Pumpkin Spice Bread ~ ElephantEats.com

Well, I’m back from my Italian vacation. I’ll have to tell you more about it in another post, but the highlight was definitely a private cooking class my parents and I had in Chianti with this awesome chef. He was a chemist before becoming a chef and he explained cooking very scientifically (Shannon, you would have loved it ;) ).

I ended up learning a ton! We cooked up grilled fresh porcini mushrooms on toast with truffles and truffle oil, homemade gnocci with an amazing bolognese sauce that didn’t have to simmer for hours, white beans with fresh sausage, and the creamiest tiramisu for dessert. 

But anyway, I’m SO excited it’s October!!! Autumn is my absolute favorite season (I can’t belive I got married last October!). Unfortunately it’s still a bit warm here in NYC, but hopefully soon the weather will cool down enough for me to pull out my sweaters and curl up with some tea. I just love when the air is crisp and it smells like dry leaves outside. Not to mention, autumn has my two most favorite holidays- Halloween and Thanksgiving. I can’t wait! :)

Storm King Sculpture Park ~ ElephantEats.com

Storm King Sculpture Park- not sure what I’m doing…

Nate and I headed upstate this weekend for a day of fun. First we went to Storm King, a really cool, huge sculpture park. The leaves are starting to change up there and they were so pretty :) The weather was overcast and sprinkly but we made the best of it.

Storm King Sculpture Park 2 ~ ElephantEats.com

Nate, finally doing some heavy lifting

Next we went to Fishkill Farms for some apple picking! Hopefully I’ll make an apple recipe soon that I can post.

Fishkill Farms Apple Picking ~ ElephantEats.com

I love apple picking but it was super crowded at this place and I’m not a fan of crowds. We still managed to take home a good haul, in addition to getting to enjoy some cider donuts and apple cider.

Fishkill Farms ~ ElephantEats.com

Nate hard at work again! I wish he helped that much at home ;)

After apple-picking we met up with our friends who live nearby for dinner, and then finally we headed over to The Blaze, which was the reason for our whole trip upstate. The Blaze is an elaborate walk-through experience of 5,000 individually hand-carved, illuminated jack o’ lanterns.

The Blaze, Hudson Valley ~ ElephantEats.com

My favorite pumpkins- piled into sunflowers!

I had heard great things about it from multiple people, so Nate and I thought we should do it at least once. It was definitely cool to see so many pumpkins lit up, but I wasn’t particularly impressed by any of them.

The Blaze, Hudson Valley ~ ElephantEats.com

I think it was the sheer magnitude of them all together that impressed me the most. We tried to take pictures but most of them came out blurry since it was so dark. 

The Blaze, Hudson Valley ~ ElephantEats.com

But back to the baking… Now that it’s officially October, I can post another pumpkin recipe. This recipe is the one my mom baked for us growing up, but I’m not sure what the original source is. 

Pumpkin Spice Bread ~ ElephantEats.com

Since I already know I love the recipe, I decided to give it a try subbing in the butter-flavored Olive Oil that I got from Star Fine Foods. I figured a little butter taste certainly wouldn’t hurt! It added an awesome flavor, but obviously you could definitely use regular oil as I’ve always done before now. 

This bread calls for both raisins and pecans, but since Nate is a nuts-in-baked-goods hater, I omitted the pecans. I personally think they add a great crunch. This recipe makes two loaves- one for you and one to give to a friend :)

Pumpkin Spice Bread 3 ~ ElephantEats.com

I’ll be back later in the week with a little feline Halloween fun ;)

Here’s a preview of LC with a cat-proportioned pumpkin we picked up for her at the farm.

LC and a pumpkin ~ ElephantEats.com

If you’re wondering why the pumpkin is shiny, it’s because LC licked it all over.

Spiced Pumpkin Loaves
An autumn spiced pumpkin bread chock full of raisins and nuts!

Yields: 2 loaves
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Cook Time
1 hr 20 min
Cook Time
1 hr 20 min
Ingredients
  1. 4 cups flour
  2. 2 tsp baking soda
  3. 2 tsp cinnamon
  4. 1 tsp nutmeg
  5. 1 tsp ginger
  6. 1 tsp salt
  7. 2 cups solid packed pumpkin puree (NOT pumpkin pie mix)
  8. 2 cups packed brown sugar
  9. 1 cup white sugar
  10. 1 cup oil
  11. 4 eggs
  12. 2 cups raisins
  13. 1 cup pecans, chopped
Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 350.
  2. Butter two 9 1/4 x 5 1/4 loaf pans and dust with flour.
  3. Sift first 6 ingredients into a medium bowl.
  4. Using mixer (or whisk), beat pumpkin, sugars, oil and eggs in a large bowl. Beat in the dry ingredients until just blended.
  5. Stir in raisins and nuts.
  6. Bake until test comes out clean or with a few crumbs attached- about 1 hr 20 min.
  7. Cool 15 min in pan, then remove and cool completely on wire rack before wrapping in foil.
Notes
  1. This gets better in time. The cooked loaves can also be frozen and defrosted at a later time. Wrap them well in foil and then put in a ziploc freezer bag.
http://www.elephanteats.com/
 

Twice Baked Sweet Potato with Apple

Nate and I went upstate last weekend with a couple of our friends to Poet’s Walk Park…where Nate and I were exactly one year ago when Nate proposed.

