Thanksgiving Cake, Pumpkin Butter, Sipp Soda and Pistachio Bites

How is this the first time I’ve ever tasted pumpkin butter? The pride of making and canning your own preserves is a delight I discovered in medical school in what was the year of the tomato with a sudden winter that made me want to bottle the summertime like a jam and savor it through the winter.

I’ve been on a Franny Choi kick lately, and her Strawberry Moon poem strikes a chord with this canning business: “The house was filled with the smell of it, the last misshapen,/ sweet-heavy berries of the season losing their shapes on the/ stove. The house was filled with the smell of fruit unbecoming,/ fruit pulled to its knees at fire’s feet.”

This cookbook, Can It and Ferment It by Stephanie Thurow is the answer to the food problem of the fall—too much harvest and not enough belly room. I started with this pumpkin butter recipe, but Mom just sent me my first crock and so more to come in the fermentation department!

Isn’t that cute how the book has these little old-fashioned notecard spaces in the text?! Okay, for the big Thanksgiving dinner—consider this delight. I’ve made this cake twice, once with all the layers as below, and again, with four layers of ALL pumpkin spice.

“And so, as the light died, we put our mouths/ on the least lovable, the too=full, the easy-bruised, we shouted,/ I choose you, and you, and you, and you, and canned that/ hunger, and spooned it into our mouths on the coldest days.”

I am so grateful for the family whose love surrounds me even when I’m so far, in some cold and lonely call room by myself, I feel loved and cared for and blessed because of you, family; and, also, I’m grateful for the opportunity to be someone’s missing family on a holiday night in the hospital when we have no choice but to band together for healing and hope.

Three Layer Thanksgiving Cake

Adapted from Food and Wine


1 1/2 sticks unsalted butter, melted and cooled, plus softened butter for greasing

2 1/4 cups plus 1 tablespoon all-purpose flour

1 1/8 teaspoons baking soda

3/4 teaspoon baking powder

3/4 teaspoon kosher salt

1 1/4 cups granulated sugar

1 cup buttermilk, at room temperature

3 large eggs, at room temperature

1/3 cup pure pumpkin puree

1 1/4 teaspoons pumpkin pie spice

1 1/4 cups fresh or frozen cranberries, thawed and drained if frozen

1/3 cup stone-ground yellow cornmeal

1 1/4 cups candied pecans, roughly chopped



1 1/4 pounds cream cheese, softened

2 1/2 sticks unsalted butter, softened

5 cups confectioners’ sugar

Kosher salt

Make the cakes first. Preheat the oven to 350° with racks positioned in the upper and lower thirds. Butter three 9-by-9-inch metal cake pans and dust with flour.

In a medium bowl, whisk 2 1/4 cups of the flour with the baking soda, baking powder and salt. In a large bowl, whisk the melted butter with the granulated sugar, buttermilk and eggs until well combined. Whisk in the dry ingredients until just combined.

Divide the batter among 3 medium bowls (1 1/2 cups per bowl). Whisk the pumpkin puree, pumpkin pie spice and the remaining 1 tablespoon of flour into one of the bowls, then scrape the batter into one of the prepared pans. Fold the cranberries and cornmeal into another bowl and scrape into a second prepared pan. Fold the pecans into the final bowl and scrape the batter into the last prepared pan.

Transfer all 3 pans to the oven and bake the cakes for about 15 minutes, rotating halfway through, until a toothpick inserted in the center of each cake comes out clean. Let the cakes cool in the pans for 15 minutes, then invert onto a rack to cool completely. Peel off the parchment paper.

Meanwhile, make the frosting in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle, beat the cream cheese, butter, confectioners’ sugar and a pinch of salt until smooth.

Place the pecan layer on a platter. Scrape 3/4 cup of the frosting on top and spread to the edge. Top with the cranberry layer; scrape another 3/4 cup of the frosting on top and spread to the edge. Top with the pumpkin layer. You could leave it here and display the variety of the layers without putting icing on the sides, or you could spread a thin layer of frosting all over the cake and refrigerate until set, 15 minutes. Spread the remaining frosting all over the cake. Refrigerate until firm, at least 30 minutes, before serving.

