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RECIPE: Gingersnap Biscotti

A gift of homemade biscotti for your Thanksgiving host is especially thoughtful. Biscotti last for several weeks in an airtight tin, so the host family has a treat to look forward to after all the leftovers have been consumed.

Annalise of Completely Delicious created these White Chocolate Gingersnap Biscotti after her grandmother’s gingersnap recipe.

“These gingersnap biscotti have all the spice and molasses flavor of my grandmother’s gingersnaps,” says Annalise, but with the extra snap and crunch of biscotti. And a drizzle of white chocolate is the final finishing touch.”

Prep time is 20 minutes, cook time is 40 minutes. Thanks to, a treasure trove of delicious holiday recipes, for giving us the heads up on this one.


Ingredients For 2 Dozen Biscotti

  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 1 cup light or dark brown sugar, packed
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 tablespoon molasses
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 1 teaspoon ground ginger
  • Granulated sugar, for sprinkling
  • 5 ounces high quality* white chocolate, chopped


    Gingersnap biscotti for the holidays. Photo courtesy Completely Delicious | Go Bold With Butter.

    *Look for Lindt or Green & Black’s white chocolate bars, Guittard white chocolate or chocolate chips. We found Valhrona white chocolate pistoles in clear containers at Whole Foods Market.


    1. PREHEAT the oven to 350°F. Line a sheet pan with parchment paper.

    2. USE a stand mixer fitted with paddle attachment, or a hand-held mixer with a large bowl. Beat the butter and brown sugar on high speed until light in color and creamy. Mix in the egg, followed by the molasses.

    3. STIR together in large bowl the flour, baking soda, cinnamon, cloves and ginger. Add the flour mixture to the butter mixture all at once and mix on low until incorporated.

    4. DIVIDE the dough in half and shape each piece into a log about 4 inches wide. Space the logs evenly on the sheet pan and flatten each log to about 2 inches high. Sprinkle generously with granulated sugar.

    5. BAKE until the edges are golden and the surface is cracked, 20-25 minutes. Remove from the oven and let cool in the pan for 20 minutes.

    6. SLICE the logs with a serrated knife into 1-inch thick slices. Place the slices cut side-up on pan lined with parchment paper and bake an additional 12-14 minutes until edges are brown. Let cool completely.

    7. MELT the chocolate in small heat-proof bowl in the microwave at 60 percent power for 1 minute. Stir until smooth. If not completely melted, continue to microwave the chocolate in 10 second intervals, stirring in-between intervals. Be careful not to scorch the chocolate.

    8. DRIZZLE the melted chocolate over the cooled cookies. Let them sit for 15 minutes before serving or storing. Store biscotti in airtight container at room temperature.


    White Chocolate Chips

    Callebaut White Chocolate Chunks

    TOP PHOTO: Look for Guittard white
    chocolate chips in your supermarket. Photo
    courtesy Lake Champlain Chocolate. BOTTOM
    PHOTO: You can buy chunks of Callebaut
    white chocolate at



    Created as a convenient non-perishable food for travelers and a staple of the diet of the Roman Legions, today’s biscotti are a classic dessert in Tuscany, accompanied by an amber-hued glass of vin santo*, a dessert wine. Americans enjoy them with a cappuccino or other coffee drink.

    Originally flavored with almonds (amaretti), then with anisette, biscotti are now made in dozens of flavors. Here’s Mario Batali’s favorite recipe for the classic amaretto and anisette biscotti.

    The word biscotto derives from “bis,” Latin for twice, and “coctum” or baked (which became “cotto,” or cooked, in Italian).

    In Roman times, unleavened, finger-shaped wafers were baked first to cook them, then a second time to completely dry them out, making them durable for travel and nourishment on long journeys. Pliny boasted that they would be edible for centuries.

    The record does not indicate that biscotti survived the sack of the Roman Empire. But they re-emerged in Tuscany during the Renaissance, credited to a Tuscan baker who served them with vin santo. Their dry, crunchy texture was deemed to be the perfect medium to soak up the wine.