Nate wanted to go back to shoot a couple things for the wedding video (which is now officially done, and completely awesome!!!) and we needed the help of our friends to do this. We also wanted to take a few pics at the proposal location since we completely forgot to snap a pic of it when it was actually happening. Oops :)

The bridge where Nate proposed…one year later!

This park is fairly small but it has gorgeous views.

It was a two hour drive north of the city, so we thought we’d take advantage and stop at Fishkille Farms on the way home to do a little apple picking! Rosh Hashannah, the Jewish New Year, was coming up and apples are traditional to eat (with honey) for a “sweet” New Year.

Nate and bridesmaid, Kim, showing their apple excitement!

We picked a ton! I wanted to make sure we got enough for eating plain and for cooking, although i didn’t have anything specific in mind yet.

We also got some hot cider for me (cold for Nate) and some fresh cider donuts. YUM!

I knew I wanted to make a recipe to use apples. On Rosh Hashannah, since all my family and jewish friends were travelling, I decided to just make a nice dinner for the two of us.

I roasted up a chicken and set off the fire alarm. The recipe had me cooking it at 450° with just the chicken in the pan, nothing under it. After it completely smoked out our apt, I looked up what to do and someone suggested putting a layer of potatoes under the chicken and roasting it at 425°. Luckily I had one lone potato sitting on the counter so i sliced it up and put it under the chicken and shoved it back in the oven.

Twice Baked Sweet Potato with Apple

Success! Well kinda. It stopped the chicken from smoking, but when I checked the temperature of the chicken after the allotted time, it was at the correct temp. I took it out of the oven and the breast was perfectly cooked, but other parts were still raw! Ugh, I’m never cooking a chicken again. I’d rather just buy a rotisserie one from the market.

Anyway, I wanted some nice side dishes to go with dinner and since I had some freshly picked apples to use, I pulled out this apple cookbook that I got last year that hasn’t ever gotten used, and found a really tasty recipe for The Best Twice-Baked Potatoes.

Twice Baked Sweet Potato with Apple

They were really good. I think I was expecting them to be more sweet with the apples and the sweet potato, but they were definitely more on the savory side, but still delicious! I highly recommend these as a side dish for your next holiday meal…or even just an every day dinner :)

Twice-Baked Sweet Potatoes with Apple

Very slightly adapted from The Comfort of Apples Cookbook

Print this recipe!

Serves 6-8

1/4 cup olive oil
4 medium yams (about 3 pounds total)
salt and pepper
1 1/2 cups light cream
2 Tbsp unsalted butter
1 Tbsp minced garlic
1 1/2 Tbsp minced fresh thyme
3 cups peeled and diced apples (1/4 inch dice)
3/4 cup bread in small chunks
3/4 cup parmesan in 1-inch chunks
1/2 cup parsley

Preheat oven to 400.

Line a baking sheet with foil and spread with olive oil. Roll the yams in the oil to coat and season well with salt and pepper. Bake until tender, about 1 hour, and remove from oven. **Alternatively, pierce potatoes several times with the tip of a knife, wrap in paper towels and microwave until soft.

Bring the cream to a simmer over medium-high heat in a small saucepan, and whisk in the butter. Reduce heat to medium, add the garlic, thyme, and apples, and season with salt and pepper. Cook until apples are tender, 8-10 min.

Slice each yam in half and scoop out the hot insides into a medium bowl. Fold in the hot cream mixture. Spoon the mixture back into the potato shells.

Place the bread, parmesan, and parsley in a food processor and pulse until fine. Sprinkle the breadcrumb mixture over the potatoes, return to oven, and bake until yams are lightly browned and crisp, about 1/2 hour.

The weekend that Nate and I went up to beautiful Mohonk Mountain to rock scramble, we also attempted to pick some apples.

Unfortunately neither of us realized that apple season is September til early October and that the apples are pretty much gone by late October (at least in NY). Although it wasn’t quite as fun, they had barrels of apples for purchase. Since I already had my heart set on making some tasty apple treats, we grabbed a huge bag that probably had 2-3 dozen apples.

We also grabbed some hot cider and cider donuts while we were there, so it wasn’t a total bust.

Anyway, I’m not exactly sure what I thought I’d be making with all those apples, but this recipe is one that I made last year and it was so good I knew I wanted to make it again.