Look at this MidCity Dinner Club spread for our Friendsgiving this weekend. So grateful for my neighborhood family.

Okay, and then there’s the beverage department—the most refreshing new organic fizzy goodness that arrived on my porch today was from Sipp! DELICIOUS and fresh an au naturale.

My favorite flavor was the elderflower and tarragon sparkling organic bubbly. And then what am I carrying in my scrub pockets for my on-call in-a-rush healthy snack? Setton Farms Pistachio chewy bites! Pistachios and cranberries individually wrapped so I can tuck them into each and every pocket. They are loaded with magnesium, a mineral which is supposed to help relax and calm the anxious. If I could prescribe them, I would.

Happy Thanksgiving, y’all. Over and out.

Travelwise in Search of Konjac Fideos among Palms

Finally, last weekend, my dream came true and “going to work” meant strolling through gardens of bougainvillea-bestrewn gates, sitting by a pool at a Palm Springs resort, meeting with old friends and colleagues and inventing a new beverage I call the Mexican 75. I love academic conferences. I learned a lot at a leisurely pace.

When I travel, I usually have no packing strategy and I lose half a dozen items and/or I can’t find whatever it is I’ve thrown into my suitcase. I tested out these little Russian nesting doll-style soft suitcase squares from Travelwise and for the first time, I could find my swimsuit and socks after three days at the resort. For those who are delighted by Type A-ness, enjoy.

I have been inspired by this trip and the Mexican 75s (a strangely pleasing combination of tequila, lime juice and champagne) to return to the cookbook L.A. Mexicano by Bill Esparza. You should definitely try this recipe for Fideos (which means noodles).

I substituted the noodles with Konjac noodles made by Skinny Pasta. Konjac is a plant native to Japan, and the noodle substance is harvested from the roots, made into all kinds of noodle and rice shapes. They are gluten free, full of fiber and taste totally neutral.

The konjac rice tasted great with an old favorite stir-fry bok choy recipe I love.

Simple Real Food- Beetology, Radishes, Turnips and Arugula

My existence pivots on the bold discovery I made today—finally, with enthusiasm, I am a woman who eats beets and radishes. In this week’s CSA, I received yet another mother load of Hakueri Turnips and Pink Beauty Radishes, which, in past months I’ve chosen to hawk on fellow beet-lovers (rare friends in New Orleans, okay, just one), but now, I turn these root veggies into beet chips and gobble them up on day one! Root veggie chips without oil! It’s so simple! Slice your beets, your radishes, your turnips on a mandolin into little translucent wet wafers, place on a paper towel and microwave for 3-4 minutes on high until crispy. Careful, my first batch actually caught on fire. So not that crispy. You can eat them with dip, or with a light sprinkling of kosher salt. Gosh, my body is going to really love me for this. Turnip the Beet.

Another brilliant discovery in the name of beet-tolerance is these lovely juices from Beetology. Delicious juices with many flavors! My favorite was beet/lemon/ginger flavor.

Keeping in the healthy groove, I need to shower praise on Simple Real Food by Amanda Cushman. She offers a simple cookbook from a woman who came by her trade honestly, like my mother (and who sort of looks like my mother, and seems to have many of the same gourmet tips to offer as my mother…Mom? Are you sure you don’t have a double life in New York??) So many delicious recipes, with lots of flexibility in the text, which I appreciate.

Amanda Cushman writes that she regards salads as main courses, and I’d say her chapter on Salads and Dressings is the most robust in the book, featuring nearly all the Sirtfoods –arugula, walnuts, extra virgin olive oil, and, and…

Arugula Watercress Salad with Lime Vinaigrette

Adapted from Simple Real Food

2 bunches of arugula, stems removed, washed and spun dry

2 bunches of watercress, or oak leaf lettuce or curly mustard greens

1 lime, juiced

1 TB dijon mustard (my favorite is The Lusty Monk)

1/3 cup EVOO

2 TB chopped fresh herbs and/or TB of Sunny in Paris spice from Penzeys

Pinch of salt and mignonette pepper

Combine all the washed and spun and ripped leaves together in a large bowl. In a separate bowl, combine the lime and dijon and whisk, then add the oil slowly while whisking, then blend in the herbs, salt and pepper. Toss the greens with the dressing and enjoy!