    Centuries later, many still agree that dipping biscotti into vin santo is a perfect way to end a meal, or to while away an hour at a café. Biscotti and coffee are also a match made in Heaven.

    Italians call biscotti cantucci, and use the term biscotti to refer to any type of crunchy cookie—round, square and otherwise (as the British use the word “biscuit”). In North America, we use “biscotti” as the ancient Romans did, to describe a long, dry, hard, twice-baked cookie (in other words, cantucci).

    Here’s a longer history of biscotti.

    †Vin santo means “holy wine” in Italian, and was traditionally made in Tuscany. Most scholars agree that these wines were originally used for Holy Communion.



    TIP OF THE DAY: Harvest Topping, A Fall Garnish

    What’s Harvest Topping, you ask?

    As created by Country Crock, it’s a universal topping that can garnish anything from a baked Brie to a sundae to a crumble.

    Not to mention oatmeal, French toast, pancakes, waffles and yogurt. It’s also a salad topping. And we even mixed it into rice!

    Country Crock recommends it with mascarpone cheese on sliced multigrain baguette (toast the slices), garnished with Harvest Topping over top for a delicious snack. It works with cream cheese and ricotta, too.

    Sweet and spicy, it can be your go-to garnish for the rest of the season. The allspice is a nice change of pace from the ubiquitous seasonal cinnamon.

    Harvest Topping is easy to make, and it will keep in an airtight container for a month or more. You can turn it into a house gift with a mason jar and a ribbon.

    Prep time is 5 minutes, cook time is 20 minutes.


    Ingredients For 2 Cups

  • 1 medium apple, cored and chopped
  • 1/2 cup pumpkin seeds
  • 1/4 cup dried cranberries
  • 2 tablespoons Country Crock Spread, unsalted butter or oil
  • 1/8 teaspoon allspice
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground cayenne pepper

    crop Country Crock_Harvest Topping_dailymeal-230

    One garnish has many uses, from a Brie appetizer to dessert. Photo courtesy Country Crock.



    1. PREHEAT the oven to 325°.

    2. COMBINE all ingredients in a medium bowl, mixing well. Arrange in single layer on rimmed baking sheet. Bake 20 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the seeds are golden brown.

    3. USE immediately, or let cool before storing in an airtight container.
    Find more holiday recipes at



    TIP OF THE DAY: Plate Painting For Your Dessert

    If you patronize fine restaurants and order dessert, you’ve probably noticed the “plate painting” that turns a piece of cake, tartlet or other pastry into a piece of art.

    But it’s not just for baked goods: Custard, pudding, even fresh fruit can also benefit from an artistic touch.

    In most cases, the plate is painted before the dessert is placed on top. With a sauce, for example panna cotta with creme anglaise, the dessert is placed atop the sauce and then the sauce is decorated.

    The idea is not only to create art, but to add more flavors to the dessert. Everything you use should be a flavor match to the dessert, and should be consumable with a fork or spoon.

    This article from Wilton shows all the easy ways to start.

    The simplest thing is to use a sieve to cover the dessert plate with cocoa powder (shown in the Wilton article). But you should also try:


    Fill a squeeze bottle with caramel sauce, chocolate sauce or other flavor, and squeeze out squiggles, loops, curls or zigzags. You can use two different sauces for contrast. This video shows you how.


    Fruit coulis (coo-LEE, French for strained purée) in a squeeze bottle; parchment paper to make the piping cone. You won’t believe how easy it is to make flame and heart patterns on your plate.

    This video shows how easy it is to make dots with fruit purées.

    You can also use both of these techniques to decorate the frosting on top of cakes.