The cake is super moist and not too sweet. It could seriously be one of my favorite desserts. So if you still have some apples left from your apple picking, or you just want to make this since it’s so good, head on over to Smitten Kitchen’s website where I got the recipe.

Even without a reason to cook squash (like the #squashlove! bloghop I partook in over the weekend!), I can’t help but put one of those beautiful winter vegetables in my shopping cart every time I go food shopping in the fall. I honestly think I could eat them for the next two seasons without getting sick of them.

I think this is partially because there are so many things you can do with with them. Since my last recipe was a savory squash dish, I thought this next one could be a little sweeter.

Squashes have a natural sweetness that makes them pair really well with fruits. I keep seeing mashed sweet potato recipes coming up all over the food blogs lately (with Thanksgiving on the way), but I wanted a way to lighten up the typical dish.

While squash is a starchy vegetable, it has less calories than sweet potatoes, so I decided to mash it up and add sweetness with some apples too. Roasted squash and apples pair together really well.

In addition to the natural sweetness from the fruit and vegetables, I added some maple syrup (during the roasting) and orange juice, along with fresh ginger for a little spice and orange zest for flavor.

While this dish may not be very pretty, I hope that you’ll look past it’s disgusting exterior and trust me when I say that this may be one of my favorite side-dishes I’ve ever made.


Chunky Orange Maple Ginger Squash and Apples

Recipe by Me

Print this recipe!

Serves 6 

Ingredients:

2 medium acorn squash, cut in half and then into 1/2″ thick slices (keep peel on)
3 small apples, cored and then cut into 1/8ths
2 Tbsp olive oil
2 Tbsp maple syrup
1 tsp cinnamon
salt and pepper to taste
2 Tbsp minced fresh ginger
zest and juice of 1 orange

Preparation:

Spread squash and apples on a large baking sheet sprayed with cooking spray.  Drizzle them with the olive oil thru salt and pepper.

Roast squash and apples at 425 for 25-30 min or until squash is soft.

Remove from oven. After cooling slightly, scoop squash meat from skin and put into a medium bowl. Add apples (I left skin on). Add ginger and orange zest/juice.

Mash squash mixture until it reaches desired consistency.  Add additional syrup if desired. Serve warm.

The weather in NYC is finally starting to feel like it should for this time of year. I’ve had to wear long sleeves AND a jacket, when I only needed one or the other up til now. And I’m loving it!

The leaves are changing, the air is crisp and it smells so good out! Nate and I went up to New Paltz this past weekend to go rock scrambling and the leaves were totally gorgeous. It was quite a hike up to the top, but when we got there, the view was absolutely worth it…

…don’t you think?

Despite working up a sweat during the climb, as soon as we got back to normal walking I was chilled to the bone. Weather like this makes me crave a thick, steaming bowl of something comforting. I’ve been wanting to make chili but Nate doesn’t like beef and we both love vegetables so much that I decided to go vegetarian all the way :)

I have to say that this came out a bit less “meaty” than I typically think of chili, but it was good none-the-less. I think perhaps adding more beans would have bulked it up and improved on the lack of meat, but I’m not a huge fan of beans.

You can totally customize this by adding whatever veggies you want. I bet anything would be delicious! I served mine over pasta because Nate needs something besides veggies to fill up his belly…and I happened to have some pasta in the fridge. Over rice would be great too.

*Disclaimer: if you live in a teeny apartment like mine, your whole place will smell like chili for the next week.

Smoky Vegetarian Chili

Recipe by Me

Print this recipe!

Serves 8

Ingredients:

1 Tbsp olive oil
2 large sweet onions, chopped
1 red bell pepper, chopped
1 orange bell pepper, chopped (or red if unavailable)
2 yellow summer squash, diced
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 bunch fresh cilantro, stems and leaves separated but both chopped
10 oz. frozen corn kernels, thawed
1.5-2 cups vegetable stock (i actually used chicken but that obviously would make it non-vegetarian)
Three 15-oz cans diced tomatoes with chiles
One 15-oz can kidney beans, rinsed and drained
2 tsp salt
2 Tbsp chili powder
2 Tbsp ground cumin
1 bottle dark Mexican bear
2 tsp liquid smoke (can be found in all supermarkets)
Sour Cream, shredded cheese, limes, avocado as desired for garnish

Preparation:

Heat oil in large pot over medium heat. Add onions and peppers and saute until they’re beginning to caramelize, about 8 min.

Add squash and garlic, and saute til tender, about 5 min.

Add cilantro stems and tomatoes to pot and bring to a simmer. Add beans, salt, chili powder, cumin, beer and the stock (start with 1.5 cups and add more if you like your chili thinner). Simmer uncovered, stirring frequently until the chili thickens and the vegetables soften, about 30 min.

Garnish as desired, and dig in!