
2 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. salt
1 cup shredded coconut
1 cup walnuts (or pecans), chopped
2 cups chocolate chips
1/2 cup dried cranberries
1 cup dried apricots, but to small bits

With an electric mixer, in a large bowl, beat together the butter, brown sugar, eggs and vanilla until creamy.

Throw in the flour, oats, granola, baking powder and sugar and keep beating until it’s all mixed.

Then beat in the coconut, nuts, chocolate chips, cranberries and apricots until it’s all thoroughly blended.

Drop by rounded tablespoonfuls onto a baking sheet sprayed with cooking spray.  And pop the cookies into a 350 degree oven for 13 to 15 minutes, until they are beautifully browned.

Be sure to eat one while they are still hot from the oven (the best!)


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Yak Stew (or lunch in China)

Hello all– I was rummaging through some old photos and came upon this day we stopped in a small village in the interior of China for lunch.  Not just any lunch, but yak stew.  And it was surprisingly delicious!

We were visiting Ted & Luanne (my sis and her husband at the time) who lived some miles down the mountain road.  They took us on a countryside tour that couldn’t have been more intriguing and gorgeous– photos by the Yangtze River, visiting the home of an early British explorer and passing luscious fields of cabbages and water buffalo on farm after farm.

And for lunch there was yak.

IMG_5612      IMG_5619

photos:  My Larry, Ted and our travel buddies heading into the restaurant, the noted Yak Stew,  and other bright fresh dishes to finish it off…

And there were other fascinating people and things to be seen in town:
IMG_5624  IMG_5632  IMG_5607
A walk along the stone streets, courtyard door, outdoor lunch prep on laundry day.

The mountains above
View across the rooftops.

Neighborhood ladies resting in a courtyard of the pharmacy.


Thanks Ted and Lu for the marvelous memorable days with you in China.  Wouldn’t it be remarkable to do it all again? xox

Posted in Family, Food, Travel | Tagged , , , | 29 Comments