  • Go for a contrasting color. For example, a chocolate dessert is enlivened by raspberry coulis or caramel sauce—or both. As you get more comfortable, use two or three colors.
  • Add different textures. For example, berries, cookie crumbs, streusel, mini marshmallows and/or macarons or pomegranate arils, artfully placed on the plate, contribute both aesthetic and fun factor. One of our favorite ways to add color is to dice pâte de fruits (French-style fruit jellies—very upscale Chuckles) and scatter different flavors on the plate.
  • Don’t cramp the elements. Depending on how many components are on the plate, use a dinner plate or charger to spread them out.
  • Combine with other garnishes, like creme anglaise or whipped cream.
  • Don’t give up. If you want to decorate but don’t think that you have any ingredients on hand, look again. Jam can be diluted to approximate coulis; baking chips can be melted (they’ll harden on the plate, but that’s OK; or you can add vegetable oil to keep them fluid. And there’s always an apple or orange on hand to dice and scatter; or some candy that can be employed.




    Dessert Plate Painting With Chocolate

    FIRST PHOTO: A simple scroll design. Photo courtesy SECOND PHOTO: Anyone can make a simple zigzag with a squeeze bottle. Photo courtesy Wilton. THIRD PHOTO: You can turn dots into hearts with the nozzle tip. Photo courtesy Kuhn Rikon. FOURTH PHOTO: Pretty soon, you’ll be able to do this. Photo courtesy Harvest On Hudson.

    This video shows how to make a complex design, but also gives you all the technique for simple squiggles.

    Remember: Practice makes perfect. You don’t need a steady hand to start; but the more you try, the more you’ll be able to do. Practice on desserts for family dinners, or with snacks like brownies.

    And above all, have fun with it!



    TOP PICK OF THE WEEK: Dingel’s Oven Shortbread & Gingerbread (The Best!)

    Dingel's Oven Shortbread

    Three-inch monogrammed shortbread tiles,
    with a back coated with salted caramel.
    Photo courtesy Dingel’s Oven.


    A few months ago we were introduced to Dingel’s Oven, located in Beaverton, Oregon. What a find! And what a solution to gift-giving throughout the year. Because anyone who receives a box of cookies from Dingel’s Oven will look forward to another one, and another, and another.

    Bakers Uta and Ego specialize in the most delicious shortbread cookies and gingerbread cookies. Both are made in three-inch square “tiles” with crimped edges and a large monogram in the center.

    The cookies themselves are perfection, made even more perfect because each batch is hand-baked to order. In a cookie tin (provided by you), they’ll last for more than two months. That would be a theory, because no mere mortal can resist devouring them.

    But in the name of research, we’ve kept a few for almost three months now. While not as perfect as the fresh-baked—for example, the terrific fresh butter flavor we initially tasted is now a normal butter flavor—they are still delicious. No one who hadn’t tasted the originals would know the difference.

    The cookies freeze well, too.


    Salted Caramel Shortbread Tiles

    The shortbread tiles have a surprise: The bottom of each cookie is covered with salted caramel. Shortbread and salted caramel together is wedded bliss.
    Glazed Gingerbread Tiles

    Requests for the gingerbread tiles continue beyond the holiday season, so the cookies are available year round. Centuries ago, ginger was expensive and a holiday splurge; that’s why gingerbread is associated with Christmas. Today, there’s no reason not to enjoy it year-round—especially with memorable cookies like these.
    Cookie Details

  • Many companies say that they only use the freshest, simplest, purest ingredients of the highest quality. That may be so; but Dingel’s Oven ingredients are even fresher and higher in quality. The butter in the shortbread really sets the bar, as does the ginger in the gingerbread.
  • The cookies are sold by the dozen. One dozen 3″ x 3″ cookies are $24.
  • The recipes contain no peanuts or nut products. No artificial additives, preservatives or extenders are used whatsoever. Sorry, but there is no gluten-free option.
  • Your personal message will be written on a gift card. For corporate gifts, the card can feature a 4-color logo.
    But don’t tarry. Since every the cookies are hand-baked to order, the bakers need two-week lead time for the holidays; and as much lead time as possible is greatly appreciated.



    Think of Dingel’s Oven tile coookies year-round for:

  • Bachelorette parties
  • Wedding favors
  • Baby showers
  • Corporate gifts
  • Custom cookies for any occasion
    Instead of an initial monogram, you can have a logo or other image on your cookies.

