pumpkinsPumpkins Patches Are Blooming…

As soon as a nip in the air arrives, my thoughts turn to autumn favorites.

Truth be told, I make pumpkin bread year-round. It is a favorite of my grandchildren, so I make lots of mini-loaves to spread around the pumpkin goodness. My recipe makes six mini-loaves – enough for each grandchild and two to save for my table. They are delicious and moist alone, or scrumptious slathered with butter or cream cheese. They stay moist for days and freeze very well.

As usual, I can’t leave well enough alone. I’ve added nuts, raisins, and dried cranberries to my mini-loaves from time to time. Occasionally, I’ll add a rich glaze of butter, sugar, and rum extract or brandy extract that is poked into the loaves. Yum.

My mini-pans roughly measure 3″ X 5 1/2″. Don’t worry if yours are not that same size. If I add nuts and other goodies, I sometimes get seven loaves from the batter. Just check your baking time a little earlier if your pans are a bit smaller.

NOTE: I finally realized that all those mini-pans are much easier to manage getting into and out of the oven if I place them on a large cookie sheet. Just make sure you leave some air space around each loaf.


Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Mini-loaves take about 55-60 minutes. Grease and flour pans.


3 1/2 cups flour

2 teaspoons baking soda

1 1/2 teaspoons salt

1 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon (more, if you like a spicier bread)

1/2 teaspoon nutmeg (more, if prefer)

3 cups sugar

4 eggs

2 cups canned pumpkin

2/3 cup water

1 cup vegetable oil

Nuts, raisins, dried cranberries (optional) about 1 cup combined


Mix all dry ingredients together in separate bowl. In mixer bowl, add eggs, pumpkin, water, and oil together. Beat until blended. Pour in dry ingredients. Mix Well. Mix in any add-ins you choose. Blend on low. Pour into prepared pans.

Bake loaves for 55-60 minutes. Cool before removing from pans. (If using glaze, leave in pans, add glaze before removing from pans.)

Butter-Rum Glaze

Melt 1/4 cup butter (1/2 a stick) in a small saucepan. Stir in 1/2 cup sugar and 2 tablespoons of water. Bring to a boil. Remove from heat; stir in 1 teaspoon rum extract (or brandy extract).

After you’ve removed the mini-loaves from the oven, poke holes in the breads (still in pans) using a fork. Slowly pour the glaze mixture over each loaf. Let stand until absorbed. Then remove loaves from their pans.

NOTE: This recipe will also make two large loaves (9″ loaf pans). Baking time for large loaves is 1 hour and 15 minutes.

Fun Facts About Pumpkin:laughing pumpkins


Six of the seven continents can grow pumpkins including Alaska! Antarctica is the only continent that they won’t grow in.

The largest pumpkin pie ever made was over five feet in diameter and weighted over 350 pounds. It used 80 pounds of cooked pumpkin, 36 pounds of sugar, 12 dozen eggs, and took six hours to bake.

The largest pumpkin ever grown weighed 1,140 pounds.

(Photo of Small Pumpkin in Crate-Healthy Vegetable courtesy of

(Photo of Pumpkin Costume courtesy of



Apple Blondie Cake

apple blondie cake logo 004

Apple Blondie Cake

This is a nice twist on an apple cake. I call it Apple Blondie because it bakes like brownies. It is a little crunchy on the outside and softer inside.The cake is dense but not high.  The recipe makes two 8″ cakes. Top a slice with a scoop of vanilla ice cream or a dollop of whipped cream – or serve it simply plain with a dusting of powdered sugar.

I received this recipe from a young woman who grew up on a farm. When I interviewed her, she was preparing to leave home to attend Johnson & Wales Culinary Arts School. She called the cake Green Apple Cake. Whether red or green, use a firm, ripe apple for this cake.

I love this recipe’s versatility. The original recipe called for a 13″ X 9″ pan. But I find that it bakes much better in two 8″ pans – square or round – or one of each. The great advantage to using two separate pans is that you can custom make each one to serve your guests their favorite. I often add walnuts to one cake and leave the other plain. Or, add raisins and do the same. In the cake above, I’ve added walnuts and raisins to both.

The batter is very thick. I use a stand mixer to make it. You can fold in the apples with the mixer on the lowest setting, or try folding them in by hand (builds strong arm muscles!). When placing the batter in the pans, use a knife or spatula to even out the batter, making sure to push it into the corners or even it out for a round pan.

