Rich Chocolate-Pumpkin Cake w/ Pumpkin Frosting

>> Monday, November 30, 2009

What else can you make with your freshly-roasted pumpkin puree? Cake, of couse! Warning: If you're a (never home)maker . . . this recipe is rather time intensive. It's well worth the effort, but it isn't something you'll find yourself making on a Tuesday night.

Now, I make lots of cupcakes and cookies, but only rarely work with cakes. I think it's mostly because at my house, it's only me and my husband. What will the two of us do with an entire cake? Eat it, yes. But, seriously now -- that's a lot of intense dessert to have sitting around the house. When we made this bad boy, we ended up giving a large chunk (perhaps the very part pictured above) of it away to our neighbors.

Aren't we nice?

Not because it was bad, however. In fact, it was wonderful! It's spicy . . . and chocolaty. And dense, but not like a brick by any means. The cake has pumpkin-Nutella frosting on it. I'll provide the recipe for making it, but also the instructions for plain pumpkin frosting, which IS vegan . . . and bright orange like candy corn :)

Rich Chocolate-Pumpkin Swirl Cake

What you'll need . . . for the pumpkin cake part:

  • 4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) butter substitute
  • 1/2 cup firmly packed dark brown sugar
  • 1/6 cup raw sugar (this is a half recipe -- hence the strange measurements)
  • 1/4 cup applesauce
  • 1 cup wheat pastry flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/8 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 cup soy milk
  • 5/8 cup canned pumpkin (1/2 cup plus 1/8 cup -- sorry!)
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

Method . . .

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
  2. Cream together the butter substitute and sugars with an electric mixer on medium speed until fluffy (about 4 minutes).
  3. Add the applesauce to the creamed mixture and beat well.
  4. In a separate bowl, combine the flour, baking powder, baking soda, spices, and salt.
  5. Add the dry ingredients to the wet mixture -- alternating with the milk. Mix until completely integrated.
  6. Add the pumpkin and vanilla and beat until smooth
  7. Set aside while you make the chocolate cake batter (below).

What you'll need . . . for the chocolate cake part:

  • 4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) butter substitute
  • 1/4 cup coarsely chopped chocolate
  • 1/2 cup boiling water
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 cup raw sugar
  • 1/4 cup soy milk
  • 1 cup wheat pastry flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/4 cup applesauce

Method . . .

  1. Place the butter substitute and chocolate in a large bowl. Pour boiling water over them and let stand until melted.
  2. Stir to combine. Stir in vanilla and sugar.
  3. Add soy milk and mix on medium speed until fully integrated.
  4. In a separate bowl, combine the flour, baking powder, and baking soda.
  5. Gradually add the dry ingredients to the batter, mixing at medium speed until smooth.
  6. Gently fold in the applesauce.


  1. Take two 9" round cake pans, grease and lightly flour them.
  2. Pour half pumpkin mixture into the middle of each (this mixture is thicker)
  3. Then pour half chocolate cake mixture into each.
  4. Swirl with a knife. As you can tell, I didn't swirl very much. It was just as delicious.
  5. Bake for approx. 30 minutes, and then check every 5 minutes until a toothpick inserted into the cakes comes out clean.
  6. Set aside to cool COMPLETELY (you'll really need to wait until it's cool to the touch) before frosting.

(These "cake" recipes are modified from two found in Crazy About Cupcakes. I use this book ALL the time. Go and buy it now!)

Pumpkin Frosting (created from combining various personal recipes)

What you'll need . . .

  • 1/2 cup butter substitute
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 4 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 6 cups vegan confectioner's sugar
  • 1/2 cup canned pumpkin
  • Soy milk
  • 1/2 to 3/4 cup Nutella (if you'd like to go that route)

Method . . .

  1. Put all ingredients (except Nutella) into a bowl and start mixing!
  2. I did this by hand with a fork for the first few minutes, and then transferred everything to my stand mixer. You can just start with your stand mixer, if desired.
  3. You may need to add soy milk depending on the consistency. But I didn't need any. Just add it in small doses.
  4. Optional: If you are adding the Nutella, add it at the end. Start with 1/2 cup and add more to taste.


