apple-banana-oatmeal-cake.jpgYears ago I made an oatmeal cake that was moist, dense and delicious with a thick layer of cream cheese frosting slathered over the top. When we had out-of-town friends staying with us last week, I thought of that cake that I haven’t made in years when I served baked oatmeal for breakfast one morning.

I flipped through my recipe file and found the cake recipe that I’d clipped from a newspaper many years ago. I added a seasonal touch to the cake with the addition of chopped, locally grown apples. Since I had a ripe banana in the freezer, I stirred that into the batter, too. A bit of cinnamon added to the cream cheese frosting turned the cake into an autumn treat.

Oatmeal, tart apples, cinnamon and banana paired with cream cheese — can’t get much better — unless you add some toasted chopped pecans. I shared the cake with others and discovered that a short length of cinnamon stick poked into each piece of cake worked well as a support for plastic wrap, preventing the plastic from sticking to the frosting and ruining its attractiveness. Once you taste this cake, you may choose not to share.

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ImageWith its naturally sweet taste, bright orange hue, and delicate flavor, butternut squash is one of the most popular fall/winter vegetables. Besides pumpkin, it's an iconic vegetable of the season and it's one of my favorites because of its many wonderful culinary uses. I like squashes even more than pumpkins. When Thanksgiving arrives, I'll be making my usual squash pie instead of pumpkin pie. Until then I'll enjoy the vegetable in many forms, cubed and roasted, pureed in soups, and baked into quick breads and cakes. It's just that versatile.

In this recipe, I do something unexpected. I use grated squash instead of pureed squash from a can. Much like carrot cake, the strands of squash become suspended in the batter, forming a beautiful and tender cake. A great texture is achieved from a half-and-half mix of white and whole-wheat flours. The cake is much like a quick bread in that it is not overly sweet. Bake it in a Bundt pan or tube pan, or two medium loaf pans. Drizzle it with a maple syrup icing for just a little extra sweet fall flavor. When friends stop by for coffee or tea, serve them this easy and reliable cake.

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matsutake-001.jpgMatsutake Mushrooms

In rough times like these with the economy falling down around our knees and election weeks away, we all need to find some silver linings to revitalize our souls – at least temporarily.  For me that means going to the Portland Farmer’s Market on Saturday mornings and making a beeline for Roger the Mushroom Man. Living in the Pacific Northwest, America’s mushroom breadbasket affords me a wide (and wild) variety of shrooms.

But none are better – or more expensive – than the matsutake – tricholoma magnivelar for you science-heads. This meaty, spicy cinnamon, earthly flavored delight is harvested in the Cascade Mountains. Most of them are shipped off to Japan where the best ones – those with a tight cap – go for over a grand a pound. Roger sells them for $36 dollars a pound; but being an über-honest dude, sells the ones which have been invaded by worms for $12. While I am not offended by the taste of worms – in fact I have had a few that were quite pleasing to my palate – I do not like digging them out of my matsutakes.


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grilledplumsPlump, sweet, and juicy—these are the best-tasting plums. Late summer brings with it all the different types of plums—colors of white, black, red and shapes of round and oval. There are too many varieties to list here. And don't forget pluots, a cross between plums and apricots. I love to eat them fresh—and you know they're good when the juices run down your arm. But as you've seen by reading here, I also adore plums in simple, homey desserts.

Instead of the typical preparation, these plums are grilled. Grilling fruit is not a typical technique, but it's great for bringing out the flavor of fruit, especially when it's a bit underripe. Imagine pineapple slices, peaches, or nectarines on the grill. These fruits nicely caramelize, especially when they're brushed with a sugar mixture. And what goes better with warm fruit than ice cream? This is a dessert to savor spoonful by spoonful.

With just three ingredients, this recipe is almost a nonrecipe. Brush the plum halves with a mixture of sugar and butter that caramelizes on the grill. Serve with ice cream, like my lavender-crème fraîche ice cream, which lends a unique flavor to the dessert. Take the opportunity to grill some fruit before summer ends!

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applecrispI had a vegetable drawer filled with fuji apples that had seen better days.  They were not fit to eat for my mid morning snack.  It’s rare that I clean out my vegetable bin and throw things away.  I always try and “re purpose” neglected veggies and fruit and turn them into something delicious.

These apples were no different.  I need to turn them into something yummy and a crostata wasn’t going to cut it (my usual go to dessert when I have too much of one thing on hand).  A few weeks back I had given away a copy of The Fearless Baker on this blog post and I really wanted to bake a few more things from the book. I remembered reading about her Apple Crisp Bars and earmarked the page.  I grabbed the book and started collecting ingredients.  I already have a favorite crust for fruit type bars as well as a streusel topping.  I did, however, make her apple filling and it was good enough to eat with a spoon, all on it’s own.

I brought these to a casual lunch and both men and women devoured them.  The kids topped the ends and the leftovers with vanilla bean ice cream and said it was hands down better than any apple dessert they had ever tasted.  This gets my vote as well!

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