Apple Blondie Cake apples

Bake at 350 degrees for 35-38 minutes (top of cake should be a light golden brown). Grease and flour two 8″ pans.


3 cups peeled and chopped apples (about 3 medium apples) – not a fine chop

2 eggs

2 cups sugar

1 cup vegetable oil

1 teaspoon vanilla

2 1/2 cups flour

2 teaspoons baking powder

1 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon cinnamon

1 cup chopped nuts and/or raisins (1 cup total)


Sift dry ingredients in a large bowl and set aside.

Beat eggs, add sugar, oil, and vanilla. Add dry ingredients, mixing until blended.

Fold in apples and nuts or raisins.

Place in two pans. Using a knife or spatula, even out ingredients in pan.

After removing cake from oven, run a knife around the rim of the pans. Allow to cool about 20 minutes before removing from pans.

Fun Facts About Apples: Source:

It takes about 36 apples to create one gallon of apple cider.

Apples are a member of the rose family of plants, along with pears, peaches, plums and cherries.

Pilgrims planted the first U.S. apple trees in the Massachusetts Bay Colony.

Archeologists have found evidence that humans have been enjoying apples since 6500 BC.

(photo of “Apples” courtesy of zdiviv

Pineapple Cheesecake

current homemade cheesecake

Just about everyone loves cheesecake. It is a dessert that has stood the test of time.

Many incarnations and dozens of different recipes have survived.

Back in the ’50s and ’60s, cheesecakes from the bakery usually came packaged like this:

old cheesecake

Today, most home-baked cheesecakes are made in springform pans.

All types of fruit and specialty toppings grace today’s cheesecakes. But the ones that live in my memory were delicious pineapple cheesecakes with the fruit on the bottom. Recently, I came across my well-aged recipe card for pineapple filling, so I made a pineapple cheesecake for old friends. It brought back fond memories for all of us.pineapple

If you’d like to try this specialty from bygone days, use your favorite cheesecake recipe, or try mine. I received my recipe from one of my interviewees back when I wrote articles for a newspaper food editor. The young woman named her recipe “Disappearing Cheesecake” because it seemed to disappear quickly in her house! Here is my old recipe for the pineapple filling placed on the  graham cracker crust before adding the cheesecake ingredients.

Pineapple Cheesecake

Use either a 9″ or 10″ springform pan. If you lightly butter the inside rim of the pan, you will have a smoother look when the cake is removed from the pan.

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Cake bakes for 35-40 minutes. Then turn off oven and allow the cake to stay in there for one hour.

Pineapple Filling


One 20 oz. can crushed pineapple in natural juice, drained (reserve 1 cup of juice)

One 2.9 oz. package vanilla cook and serve pudding mix (not instant)


Drain pineapple, reserve one cup of the juice. Cook vanilla pudding mix and juice together until thick. Mix in pineapple. Allow to cool while preparing cheesecake.



1 1/2 cups graham cracker crumbs (12 whole crackers)

3 tablespoons sugar

3 tablespoons melted butter

Mix crumbs with sugar. Add melted butter. Stir until butter is thoroughly mixed with crumbs. Press into bottom and slightly up the sides of a 9 or 10″ springform pan. Chill until filling is ready.

Add prepared pineapple filling.


3 8-oz. packages cream cheese

1 1/2 cups sugar

4 large eggs

2 1/2 cups sour cream

1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract

a light sprinkle of cinnamon, optional


Soften cream cheese at room temperature. Place cream cheese in mixer bowl and beat until fluffy. Gradually beat in sugar.

Add eggs, one at a time. Mix in sour cream and vanilla.

Pour into pan. Sprinkle lightly with cinnamon, if desired. Bake at 375 degrees for 35-40 minutes. Turn oven off and leave cake in oven for one hour. (Cake may appear to not be done, but it will “finish” in the turned off oven.)

NOTE: Try not to fret if the cheesecake cracks. It happens. Doesn’t affect the taste at all. If you are a perfectionist (something I am guilty of from time to time), you could save the pineapple filling to place on top of the cake if you know the crack will truly bother you. If you use the filling as a topper, don’t add it until the cake has chilled overnight.

Chill overnight in pan. Before releasing cake from pan, run a knife around the inside edge of the pan.

NOTE: Make sure the cheesecake is completely cooled before covering and refrigerating. Otherwise, you might find droplets of moisture on top of the cake. If that happens, just lightly tap a piece of paper towel over it to absorb the moisture.