  1. Again, wait until the cakes have cooled completely. Then trace around the edge with the blunt end of a butter knife, turn pan upside down (hope you floured the pans well enough!) to release the cake.
  2. Set one layer of the cake on a plate and top it with frosting. Spread until smooth.
  3. Lay the next layer on top of the frosted one. Then frost on top and move to the sides.
  4. Frosting is always tricky, so I don't have many rules or tricks. Just go slowly. You may find that the frosting does not stay on the sides cake if you didn't wait for it to cool. In this event: Frost the cake, but then put it in the refrigerator and check every two minutes . . . correcting the frosting each time you check until it stays.
  5. I kept my cake refrigerated. You may also wish to do so.

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Necklace No. 2

Today's lunchtime post is all about necklace no. 2 from J. Crew. Again, it was 40 percent off . . . so, I decided to splurge since I've been in love with it since last fall. The rest of the outfit is a mix of old favorites. Including the boots. Which I wear every chance I get. Regular shoes and boots just don't keep me warm enough. And it's FREEZING in my office today.

Here's the necklace detail. It's a bit old-lady, a bit modern, and a bit classic. I'm all about it.

The breakdown:

sweater: the limited via marshall's
jeans: gap
boots: uggs
necklace: j. crew

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Pumpkin Soup

What exactly can you make with pumpkin puree? This easy soup, for example. My mother-in-law made it for Thanksgiving using cheese pumpkins. So, if you haven't already, don't forget to check out the pumpkin puree how to. And if you have, get ready to make some soup! This one's great with crusty bread . . .

What you'll need . . .
  • 6 cups vegetable stock
  • 4 cups pumpkin puree
  • 1 cup chopped onion
  • 1 clove garlic, minced (we threw in maybe five cloves or garlic)
  • 1/2 cup heavy whipping cream (or Silk -- soy -- half and half)
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Method . . .
  1. Heat veggie stock, pumpkin, onion, garlic, salt, and pepper. Bring to a boil, reduce heat to low, and simmer for 30 minutes uncovered.
  2. Puree the soup in small batches (1 cup at a time) using a food processor or blender.
  3. Return to pot, and bring to a boil again.
  4. Reduce heat to low, and simmer for another 30 minutes, uncovered.
  5. Stir in heavy cream or soy substitute.(Or you may wish to do this after you pour into bowls to allow guests to control their amount of cream.)
  6. Pour into soup bowls and garnish with fresh basil.

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Pumpkin Puree: How To

Good morning! We actually grew this pumpkin in our garden over the summer. Don't ask me how -- it wasn't a conscious decision. The little thing just sort of popped up one day, along with a few other strange squashes (and LOTS of mint, but that's another story). That's what you get for mixing compost that isn't quite "done" yet into your garden.

But it's a great mistake. We let it hang around our kitchen as a mere decoration for a while. Earlier in the season, I decided to make use of it. I'd never actually cooked or baked with a REAL pumpkin before. Picking up those cans at the store seemed so easy -- so, why bother? Well, it's actually a really cool process. And, as always, making your own creates this sense of satisfaction that's addicting.

So, follow these steps and you, too, will have your own puree suitable for use in breads, cakes, pies, soups, muffins, and other fun recipes. It is indeed a bit different from the canned variety -- but I found it tastes just as good. In the next couple days, I'll share with you all the pumpkin bread I made yesterday. But you'll have to wait for now.


Of course, you'll first need to pick out your pumpkin. This can be kind of tricky -- you don't want to use the LARGE ones that are for carving. Instead, search for those pumpkins called "sugar pie" pumpkins. I'm not 100 percent sure that's what mine was. But it was small. I would recommend, though, trying to get the "sugar pie" variety, as they have the best taste and texture.