    Thank you, Dingel’s Oven, for creating a memorable cookie that solves just about all gift-giving needs.


    Gingerbread a la Mode

    Serve the cookies à la mode, with vanilla, coffee or rum raisin ice cream. Photo courtesy Dingel’s Oven.




    TIP OF THE DAY: Thanksgiving Table Decorations

    Thanksgiving Table Decorations

    Use grocery store items to decorate your Thanksgiving table. Photo courtesy Foragers Market | Brooklyn.


    Some people like a flower centerpiece for their table. Others take out the silver candelabra.

    We’ve done both, but realized that they can interfere with sight lines across the table. They’re also very 20th (and 19th) century.

    So in recent years we’ve tried:

  • A glass vase or clear salad bowl filled with pomegranates, lady apples, clementines, fresh green leaves and metallic-sprayed pine cones.
  • A short glass vase layered with different whole nuts, with florists’ moss between the layers.
  • A stack of three flat winter squash—like flatter pumpkins— in different colors (look in farmers markets for the Bonbon Buttercup, Flat Boer Pumpkin, some Hubbard and Kabocha, and other heirloom varieties).

  • Flat winter squash covered with silver and gold metallic paints.
  • A three-pound chocolate turkey, which was hammered into pieces at the end, and the pieces sent home with guests as party favors.
  • Indian corn and autumn leaves, which lasts a long time as household decor.
    While the first idea is our favorite, our guests deserve variety from year to year.

    So this year, we’re adapting an idea from Foragers Market, to scatter the table with miniature pumpkins, decorative gourds and rosemary sprigs.

    After dinner, the gourds go into a glass bowl or basket to decorate the foyer; the rosemary sprigs go into the freezer to use again on the Christmas table or to garnish cocktails, mineral water or soft drinks; or in recipes.

    You can use the same concept for Halloween.

    Need more ideas?

    Here are 45 Thanksgiving centerpieces from HGTV.


    TIP OF THE DAY: Fiori di Sicilia, Fior Di Sicilia

    Fior di Sicilia, an Italian essence that translates to “flower of Sicily,” was used by our friend Ruth’s mother to flavor almost everything she baked. Biscotti, brioche and sweet breads, cookies, cheesecake, angel/pound/sponge cake, pie, macarons, meringues, yellow and white cakes got the fior di sicilia treatment, especially during the holidays.

    Ruth’s mom no doubt inherited the tradition from her mother and grandmother, who were born in the old country. Italians use it to add flavor and aroma to panettone, pandoro and ricotta cookies.

    The essence is a combination of floral, citrus and vanilla extracts, with a lovely floral aroma. Some Americans might identify the scent and taste as an elegant take on “Creamsicle.” Most will find it beguilingly mysterious, and will ask you what the taste is. (Note that essences from different manufacturers may vary. One friend notes flavors of lemon, lime and strawberry in her brand.)
    Is It Fiori Or Fior Di Sicilia?

    The terms are used interchangeably. We see bottles with both the singular, fior di sicilia, and the plural, fiori.


    Fiori Di Sicilia, Fior Di Sicilia

    Fiori di Sicilia adds floral and citrus “mystery” to baked goods. Photo courtesy King Arthur Flour.

    How To Use Fiori Di Sicilia

    We like to use it to add something special to holiday baking. Add a half teaspoon of fiori di sicilia to a basic cookie or cake recipe. If that isn’t enough for you, use more next time. If the half teaspoon seems meager, it’s because the essence is potent, and should be used with light touch.

    Other popular holiday uses:

  • Biscotti
  • Butter cookies and shortbread
  • Cream cheese and ricotta fillings
  • Hot tea, sparkling water
  • Pound cake and layer cake
  • Ricotta cookies
    We’ve been known to add it to a cup of warm milk (hot or warm milk is a better-for-you comfort food for us). You can add your sweetener of choice to create a cup of “hot fiori di sicilia.”

