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HELLO! I am not back from the dead, although it kinda seems like it around here. I took a pause…to work a bunch, to eat a bunch and, of course, to cook a bunch! What has changed?

The Changes

  • I’m a little healthier {I only ate 3 giant muffins this week and am no longer scared of a treadmill…sorta.}
  • I drink more water {not sure why I told you that}
  • My job title has changed twice {yes, twice in one week, actually}
  • I have a new fire for cooking and sharing with you {I’ve got to start blogging again because I almost blew up the microwave yesterday}

October is almost over, and there are 6 beautiful cans of pumpkin puree in my pantry, beckoning to be molded into a decadent, delicious creation. I have an assortment of organic squash and such to go crazy with, too. And, if you’ve poked around this space at all, I love to take a recipe (or 4 or 5) and merge them and healthify them, based on which ingredients are already in my kitchen. This pumpkin bar is a lazy woman’s approach to a traditional pumpkin pie. And I love all of that delicious, sweet filling but the store-bought crusts leave much to be desired. The shortbread crust and the nutty taste throughout more than make up for the quick, tastier version of a pie. Let’s go!

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Nutty Pumpkin Bars

Sitting on an almond shortbread crust, these Fall treats are sure to please even your nuttiest neighbors and loved ones during the season. Serve warm with English breakfast tea or chilled for a sweet snack. The best part? All original needs for cream are replaced with Coconut Almond milk, which gives an essence of tropical coconut to an already complex, warm pumpkin flavor. Party on your tongue! And, not, there not much to look at, but my job is making tasty stuff. You can pipe some buttercream or cream cheese frosting on them for pretty effect, if you like!

Makes 18 cupcake-sized bars or one 9X13 pan

Almond Shortbread:

1/2 cup almond slivers

1 cup (130 grams) all purpose flour

1/4 teaspoon kosher salt

1/2 cup (113 grams) unsalted butter, room temperature

1/2 cup (110 grams) light brown sugar

1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

Step One: Line/grease 18 muffin cups or a 9X13 pan. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In a food processor, chop the almonds to a ground meal, then add flour and salt and blend. Set aside.

Step Two: In a mixer (or using your hand and a spoon), cream butter and brown sugar for 2-3 minutes, or until fluffy. Add vanilla and blend. Then, add flour mixture and blend into a dough.

Step Three: Press dough into bottom of muffin cups or baking pan. Bake for 15 minutes, or until semi-firm to the touch like a soft cookie (not doughy). While waiting for it to bake, make the pumpkin filling.

Pumpkin Filling:

2 large eggs

1 – 15 ounce can (425 grams) pure pumpkin (2 cups)

3/4 cup (165 grams) light brown sugar

1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1/2 teaspoon ground ginger

1/8 teaspoon ground cloves

1/4 teaspoon kosher salt

1 1/2 cups (360 ml) coconut almond milk

Step Four: In the mixer, blend eggs. Add pumpkin, sugar, vanilla, and all spices and mix until blended. Lastly, add the milk and blend until smooth.

Step Five: When the shortbread is semi-firm, distribute pumpkin filling into the cups (3/4 full). Bake for 20 minutes, or until tops are slightly golden and pumpkin is firm to the touch (not runny or jiggly). Let cool for 5 minutes before running knife around the edges before removing from the pan(s).

Serve warm or chilled. Ice cream on top doesn’t hurt a thing.

Adapted from Source: Joy of Baking



Oh, snap! Ginger

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The Bend and Snap.

Don’t seem too cool and act like you never saw Legally Blonde with Reese Witherspoon. Come on, Beverly Hills sorority girls becoming Harvard-educated attorneys is completely legit…it’s a colliding of the stereotypes. And yet I love that movie. Mostly because my mom and I giggle when we watch it. It’s a flashback to my Gidget phase(s). And I digress…oh, yes, the Bend and Snap!


Yes, my MIL gave us Gingerbread People Plates for Xmas. Had to use them, even if it IS March! 🙂

The Bend and Snap, that silly dance Reese used to get some boy’s attention…well, it’s kind of like these GINGERBREAD COOKIES. The soft (thicker) ones bend, and the crunchy (thin) ones snap when you bite into them! I used Tartine’s recipe (that fabulous bakery in San Fran…someday I’ll visit), and made a half batch…which still make 55 tiny little flower gingersnaps! Heaven, I must say. Here goes:


Gingerbread Cookies

Almost completely straight from Tartine Bakery


  • 1 5/6 cups All-purpose flour (9.25 oz)
  • 1/2 TB cocoa powder
  • 2 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/2 cup unsalted butter (8 TB or 4 oz.), room temperature
  • 1/3 cup + 2 tablespoons granulated sugar
  • 1 large egg
  • 1/4 cup blackstrap or other dark molasses
  • 1 tablespoon light corn syrup