Step 1 -- Preheat your oven -- 350 degrees F. Now carefully cut the pumpkin in half. I first used a serrated knife to get through the stem, then finished off with my sharpest, biggest knife. But be careful! I've also read you can just cut off the stem. So, do what you wish. It just needs to be halved.

Step 2 -- Place your pumpkin face down atop a sheet of parchment paper on a RIMMED baking sheet. Why rimmed? The juices will start to flow near the end of this process -- so you don't want them getting everywhere. I hate cleaning my oven!

Step 3 -- Bake for 45 minutes or until you notice the skin of the pumpkin turn a richer orange and become soft to the touch. I'm guilty of possible under-roasting mine. It still turned out well, but probably could have used a few more minutes in the oven. This 45 minute time frame is only a guide -- depending on the size of your pumpkin, you may need more or less roasting time. Just pay attention. Also notice how sweet it smells while roasting!

Step 4 -- Gently scoop out the seeds and other gooey stuff until you only have the flesh left. Once you only have flesh (like pictured above), you'll want to scoop it into your food processor. So, scoop away, but don't include the skin (I know that's probably just common sense, but you never know)!

Step 5 -- Process the heck out of the roasted pumpkin until it's as smooth as you can get it. You may wish to add spices or sugar. It's really up to you. I used my puree in a bread (recipe to come soon, I promise!) so I actually added a bit of maple syrup. Maybe 1 teaspoon. My pumpkin yielded about 2 cups of puree. So, plan ahead if you need more or less. For the bread recipe, you'll need 2 cups.

And you're done! However, not really. Unless you're going to eat it as is . . . you'll need some recipes. Don't fret. Just check back later today :)

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Chocolate Chip-Coconut Cookies

>> Sunday, November 29, 2009

I've never been a fan of pie. Especially pumpkin pie -- but, really, just pie in general. I think it's because pie typically doesn't involve a large quantity of chocolate. Therefore, it isn't truly a dessert. Or something like that. So, this Thanksgiving, while everyone else was digging into their burnt-orange goo (which, I know probably tasted amazing, but I think I've made my position on the matter rather clear), I munched on these cookies. Probably far too many of them.

Regular chocolate chippers certainly do it for me. What I discovered last year, though, is that adding coconut to them creates this absolutely irresistible flavor explosion. I can never eat just one or two. No, I find myself fighting (with, uh, myself) to even bake the darn things.

And did I mention they're vegan? Yes, it's true! That way, you need not feel guilty eating half the dough . . .

(Also: The recipe for this batch is based off the Ghirardelli "ultimate" chocolate chip cookie recipe.)

What you'll need . . .
  • 1 package vegan chocolate chips (or regular -- approx. 12 ounces)
  • 1-3/4 cups wheat pastry flour
  • 1/2 to 3/4 cups oats (more or less depending on how wet your dough turns out)
  • 1/2 cup unsweetened coconut flakes
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup Earth Balance (or other butter substitute or butter), softened
  • 3/4 cup Sugar in the Raw (or other raw sugar or regular sugar)
  • 3/4 cup brown sugar (I used dark brown)
  • 1/2 cup unsweetened applesauce (or two eggs, if you like)
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla

Method . . .
  1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.
  2. In the bowl of an electric mixer, cream together the butter and sugars until mixture is pale and fluffy. Note: I didn't have an electric mixer when I made these, so I creamed them together with a fork. Worked just fine!
  3. Mix in the applesauce and vanilla.
  4. In another bowl, whisk together the dry ingredients (flour, oats, coconut, salt, baking soda).
  5. Add the dry mixture to the creamed mixture. Continue mixing until well incorporated.
  6. Add chocolate chips.
  7. Allow dough to rest for twenty minutes to half an hour (lets the oats soak up some of the moisture. If your dough still seems very wet, feel free to add more coconut or oats.
  8. Plop heaping tablespoon-sized dollops onto an un-greased cookie sheet. Make sure to leave space between the pre-cookies.
  9. Bake for 9 to 11 minutes -- until cookies are golden brown.