    In the summer, add it to iced tea and fruit soup.

    You can try it in a one-ounce size ($9.95) from King Arthur Flour; there’s also a 4-ounce size ($19.95). The smaller size is a nice stocking stuffer for people who bake.


    Christmas Butter Cookies

    Christmas butter cookies with fiori di sicilia. Here’s the recipe, from King Arthur Flour.



    Thanks to King Arthur for developing these delicious recipes:

  • Holiday Butter Cookies Recipe
  • Lemon Brioche Recipe
  • French Toast Recipe
  • Cranberry Nut Fruitcake Recipe
  • Lemon-Glazed Pound Cake Recipe
  • Meringues Recipe
  • Pandoro Recipe
  • Panettone Muffins Recipe
  • Panettone Recipe
  • Shimmer Cookies Recipe
  • Orange Shortbread Cookies Recipe
  • Springerle Cookies Recipe
  • Spritz Cookies Recipe

    There are 60 more fiori di Sicilia recipes at Enjoy the voyage of discovery.



    FOOD FUN: Kermit Eggplant

    Kermit is the name of a small, green eggplant, bred in the U.S. from the round Thai eggplant. It is also known as Garden Egg and Bitter Ball, the latter since they grow bitter the longer they are off the stalk.

    But some clever American, probably selling the eggplants or the seeds, gave it the name “Kermit” after Kermit the Frog. They’re adorable, small and green, just like the frog.

    A member of the Nightshade Family, Solanaceae (as are the tomato and the potato), Kermit is a variant in the genus and species Solanum melongena, to which all eggplants belong.

    These golf ball-size eggplants average 1½”-2″ in diameter (an American golf ball is 1.68 inches).

    Kermit and all Thai eggplants differ from other eggplants not only in their size and shape, but also in that they can be eaten raw, and have tender, edible skin.

    When you’re Kermit, it’s tasty being green, with quick-cooking, meaty flesh.

  • In Thai dishes they are often halved or quartered before cooking, but can also be cooked whole. They hold their shape well.
  • As they cook in a sauce, such as green or red curry (or marinara, for that matter), they become softer and absorb the flavor of the sauce.
  • Add them to stewed dishes or stir fry them and serve with marinara and Parmesan, or other favorite sauce.
  • Kermits are eaten raw in Thai salads or with nam phrik, a hot and spicy Thai chili paste. One might say that dipping raw Kermits into nam phrik is a form of Thai crudités. Try them that way, and also sliced into your salad.

    Kermit Eggplant


    TOP PHOTO: The Kermit eggplant. It’s easy being green. Photo courtesy Foragers City Grocer | New York. BOTTOM PHOTO: The namesake. Photo courtesy


    Like other eggplants, Kermits are high in fiber, folate, manganese, potassium, thiamine and vitamin K. They are also low in calories and have no fat or sodium. Two eggplants have 25 calories.

  • Thai Green Curry With Kermit Eggplants Recipe
  • Tomato & Kermit Eggplant Ragu Recipe
  • Stuffed Kermit Eggplants recipe

    The shelf life of Kermit eggplants is typically shorter than other varieties. Once picked they should be refrigerated in plastic, for no more than 1 week. They become increasingly bitter as they age.

    You may want to try growing them at home. Eggplant is easy to grow, with big yields. You can buy seeds here.



    TIP OF THE DAY: Make Mulling Spice Sachets

    Mulling Spice Sachets


    TOP PHOTO: Individual sachets are best if only one or two people want a cup. Larger sachets are used to make a 6- or 8-cup pot. Photo courtesy McCormick. BOTTOM PHOTO:
    Empty tea bag “sachets,” used to fill with loose tea, are easier to make although less festive than muslin or netting. You can get them at specialty tea shops or online. Photo courtesy NiceShop. Put leftover mulled beverages in the fridge to enjoy chilled.