  • 1 cup confectioners’ (powdered) sugar (4 oz)
  • 2 tablespoons water

1: Dough and Go:: Stir together the flour, cocoa powder, ginger, cloves, cinnamon, baking soda, salt and pepper in a mixing bowl and set aside. Using a stand mixer with the paddle attachment (or your bulging biceps by hand), beat the butter on medium-high speed until it gets creamy. Slowly add the granulated sugar on medium speed until mixture is smooth and soft. Stop the mixer, scrape down the sides of the bowl with a spatula, and add the egg. Mix well.

2: Make it Creamy:: Add the molasses and corn syrup to the mixture and beat until all mixed together. Scrape down the sides of the bowl again and add the flour mixture. Beat on a low speed until a dough forms that pulls away from the sides of the bowl and the dough becomes, well, dough! Remove the dough from the bowl and flatten it out on a large piece of plastic wrap into a rectangle-ish about an inch thick. Wrap the dough in plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight. (I know, I know, who is that patient? But you need to let this magic dough rest for at least 8 hours; trust me, waiting is SOOOOO worth it!!)

3: And for Bfast the Next Day, Hee:: Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Unwrap the dough, place it on a floured surface (don’t forget flour!), and roll out the dough between 1/4 and 1/3 of an inch thick. (Thick=Soft, Bend=Snap) Cut out the shapes with a cookie cutter or fancy plaque with a fun design or, hey, use an upside-down drinking glass if we’re getting real here. Place your doughy shapes on a baking sheet lined with a silicone mat or parchment paper. (Give them a little space in between…they do spread a bit in the oven.) Bake for 7 to 15 minutes. (I know, that a BIG range, but for little 1-inch cookies like mine, 7 minutes was plenty; for bigger, “playing card” size, 15 minutes is needed.) Bake until they are lightly golden along the sides but still soft to the touch in the center.

4: Glaze and Go:: While you’re waiting for the magic dough to bake, make your simple glaze with the confectioners’ sugar and water. Remove the cookies from the oven, let cool in their pan on a wire rack for 10 minutes; then, brush on the glaze (right on top) when the cookies are still warm. Mmm, yum. You can keep them in an air-tight container at room temp for up to 2 weeks! Makes a great gift. Goes well with coffee or warm milk or wine…not gonna lie.

Hope you enjoy one of the top 3 cookies I’ve ever made! Thanks to Tartine Bakery (& Elisabeth and Chad) for such an awesome approach to beautiful baked goods with out any snobbery at all. 🙂

Day 13: A Hearty Fiesta Salad

When one hears, “We’re having salad for dinner,” this can invoke emotions across the spectrum.

Grumble…err…all I want is a steak & baked potatoes with a quart of gravy covered over it, not some puny little rabbit food.

Eh, salads are so boring…they never fill me up, and I’m just tired of eating them.

Yay! Salad! I had one for lunch, and I can’t wait to try another way to turn the boring green salad or caesar on its head with this new one!

Are any of those YOUR responses when presented with a salad for dinner after a very, very long day? Sure, sometimes all we want is the one meal we know our doctor would disapprove of us having (like my stupid craving for Pizza Hut last night…what was I thinking?).

So we need an alternative. We need a healthy lettuce-based meal that is fun, interesting and (of course) delicious. It needs to be colorful and enticing to look at and eat.

Behold, the Hearty Fiesta Salad. Let’s make it.

Hearty Fiesta Salad
4 servings (2 for dinner, 2 for lunch the next day)

8 cups of greens (your choice–I used spinach and baby kale)
Handful of baby carrots or 1-2 large carrots, chopped
1/2 cup corn or other veggie (use whatever you have on hand)
1 cup black beans (rinsed and drained, if from a can)
12-16 oz of chicken/pork/turkey/beef or veggie crumbles, cooked and seasoned with taco seasoning (cumin, garlic powder, chili powder, onion powder, oregano, red pepper flakes, salt)
1 cup Shredded cheese (your choice)
1/4 cup toasted sunflower seeds
Optional dressings/on the side: Salsa, Guacamole

Assemble your plate or bowl by layering each of the ingredients (split the above into 4 servings). Add a dash of your favorite seasoning blend (like Trader Joe’s 21 Seasoning Salute) to the top of the salad for surprising flavor in each bite (much like a steak). 🙂

Eat, drink, be merry and full!

Happy eating! Laurel


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