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Mushroom & Asparagus Quiche

>> Saturday, November 28, 2009

Hey, everyone! So, we just arrived home after being gone for nearly a week. It's absolutely freezing in here! The cats are definitely giving us the cold shoulder, too. However, we can't blame them. There's not a ton to do this in town, especially inside our house.

Fun news: We're joining a new gym today, and we're pretty excited about it. When I'm not running, I like to do spinning classes and lots of yoga. I don't remember if I mentioned already that I'm injured in the wake of the marathon. I have a tendon issue in my left foot, and it's keeping me from running and walking -- even gliding on the elliptical trainer -- for at least a few weeks. AHHHH!

Anyway, I thought I'd hop online and share one of our Thanksgiving main courses with you all. It was my mother-in-law's idea to make a quiche. And one turned into two. This mushroom and asparagus was my favorite (the other featured artichokes and spinach). If you're at all curious about what we ate on the big holiday, I can take the mystery away for you right now. I snapped this photo of my plate shortly before devouring it all (well, not the plate, of course) . . .

It doesn't look like a lot necessarily. But add to it 10 cookies, several seven-layer bars, and some extra mashed potatoes, and you've got yourself a hugely full tummy. Phew.

The recipe is super, super simple. I had never used refrigerated pie crust before, but I'd have to say -- if I ever plan to make this dish for dinner, I'd definitely recommend going the easy way again.

What you'll need . . .
  • A refrigerated pie crust (this was a "quick and easy" quiche because we had to do so much cooking!)
  • 4 large eggs
  • 1 cup cheddar cheese, shredded
  • 1-1/2 to 2 cups half and half (we used Silk creamer, and it turned out great!)
  • 1/2 cup onion, chopped
  • 1 cup asparagus, chopped (we steamed ours first in the microwave for about 5 minutes)
  • 1/2 to 3/4 cup white mushrooms, chopped
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Method . . .
  1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.
  2. Press your pie crust into a pie pan and set aside.
  3. Whisk together the eggs and half and half (or whatever substitute you choose) until well combined.
  4. Mix in the onions, cheese, steamed asparagus, and mushrooms.
  5. Add salt and pepper to taste.
  6. Pour filling into pie crust and bake for 30 minutes (or until quiche is set and lightly browned on top).

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(never home)maker Recipes

>> Friday, November 27, 2009








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Kitchen Scenes

>> Wednesday, November 25, 2009

We've been cooking up a storm here in NJ. And we're far from done! Just wanted to hop online and share a few scenes from the kitchen. Above is the vegetarian stuffing I came up with. What's in it? Multigrain bread, cranberries, apples, basil, ginger, shiitake mushrooms, onions, celery, and pine nuts.

I'll be sure to share the recipe . . . but we haven't tried it yet. It's certainly not your typical Thanksgiving fare.

We also whipped up some chocolate chip & coconut cookies. I ate about half of the dough before they finished baking -- but we still have a few actual cookies left. I'm also finally getting over the post-sugar haze I've been in since about 3PM -- thank goodness. And beneath those tasty buggers, we have the beginnings of confetti corn bread.

What else is on our Thanksgiving menu?
You'll just have to wait and see . . .

Have a great holiday, everyone!

<3 Ashley & Stephen

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The Office/Guest Room

What has me doing somersaults on the front lawn?
A room redo, perhaps! No recipes today. No, this post is all about spreading baked brie on the walls instead of eating it.

Wait . . . what? Here it is, folks. The walls of our office have been pink since probably 1962. ENOUGH! A quick trip to Lowes and a couple hundred dollars later ($277 to be exact), a less-little-girl-pretty and more posh place to call our office/guest room was born.

(And baked brie is the color name, if you were still wondering.)

Here's the office before, in all it's pink-ness:

A little paint shot to show how much different wall color makes:

One more before:

And now a couple afters (still need to take more, but you get the idea).

MUCH, MUCH better!!!