    In our last article, we suggested a cider party with a pumpkin layer cake. Here’s a related tip:

    Make mulling spice sachets for mulled cider or wine. They layer the flavors found in spiced tea on top of the base beverage, which is typically warmed cider or wine.

    Make them for family, guests and gifting. Individual sachets are better for gifting; large sachets are better for a pot of cider.

    For gifting and party favors, you can package the sachets in a holiday tin or a Mason jar with a red ribbon. Be sure to add the mulling instructions (below) on the gift tag or insert them into the package.

    To give two individual sachets as small party favors, find a small, colored cellophane bag, a clear or vellum envelope or other gift bag. Include the instructions.

    Prep time is 5 minutes to make an individual sachet, 15 minutes to steep the cider or wine. If you have nimble fingers and have organized your ingredients, you can make three individual sachets or two large ones in 5 minutes.

    Thanks to McCormick for the recipe.


    Ingredients For 1 Bag/2 Servings

  • 1 cinnamon stick, broken in half
  • 2 whole cloves
  • 2 whole allspice
  • Optional: 2 cardamom pods
  • 2 cups apple cider, hard cider or wine
  • 1/4 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • Cheesecloth*, cut into 4″ squares
  • Kitchen string
    *The easiest option is to purchase drawstring filter bags, used for loose tea (photo at left). Another option: If you can find fine, flexible netting, it makes a prettier sachet but you need to wash it first, to soften it and eliminate any dust it’s picked up along the way.


    1. PLACE the spices in the center of a piece of cheesecloth. Tie tightly with long piece of string. Store in an airtight container. That’s it, until you’re ready to mull your beverage. Then…

    2. PLACE the spice sachet in small saucepan. Add the apple cider or wine. Simmer over medium heat 10 to 15 minutes or until fragrant.

    3. DISCARD the spice sachet. Stir in the vanilla. Serve warm or hot.

    Ingredients For A Party-Size Mulling Spice Sachet

    1. INCREASE the cinnamon sticks to 4, whole cloves to 2 teaspoons, whole allspice to 1 teaspoon and vanilla to 2 teaspoons.

    2. WRAP in cheesecloth and warm in a pot with 2 quarts (8 cups) of apple cider or wine. You can also use apple juice. The difference is that apple cider is a fresh-squeezed product that needs to be refrigerated; apple juice is processed and homogenized to be shelf stable (no refrigeration needed until after the package has been opened).



    RECIPE: Pumpkin Layer Cake & Easy Variations

    This recipe, from blogger Jaclyn at Cooking Classy, reminded us to substitute pumpkin for carrot cake during “pumpkin season.” When baking, we tend to focus too much on family favorites and not enough on new seasonal recipes.

    For this recipe, Jaclyn takes a carrot cake approach to pumpkin cake, adding a seasonal cinnamon accent to carrot cake’s traditional cream cheese frosting. She adds a third cake layer to make the cake more impressive.

    If you love raisins and nuts in a carrot cake, you can add them here, too, either in the batter or in or atop the filling between the layers (for the filling, plan for 1/2 cup of each). You can also add pieces of crystallized ginger in the frosting for a spicy crunch.

    An entertaining idea: Make the cake for a cider party, serving fresh cider and mulled cider with brandy and rum.

    Prep time is 40 minutes, Cook Time: 35 minutes, Total Time: 3 hours

    Find more delicious recipes at


    Ingredients For 16 Servings

  • 2-3/4 cups (390g) all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1-1/4 cups (270g) granulated sugar
  • 3/4 cup (172g) packed light-brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup unsalted butter, softened
  • 1/2 cup vegetable or canola oil, divided
  • 4 large eggs
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1-3/4 cup (424g/15 oz) canned pumpkin purée
  • 1/2 cup milk

    Carrot Cake With Chopped Pecans

    TOP PHOTO: Serve pumpkin pie at a cider party, with regular and mulled cider. Photo courtesy BOTTOM PHOTO: You can garnish the sides of the cake with chopped pecans or walnuts, as shown in this carrot cake from