Fun Facts about cheesecake: Source:

The largest cheesecake ever made weighed a hefty 4,703 pounds.  Philadelphia Kraft Foods Mexico made the giant cake, which set a Guinness World Record on January 25, 2009 in Mexico.

The Golden Girls,” cast consumed more than 100 cheesecakes (the characters’ favorite dessert) over the course of the TV show’s seven-year run.

(photo of A Homemade Cheese Cake courtesy of Mister GC

(photo of Fresh Bake Cheese Base Cake courtesy of pansayaporn

(photo of Pineapple courtesy of foto76

Zucchini – What To Do With All Of Them? – Bake Bread


What to do with all that zucchini!

Zucchini grow fast and furious beneath the red hot sun of latter-day summer. Tender, small zucchini are delicious in main dishes. But many of us wind up on the receiving end of zucchini large enough to serve as baseball bats.

One way to get the kids and family to eat their zucchini is to turn them into yummy zucchini bread that can be served with a meal or as dessert.

This recipe has lived in my recipe box since my daughters were teenagers. One of their friends decided to try her hand at baking. Joan’s Zucchini Bread was the successful result. Many loaves of it have been baked at our house since then. My daughters now bake it for their own children.

Joan’s Zucchini Bread

Bake at 350 degrees in two greased and floured 8″ X 5″ loaf pans


3 eggs, well beaten

2 cups sugar

1 cup vegetable oil

3 cups flour

1/2 teaspoon baking powder

2 teaspoons baking soda

1 teaspoon salt

2 teaspoons cinnamon

3 teaspoons (3 t. = 1 Tablespoon) vanilla

2 cups grated zucchini

1 cup raisins

1 cup nuts or dates


This batter can be mixed by hand or on low speed with a mixer.

Stir all ingredients together, except zucchini, nuts, and raisins. Mix until well blended.

Add zucchini, nuts, and raisins. Mix well.

Turn batter into two loaf pans. Bake at 350 degrees for 45-55 minutes. Allow bread to cool on a rack.

notebook-vegetablesNOTE: When I wrote for the food editor of a newspaper, I interviewed a lovely woman at her farm market. She casually mentioned that she had 101 ways to use zucchini. I used that quote in my article. Oh boy!

Everyone that read the article visited her stand and wanted her recipes. She finally grew weary of the requests and put together a little cookbook called – you guessed it – 101 Ways to Cook Zucchini. Happy ending for all…

Fun Facts About Zucchini: Source:

The world’s largest zucchini on record was 69 1/2 inches long, and weighed 65 lbs. Bernard Lavery of Plymouth Devon, UK, grew the humongous veggie.

One zucchini has just 25 calories (compared to a baked potato, for example, which has 130 calories).

A zucchini has more potassium than a banana.

(photo of Zucchini courtesy of dan at

(photo of Notebook Among the Vegetables stock photo courtesy of marin at

My Family’s Favorite Chocolate Cake

chocolate cake-pink frosting 004Deep Chocolate Cake with Strawberry Frosting

If she’s lucky, every grandmother has that one recipe her grandchildren love. For me, it is this delicious, moist chocolate cake recipe passed down from a home economics teacher – back when my grands were just a “twinkle in my eye.”

When you read the recipe, don’t think I’ve made a mistake. It is a strange one. There is only one egg in it. Stranger yet, you add a cup of boiling water to the ingredients. Honest – it works. The cake is incredibly moist. Often, chocolate cake recipes produce a dry cake. Not this one!

The cake shown here was iced with my strawberry frosting (see Dessert Recipes – Buttercream Frosting). But the request I most often receive includes chocolate frosting. Apparently, there is no such thing as too much chocolate….

My Family’s Favorite Chocolate Cake   chocolate hearts

Preheat oven to 350 degrees


2 cups flour

2 cups sugar

1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa

2 teaspoons baking soda

1 teaspoon salt

1 cup boiling water

1 teaspoon vanilla

1 cup buttermilk or sour milk (1 cup regular milk with 1 tablespoon lemon juice added. Allow to stand 5 minutes)

1 cup vegetable oil

1 egg


In a mixer bowl, place flour, sugar, cocoa, baking soda, and salt. Blend on low.

To dry ingredients, add 1 cup boiling water (add slowly on low speed). Then add vanilla.

In a separate bowl (or large measuring cup), mix together buttermilk, oil, and egg. Add to mixer. Beat on low speed to mix all ingredients well. It is best to scape the bowl well, especially along the bottom. Then mix again on medium speed until well blended. Batter will be thin.