Paint (Olympic "baked brie" color-matched and mixed for Valspar paint) = $23.00
New ceiling fan = $79.00
Couch = free (snagged from other room & it's a sleeper! put the other on the street to find a new home.)
Rug = free (snagged from bedroom, but -- we bought another one for $20 to replace it)
Pillows = $45.00 (Home Goods <3) mirror =" $20.00" prints =" $70.00" curtains =" $20.00">

TOTAL = $277.00


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Meet the Cats

>> Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Meet Scully. In this photo, she's helping me bake some vegan pumpkin muffins. Or perhaps eying a fly on the wall. Or something like that. Anyway, it seems like most bloggers I follow are dog people. Well. We're not saying we dislike dogs . . . but in our house, cats rule.

I feel it's appropriate to introduce you to our pair today . . . because as I write, they're at home -- probably ripping our curtains to shreds -- thinking we have abandoned them.

Rivey's our boy. But he's definitely a queen. And he absolutely loves being photographed -- poses even.

Scully, on the other hand, enjoys only rare moments of photographic congeniality.

It's not that we're crazy cat people. So don't be scared of us. Really. We don't grow our own catnip or build our own kitty castles. But these two are definitely a part of our home life. And you'll likely see them stalking around in our photos at some point.

That being said, I'm in the process of writing a food post for you all. We're off to enjoy dinner, and I made a kickin' (vegan) shiitake cream of mushroom soup! Anyone else obsessed with coconut milk? If so, you're sure to eat it up.

Stay tuned . . .

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Homemade Bagels!

What I am about to share with you all is HANDS-DOWN my favorite recipe from the METHOD archives. To me, there's nothing more satisfying than making something I previously thought could be "great" ONLY if purchased in a bakery. Bagels, at least I thought, would never, EVER turn out well at home. They'd be too soft or chewy . . . but after much investigation, that's absolutely not the case.

So let's get to it . . .


(Modified from a recipe in Martha Stewart's Baking Handbook)

What you'll need (to make 10 healthy bagels) . . .

  • 3/4 teaspoon active dry yeast
  • 1-2/3 cups warm water
  • 3 tablespoons sugar
  • 1 tablespoon molasses
  • 3 cups bread flour
  • 1-1/2 cups wheat pastry flour
  • 1-1/2 tablespoons table salt
  • Poppy seeds, sesame seeds, coarse salt, rye seeds, etc., etc. (whatever you'd like to top 'em with!)
  • Vegetable oil (for bowl)
  • Plastic wrap
  • Parchment paper (I don't think this is absolutely necessary, but it definitely helps)

Method . . .

  1. In the bowl of an electric mixer, whisk together the yeast and water. Let stand fo 5 minutes (until foamy).
  2. Attach bowl to mixer fitted with the dough hook and -- with the mixer on low speed -- add the sugar, molasses, flours, and salt. I actually forgot to add the salt, and they still turned out beautifully. Knead for about 1 minute (until a slightly tacky -- but not sticky -- dough forms). You may need to add more flour or water depending on what you find. If so -- just add in 1 tablespoon amounts.
  3. Continue to knead dough for about 5 more minutes -- then transfer to a lightly oiled bowl and cover with oiled plastic wrap.
  4. Let rise in a warm place for 2 hours (until doubled in bulk).
  5. Divide dough into 10 equal pieces. Cover with a damp kitchen towel (the book reminds us to make sure the towel is CLEAN, which I find hilarious). Let rest for about 20 minutes.
  6. Line two unrimmed baking sheets (no worries -- mine were rimmed, so I don't know the benefit of using the unrimmed sheets) with parchment paper and lightly brush with oil; set aside.
  7. With lightly oiled hands, roll each piece of dough into a 6-inch rope. Form a circle around your hand and then press the two ends (rather, roll them) together to seal. There really isn't a great way to explain how to fasten them together -- so go with your gut!
  8. Place the bagels 2 inches apart on the prepared baking sheets. Cover with a piece of oiled plastic wrap (I used the same one from earlier in the process), and let rest until puffed (about 20 minutes).