    For The Frosting

  • 12 ounces cream cheese, softened
  • 3/4 cup butter, softened (Jaclyn used 6 tablespoons salted and 6 tablespoons unsalted butter)
  • 1-1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 4-1/2 to 5 cups powdered sugar
  • Optional inclusions: chopped pecans or walnut, crystallized ginger, raisins or dried cranberries or cherries
    Optional Garnishes

  • Chopped pecans or walnuts
  • Candy/marzipan pumpkins, acorns or leaves; pomegranate arils

    Pumpkin Layer Cake


    TOP PHOTO: This pumpkin layer cake adds
    raspberries for a festive effect. You can
    instead add dried cherries, cranberries or
    raisins, pomegranate arils, chopped
    crystallized ginger, or a combination.
    BOTTOM PHOTO: Food fun in the form of a
    deconstructed layer cake, with streusel
    crumble topped with ice cream, and
    decorated with meringue cookies and a
    ribbon of pumpkin pie filling (you can
    substitute caramel sauce). Photo courtesy
    Caviar Russe | NYC.



    1. PREHEAT the oven to 350°F. Butter three 9-inch round cake pans and line the bottoms with parchment paper. Butter the parchment and set the pans aside.

    2. WHISK together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, nutmeg and ginger in a mixing bowl. Whisking for 20 seconds and set aside.

    3. USE the bowl of an electric stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, and whip together the butter, granulated sugar, brown sugar and 3 tablespoons of the vegetable oil, until pale and fluffy. Occasionally scrape down the sides and bottom of the bowl, throughout the mixing process. Mix in the remaining 1/4 cup + 1 tablespoon vegetable oil. Blend in the eggs one at a time, adding the vanilla with the last egg.

    4. WHISK together the pumpkin and milk in a bowl or large liquid measuring cup. Working in three separate batches, beginning and ending with the flour mixture, add 1/3 of the flour mixture alternating with half of the pumpkin mixture and mixing just until combined after each addition.

    5. DIVIDE the batter among the three prepared cake pans and smooth the tops with a spatula. Bake until a toothpick inserted into the center of cake comes out clean, about 30-35 minutes. Cool the layers in the pans for 15 minutes, then run a knife around edge to loosen. Invert the layers onto wire racks to cool completely.

    6. PREPARE the frosting while the cake cools. In the bowl of an electric stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, whip together the cream cheese and butter until smooth and fluffy. Add the cinnamon, vanilla and powdered sugar and mix on low speed until combined. Then increase the speed to medium and whip until pale and fluffy.

    7. FILL the cake layers with frosting and then frost the top and sides. If you prefer the look of the three-tiered cake with raspberries, at the top of this section, you can save a bit of time with an unfrosted top and sides. If the frosting is runny, cover and refrigerate just until it no longer is runny before spreading on cake.

    8. STORE the cake in an airtight container such as a cake carrier, in the refrigerator; chill for 20 minutes or as long as you want to store the cake. Let it rest at room temperature to eliminate the chill before serving. Chilling the cake firms the frosting and allows for cleaner slices.




    FOOD FUN & RECIPE: Cauliflower Steak

    We admit: We are one of those people who has a double grievance during fall and winter. Not only do we grip daylight hours, but we miss the cornucopia of fruits and vegetables from spring and summer.

    Sure, there are asparagus and tomatoes, honeydews and peaches to be had. But as subscribers to locavore and green philosophies, we don’t buy out-of-season produce shipped from other parts of the world.

    The folks in California are gifted with the best produce variety in the nation. It helps that the growing is so long, as is the growing area: 770 miles long.