Choice of pans: (grease and flour pans well)

13″ X 9-inch – bake 35-40 minutes

Two 9-inch pans – bake 30 minutes

*10-inch tube pan – bake 50-55 minutes

Test for doneness with a cake tester. The cake may seem a little moist, kind of like a brownie, but it is best not over-baked. Cool cake in pans for about 20 minutes. Remove to a rack to cool.

*I’ve never made this cake in a tube pan. My crew likes that extra layer of frosting.

FUN FACTS About Chocolate: (Source:

The average American consumes more than 10 pounds of chocolate every year.

       choc. easter bunny
76% of Americans say the ears of the chocolate bunnies should be eaten first.
5% think chocolate feet of the bunnies should be eaten first.
4% think chocolate tails should go first.

(photo of chocolate hearts courtesy of nokhoog_buchachon at

(photo of chocolate Easter bunny courtesy of Jeroen Van Oostrom at

Old-fashioned Hot Milk Sponge Cake


It’s August. Summer’s bounty of delicious fresh fruit is in high season. My “go to” cake for this time of year is an old-fashioned hot milk sponge cake. This recipe calls for 4 eggs, but the good news (calorie-wise) is that it only has 2 tablespoons of butter in it.

This tried and true recipe is simple to make and absorbs fruit juices like its namesake – a sponge. The original recipe calls for a 13″ X 9″ pan. In that size pan, this cake tends to bake high in the middle and lower around the edges, which means that by the time the center tests done, the outer edges are dry. To resolve that, I bake the cake in two 8″ pans. They can be round pans or square. It’s your preference.

Serve the cake sliced as is or split each piece in half horizontally to open up that sponge. Spill a generous helping of your favorite fruit with juices over the cake.

sponge cake with peaches 002-copy

Sponge Cake with Fresh Peaches


1 cup milk

2 Tablespoons butter

4 eggs, beaten

2 cups sugar

2 teaspoons vanilla

2 cups flour

2 teaspoons baking powder


Preheat over to 350 degrees. Grease and flour two 8″ pans (or a 13″ X 9″ pan)

Place milk and butter in a saucepan. Bring to a boil. Remove from burner. Allow to sit while preparing the rest of the batter.

In a mixer bowl, beat eggs, add sugar gradually. Beat on medium until well blended. Add vanilla.

With mixer running on medium, add boiled milk/butter mixture to bowl – slowly in a stream to temper the eggs (don’t want the eggs to cook from the hot milk!). I pour the milk/butter into a large measuring cup with a pouring lip, which helps to pour slowly.

When well blended, add flour and baking powder. Beat on low until blended. Pour into prepared pans.

Bake 25-28 minutes in 8″ pans (my preferred way to bake this cake)

Bake 30-35 minutes in 13″ X 9″ pan (I included this for those of you who want to try it out)

Note: My Hot Milk Sponge Cake recipe is featured in a beautiful cookbook called Jersey Fresh, published by the New Jersey Department of Agriculture (in 2001) along with the recipe for fresh strawberry topping, which is on this blog under Strawberries and Pound Cake. Substitute your favorite fruit for strawberries.

Fun Facts about Sponge Cake: 

The opening words of Jimmy Buffet’s hit song, “Margaritaville” are: “Nibblin’ on sponge cake…” (Source:

A sponge cake has a firm, yet well aerated structure, similar to a sea sponge. That’s why it is called a “sponge cake.” (Source:

(Photo of Fruits Collection courtesy of Robert Cochrane at

Buttercream Frosting – Get Creative! + Banana Cake with Peanut Butter Frosting

Since I bake cakes so often, I like to jazz up my basic buttercream frosting whenever I can. My most recent experiment gained rave reviews by those who count – the grandkids. I paired that delicious favorite of many kids (and grown-ups) – bananas with a smear of peanut butter. I turned it into a banana cake with peanut butter frosting and sprinkled chopped salty cocktail peanuts on top.

banana cake-p.b. frosting 005Love that combo of sweet and salty!

(The recipe for this banana cake follows frosting recipes)

Basic Vanilla Buttercream Frosting sticks of butter


*½ cup butter, room temperature
3 ½ cups confectioner’s sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
About 1/3 cup of milk, added a little at a time

*If you like your frosting extra buttery, add another half-stick (1/4) cup of butter for a creamier frosting.