And now the fun part . . .
  1. Preheat the oven to 500 degrees F (260 C) -- with racks in the upper and lower thirds.
  2. Fill a large stockpot (the wider the better, Martha notes) with water and bring to a boil.
  3. Gently drop bagels into the water (as many as will comfortably fit without touching each other). After 30 seconds, use a slotted spoon to gently flip the bagels over -- simmer for yet another 30 seconds. (NOTE: I only boiled 2 at a time.)
  4. Then, using the slotted spoon again, return the bagels to the parchment-lined sheets. Top them with the seeds or salt -- you must do this when the bagels are still wet so everything sticks to them. Also, I was somewhat anal and used a paper towel to wipe up the extra water that dropped onto my baking sheet.
  5. When you've finished this process with all to-be bagels, immediately place sheets in the oven. Bake for 5 minutes and then rotate the sheets and reduce the temperature to 350 degrees F (176-ish degrees C). Bake until golden brown (about 10 minutes -- but mine only took 8).
  6. THEN use a spatula (I just made my husband do this part, as he seems to be impervious to heat) and flip bagels over. Continue baking for another 5 minutes -- or until the back-sides are golden brown as well.
  7. Transfer bagels to wire rack to cool! Then toast and enjoy with some eggs (or just a generous topping of butter, Nutella, peanut butter, etc.)!

Yes. The process is rather involved -- but it's also easy and well worth the effort.

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No-Knead Pumpkin Loaf

>> Monday, November 23, 2009

We survived the marathon! Not only that -- Stephen met his goal (with a time of 3:03:59) and qualified for Boston, though he doesn't think he'll run it this year. My story is a bit more tragic. I didn't get my goal time of 3:59:59. I didn't even get under 4:05:00, much to my displeasure. The "wall" thing everyone talks about -- when your muscles literally runs out of glycogen. Well, it's no joke. I finished the race in 4:10:40, and in a load of pain. I'll post an "official" marathon post later in the week, but just had to share the short story now.

Anyway, back to baked goods. We're here in NJ with my in-laws getting ready for an awesome Thanksgiving dinner, among other things. I'm considering adding this bread to the menu . . .

I made this loaf a few months ago. And I'm happy to report that my first experience baking no-knead bread was a great success! I chose to include the following flavors -- pumpkin and pumpkin seeds, rosemary, and walnut. It's a hefty little thing . . . and I think it tastes best toasted and generously topped with this on-the-fly sweet pumpkin butter I whipped up (recipe also below).

What you'll need . . .

  • 1/2 cup pumpkin puree (plain, this isn't a sweet or spiced pumpkin bread)
  • 1 cup plus 1 tablespoon tepid water (or a bit more depending)
  • 1/4 teaspoon dry active yeast
  • 1-1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 2 cups bread flour
  • 1 cup wheat pastry flour
  • 1/3 cup raw pumpkin seeds
  • 1/2 cup raw crushed walnuts
  • 1 generous tablespoon rosemary (I used dried, but am sure fresh would work wonderfully)

Method . . .