    We just heard from Good Eggs, San Francisco’s top quality produce provider, that new fall bounty has arrived:

  • Buttercup squash
  • Baby spinach
  • Artichokes
  • Romanesco, the offspring of cauliflower and broccoli rabe (see the photo below)
  • Mexican Sour Gherkins (they look like tiny watermelons)


    The best fall produce in northern California. Photo courtesy


    On the opposite coast, where we live, we find comfort in colored cauliflower and winter squash. But wherever you live, here’s…


  • Know what’s in season locally. Click your state on this map from Fresh Everyday Produce.
  • Go to farmers markets. Here’s the USDA’s list of farmers markets in the U.S.
  • Patronize stores that have better produce. Our closest supermarket is fine for the dairy and packaged food, but the produce often is wilting so we go elsewhere.
  • Be willing to shop at multiple stores. The specialty supermarket where we buy produce carries an inferior brand of strawberries. We eat lots of strawberries year-round, so we go to yet another store that does carry our brand (Driscolls).
  • Ask the chefs at independent restaurants for advice. They typically have favorite farmers markets and specialty grocers.
  • Recognize that if you live in the northern climes, January and February will be bleak. After the new year, we’ll provide tips on how to cope.

    1. Ask 10 foodies and/or chefs in your area where the best produce can be found. You don’t have to ask them all in one week, of course. But anytime the topic of good food comes up in conversation, ask!

    2. Find a seasonal fruit or vegetable and do something different and exciting with it. To give you a leg up, the next section has a recipe for our latest veggie fancy: cauliflower steaks. You can make them with endless variations of seasonings and sauces, and we’ve included six of our favorite variations.




    TOP PHOTO: Some jewels of fall: colored
    cauliflower. In the front is romanesco, a
    cultivar bred from cauliflower and broccoli rabe (rapini). Photo courtesy BOTTOM PHOTO:
    Cauliflower steak with Italian accents. Photo
    courtesy Here’s the recipe.



    Since the summer, cauliflower steak has been trending at almost every restaurant we go visit, as a vegetarian/vegan/paleo/low-calorie/whatever option. It can also be served on top of your favorite whole grain, as a first course or entrée, or atop a bed of greens as a salad course. It’s especially fun with a purple cauliflower!

    A whole head of cauliflower is sliced into “steaks,” which are variously seasoned and roasted.


  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • 2 cloves garlic, crushed
  • 1 large head cauliflower (about 3 pounds)
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • Extra virgin olive oil
  • Garnish: 2 tablespoons fresh parsley or other herb, finely

    1. PREHEAT the oven to 375°F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or a Silpat.

    2. COMBINE the lemon juice and garlic in a small bowl. Set aside momentarily.

    3. REMOVE the leaves and bottom core of a head of cauliflower lengthwise into 3/4-inch-thick slices. Season both sides with salt and pepper to taste and arrange in a single layer on the prepared baking sheet. Brush the tops with the lemon juice-garlic mixture. Roast 40 minutes or until golden and tender. Sprinkle with parsley and serve.

    4. USE the remaining cauliflower pieces in salads raw or pickled, or steam/microwave them for another occasion.

    Turn this spare basic recipe into more flavorful cauliflower steaks. Use your favorite international flavors as seasonings and sauces. For example:

  • Chinese cauliflower steaks: Eliminate the salt, brush steaks with soy sauce instead of lemon juice, top with minced garlic, garnish with fresh chives.
  • Indian cauliflower steaks: Season with ground cumin, coriander and optional curry powder instead of garlic, salt and pepper; garnish with fresh cilantro.
  • Italian cauliflower steaks #1: Use garlic-flavored olive oil and top the cauliflower with minced garlic before roasting. Place cooked steaks atop pesto, or atop marinara sauce seasoned with some oregano. Garnish with sliced black olives.
  • Italian cauliflower steaks #2: Make the basic recipe. After roasting, sprinkle with 2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar and 1/2 cup shredded Parmesan. Return to the oven for another 5 minutes or until the cheese is melted.
  • Japanese cauliflower steaks: Use 1/2 olive oil, 1/2 toasted sesame oil or wasabi oil, and garnish with toasted sesame seeds, grated fresh ginger and/or fresh chives.
  • Mexican cauliflower steaks: Replace the lemon juice with lime juice. Serve on a bed of black beans or pinto beans and top with warmed salsa. Garnish with cilantro and optional crumbled queso fresco.


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