Add butter to a mixer bowl. Cream well. Add confectioner’s sugar. Beat on low until mixture begins to blend. Add half the milk. Beat well on medium speed. Continue to add milk until the frosting is of good spreading consistency. Be cautious on the light side of adding any additional milk.

Once you are happy with the spreadability of the frosting, turn the mixer speed to high and beat for about a minute. This whips air into the frosting and gives it a creamy, easy-to-spread consistency.

Basic Chocolate Buttercream Frostingchoc.cupcake

I use the same recipe as the vanilla buttercream frosting except:

Reduce amount of confectioner’s sugar to 3 cups.
Add ½ to 2/3 cup unsweetened cocoa powder (according to how chocolatey you like the frosting)

NOTE: This is another live and learn lesson – cocoa powder is so fine that it wants to float in the air and onto you and everything around it when it meets the beaters. So I cream the butter, turn off mixer, add in cocoa, add confectioner’s sugar on top of the cocoa, then start beating – low speed at first.

Delicious Add-ins to Buttercream Frosting

Be fearless. Experiment. What’s the worst that can happen – you have to make a new batch of frosting?

Remember to add these extras before your final addition of milk since they will add to the liquidity of the frosting.

    • Add two generous tablespoonfuls of seedless strawberry preserves or jam to frosting. The result is a beautiful pink frosting with a light strawberry taste. A perfect finish for the little pink-loving girl in your life.
  • Add two generous tablespoonfuls of seedless raspberry jam to frosting. This is especially good on chocolate cake. If the cake is for adults only, you may want to add a splash of raspberry liqueur such as Chambord.
  • Experiment with different jams and preserves. I’ve used pineapple preserves and added some coconut after frosting the cake. I haven’t tried orange marmalade, but I imagine it would be a refreshing sweet/tart taste added to frosting.
  • For a citrus-flavored frosting, use frozen lemonade concentrate (undiluted) to replace the milk. Again, add concentrate in small amounts until you have desired consistency.
  • Add about three generous tablespoons of caramel ice cream topping to the frosting. If the caramel flavor is not strong enough for you, add more. Just remember to do this before adding milk. Add milk in very small amounts at a time. I’ve also used this on my banana cake.

NOTE: when adding coconut, chopped nuts, or any extra add-ons, make sure you lightly press the extras into the frosting right after placing frosting on the cake (before the frosting sets). That will help avoid having the extras fall off the cake when you cut it or try to eat it.

NOTE: If you add nuts, etc. to the middle layer of the cake, make sure you don’t overdo it, and that you push the add-ons down into the frosting. Otherwise, the two layers may not hold together tightly.

banana cake-p.b. frosting 003
Banana Cake with Peanut Butter Frosting and Chopped Peanuts

This recipe produces a nice, moist cake because it uses oil rather than butter.

Bakes at 350 degrees for 30-33 minutes.

NOTE: Use two 9-inch round cake pans. This makes a high cake and it might overflow during baking in 8-inch pans.


2 ½ cups flour
1 2/3 cup sugar
1 ¼ teaspoons baking powder
1 ¼ teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon salt

2/3 cup buttermilk (or substitute with 2/3 cup regular milk with 2/3 tablespoon lemon juice added and    allowed to sit for 5 minutes)
2/3 cup vegetable oil
2 eggs

1 ½ cups mashed very ripe bananas (about 3 or 4 bananas)
1 teaspoon vanilla


Mix dry ingredients together in a mixer bowl. Beat in buttermilk, oil, and eggs. Beat 2 minutes on medium speed. Add bananas and vanilla.

Pour batter into greased and floured pans. Bake 350 degrees for 30-33 minutes.

Remove from pans when cooled. Frost and add chopped peanuts.

Peanut Butter Frosting

Use recipe for basic buttercream frosting. Add ¼ cup peanut butter (room temperature) to the softened butter. Beat well to blend before adding confectioner’s sugar. Follow basic recipe.

I used salted cocktail peanuts, chopped. Use as much as or as little as you’d like. I added some of the nuts to the middle layer with frosting. Don’t forget to press down peanuts after adding to the cake for both layers.

FUN FACTS About Butter:  (Source:

It takes 21 pints of milk to make a pound of butter

The world record for butter eating is 7 quarter pound sticks of salted butter in 5 minutes by Donald Lerman

In 2009 U.S. butter production was more than 1.5 billion pounds (1,573,481,000 pounds) – (USDA 2010)

(Image of butter courtesy of SOMMAI at

(Image of chocolate cupcake courtesy of piyato at