I like to eat mine with candied walnuts or candied pecans. So easy to make! Take ¼ cup sugar (combo of white and brown, as you like), one cup of chopped nuts, and 1 tsp of pumpkin pie spice and a pinch of salt—combine all in a pot and heat over medium-high heat on the stove, stirring constantly until the sugar melts and coats the nuts. Then spread over a paper towel to cool and dry. (If you leave them too long in the pot untended they will turn to rock crystals in the kettle, hell to remove.)

Enjoy again and again–I have had this salad four times in the last week.


Vampiro Sauce for an LA Halloween – Be Our Guest

We attempt to bring a touch of Hollywood to LA (Louisiana) every Halloween. A neighbor recently said that living near us brought the excitement of living near a playhouse–always a production in the works.

This year we brought Beauty and the Beast to Midcity Porch Crawl and took home Best Costume for a Group!

For those who wanted to Be Our Guest at the castle, we festooned the dining room with dancing plates and flatware chandeliers.

Izzy thought the ice buckets were for bulldog sampling.

From L.A. Mexicano by Bill Esparza I made this Vampiro Sauce into Grey Stuff, which was indeed delicious. Very garlicky. This cookbook is bright and features portraits and stories of the people who offer their home recipes for public enjoyment in L.A. There is a convenient catalogue of many, many Mexican restaurants you should not miss on your next trip to Southern California. It has been excited to return.

Tastes amazing as a spread on hearty wheat Tartine bread, with spicy black beans and quinoa.  Grey food is not common, though, for a reason.

A beauty and my beast.  Such a wonderful year for costumes and friends and festivity.


Nourished on a Sunday

Perhaps Nourished spoke to me because I too recently discovered the healing power of food. Lia Huber has written this charming memoir with spiritual notes—a lovely Sunday morning sort of read—in which she describes the journey to the epiphany that food has soul. There are recipes, but for me, the real grit of her book is in the musing. She writes of faith in a way that is not starched (corn or linen) or overbearing. She founded Nourish Evolution, a movement to inspire and connect people more deeply through real food. This sounds like the sort of thing I am already a part of, seeds I have been already sewing and sprouting within and around me unawares. How very Gospel.

“Night and day, whether he sleeps or gets up, the seed sprouts and grows, though he does not know how.” Mark 4:27

I enjoyed this memoir this morning with my favorite breakfast—poached eggs on tartine whole-grain millet and flax seed toasts with basil snippings and tomatoes. Poached yolk is the best sauce. My backyard chickens give this five stars. Food is about soul. Penzeys (my favorite spice company) has long understood this. We love people by cooking them tasty and healthy food.

Another Sunday sort of cookbook is Sunday Suppers by the Best of Bridge. Great cake—made it for David’s birthday.  Grandma Ruby, wherever you are, this was a hit.  And Mars, this  American Heritage chocolate was also a hit. Thank you! We are all stocked up for hot cocoa season (as soon as we get some cold weather… in a few months).

If I’m lucky to get a Sunday free from the hospital—you can find me in the kitchen doing marathon-meal-making. This cookbook features recipes that seem in print and in character like they were passed to you by an Aunt Myrtle or the bathrobed lady from the porch next door—the house that always seems to have a pie in the oven. I’m aspiring to be that place. And as for today, the bathrobed lady is me.


French Toast for Dinner

Many more hours this week were spent festooning our house for the coming Beauty and the Beast Halloween party than preparing proper meals in the kitchen. I lament that nachos and French toast and hospital cafeteria food have been stand ins for dinner over the last week. Let them eat breakfast for dinner, says this Antoinette wig.

And then, of course, the jobs we do. Busy times. I had the great fortune of creative direction and assistance from my mother in law during her recent visit and she created these wonderful silverware chandeliers for the dining room.

Can’t wait for guests to be ours!