  1. In a large mixing bowl, whisk together the flours and yeast. Then add in the salt.
  2. Make an impression with your fist inside the dry ingredients and then plop in the pumpkin puree and water.
  3. Mix together -- this should be relatively easy . . . and if it isn't, add a bit more tepid water. I ended up using my hands because it was just easier for me . . . however, keep in mind, the dough will be very, very, VERY sticky.
  4. Cover the bowl with a piece of oiled plastic wrap and put in a warm place to rise for anywhere between 12 and 18 hours. (I went to work after mixing mine . . . and only waited 12 hours, but I've always heard it's best to wait even longer.)
  5. After that time has passed, generously flour a work surface and use a spatula to scrape your bubbly dough onto it.
  6. Flour your hands and pat down the loaf into a square shape. Then fold each of the sides in toward the middle and flip over -- seam-side down -- and gently shape into a round loaf.
  7. Put some cornmeal down on a baking sheet . . . and transfer the loaf to it to rise for another 2 hours (again, cover with a towel or oiled plastic wrap). Make sure to get the cornmeal on there, or you'll find your loaf sticking to the pan.
  8. Preheat your oven to 425 degrees F. Also place a pie plate on the bottom rack -- half full of water. I also used a pizza stone to bake my bread. So if you have one, also place the pizza stone in the oven as it preheats. (If not, you're fine -- you'll just use the sheet the dough is currently rising upon.)
  9. With a knife, slice a 1/2 inch deep cut into the top of your loaf.
  10. Place your loaf in the oven (middle rack) to bake by either placing it on the pizza stone or simply sliding in the baking sheet. You'll want to bake it for about 25 minutes . . . then check to see how it's doing . . . then baking for approx. another 25 more -- until the crust is golden brown. If your crust starts burning, you may wish to cover it with a piece of tin-foil while you continue baking.


What you'll need . . .
  • 3 tablespoons butter (I used Earth Balance)
  • 1-1/2 tablespoon pumpkin puree
  • 1 teaspoon honey

Method . . .
  1. Put all ingredients into the bowl of an electric mixer.
  2. Set mixer to high speed and cream together all ingredients.
  3. Need more butter? This recipe makes enough for like half the loaf . . . so just make it again :)

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Our Wedding

>> Saturday, November 21, 2009

Our bags are packed.
We're ready to go.
And while we're out,
why not check out some of our wedding photos!

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DIY: What a Difference Architectural Details Make

Good morning. I was up at five today -- partially because I'm incredibly nervous and full of energy, partially because I still haven't packed . . . and we're leaving at 8AM. But I wanted to share this project with you all. Last month we were paid a visit by the 88-year-old previous owner of our home. Actually, she lived here for over 60 years, from the time the house was built in the late 1940s. We were super scared to have her tour the place. After all, we've changed basically everything in the short year and a half that we've been here. And I've seen far too many of those shows where the previous owner visits, breaks down, and cries like a baby because his or her favorite unicorn mural has been washed over with antique white.

Or whatever the case may be.

So, the dining room started out (and this is a photo from when we toured the place before putting down an offer, so those neon-green plastic-y chairs aren't ours, unfortunately) like in the top left photo. When we moved in, our furniture made the place look like the top right photo.

But something was definitely missing. Lacked character, really. At first, we didn't know what to do, so we simply changed the decor a little. Oh, and we also removed the carpet, which was a tremendous help.

But the room needed more to get it looking the way we wanted. Enter the architectural details from this post's title. We were strolling around Home Depot (or was it Loews?) one day, when I got distracted from our original mission (to purchase a new ceiling fan for the guest room upstairs) and found myself browsing around the molding section. In particular, I was drawn to the composite (in other words, the not-wood -- almost like a really strong foam?) moldings, as they are light-weight, and seemed to be a breeze to install.

This project, truth be told, was really done in two stages. First, we bought chair rail. We installed it one weekend . . . and then the next weekend (or the one after that), we bought the matching crown molding. The weekend after that, we decided to paint the bottom portion of the room to create a paneling effect.

In essence, the room went from this . . .

To this . . . in relatively little time.

Now, I won't even begin to pretend we wrote the book on the installation of this stuff. In fact, we made great use of the DIY Network's online tutorials (How to Install Chair Rail and How to Install Crown Molding), and then adapted them to work with our specific material (again, the composite), our unique home challenges (hello, plaster walls!), and our energy levels.

To install, you need to learn to love your miter saw. You need to measure twice and cut only once (we know this from sloppy experience). I'd recommend painting the molding before installation. We didn't do this, and it was, in a word, annoying. And you need patience. You also need to be OK with little imperfections. For example, our corners aren't perfect. I'll just put it out there. But my parents say it makes the place look like the stuff's always been there. So, that's good, I guess.

The work, the sore arms -- it's all worth it! Just look at these after photos!!!

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