French Toast Bake
Adapted from Penzeys Spices Earth Day book
1 loaf French bread, sliced 1/2 inch thick and allowed to dry out
8 eggs
2 Cups milk
2 Cups half & half
1 TB. sugar
2 tsp. vanilla
1/2 tsp. cinnamon
1/2 tsp. nutmeg
1/2 Cup butter (1 stick), softened
3 TB. maple syrup
1 1/2 Cups brown sugar
1 1/2 Cups chopped pecans

Grease a 9×13 inch pan. Layer the dried bread in the bottom of the pan. In a large bowl, whisk together the eggs, milk, half & half, sugar, vanilla, cinnamon, and nutmeg. Mix well. Pour over the bread. Pat plastic wrap over the bread and refrigerate for at least 8 hours. Make sure the bread is sitting fully in the liquid; place a plate on top of the plastic wrap to keep the bread submerged if necessary.

Preheat oven to 350°. Place a piece of foil on the rack to catch any drips. Remove the French toast from the refrigerator. In a medium bowl, combine the butter, syrup, brown sugar and pecans. Mix until crumbly. Spoon the topping evenly over the French toast. Bake at 350° for about 1 hour, or until puffed and golden. Cool for 10 minutes before serving.

Pumpkin Spice Bundt Cake with Candied Pecans Meet Hurricane Nate

As is custom in New Orleans, we prepared to meet Hurricane Nate swirl to swirl—with revelry until the lights went out. And then with candles and raincoats. But then the lights never went out. The winds came in a loud frightful gust and sailed on past and we were left with the spoils of all the indulgent food we had prepared at Midcity Dinner Club, just in case it was our last meal.

I made this. A worthy last, had it been.

Pumpkin Spice Bundt Cake with Candied Pecans

Adapted from Southern Living


1 cup salted butter, softened

1 cup granulated sugar

1 cup packed light brown sugar

4 large eggs

1 1/2 cups canned pumpkin

2 teaspoons vanilla extract

3 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for pan

1 tablespoon baking powder

1 1/2 teaspoons pumpkin pie spice

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

1/2 teaspoon salt

1 cup whole buttermilk

1 cup chopped toasted pecans


1/4 cup granulated sugar

1/4 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice

pinch salt

1 cup roughly chopped pecans


1 cup packed light brown sugar

1/3 cup heavy cream

1/4 cup salted butter

1 cup powdered sugar

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 350°F. Beat butter with a heavy-duty electric stand mixer on medium speed until creamy. Gradually add sugars, and beat until fluffy. Add eggs, 1 at a time, beating just until blended. Add pumpkin and vanilla, beating just until blended.

Stir together flour, baking powder, pumpkin pie spice, baking soda, and salt. Add to butter mixture alternately with buttermilk, beginning and ending with flour mixture. Beat at low speed just until blended after each addition. Stir in chopped pecans. Spoon batter into a greased (with shortening) and floured 12-cup Bundt pan.

Bake in preheated oven until a wooden pick inserted in center comes out clean, 50 to 60 minutes. Cool in pan on a wire rack 10 minutes; remove from pan, and cool completely on a wire rack, about 1 hour. While cake bakes, prepare Candied Pecans.

Prepare the Candied Pecans: Stir together granulated sugar, pumpkin pie spice, and a pinch of salt in a heavy saucepan over medium. Add 1 cup roughly chopped pecans, and cook, stirring constantly, until sugar melts and coats pecans, 7 to 8 minutes. (Sugar will appear grainy before it melts and coats pecans.) Spread on lightly greased (with cooking spray) wax paper, and cool 20 minutes.

Prepare the Brown Sugar Icing: Bring 1 cup packed light brown sugar, 1/3 cup heavy cream, and 1/4 cup salted butter to a boil in a 1-quart saucepan over medium, stirring often. Boil, stirring often, 1 minute; remove from heat. Gradually whisk in 1 cup powdered sugar and 1 tsp. vanilla extract until smooth.

Spoon icing over top of cake, allowing it to drip down sides. Top with Candied Pecans while icing is still soft.

Delicious, just delicious. But try to save it for “last meal” sort of occasions….