Pumpkin Spice Slow Cooker Oatmeal

Oh, hi. It's October. And I'm still talking about pumpkin. And, you know what? In November I can pretty much count on talking about pumpkin then, too. Because, it's fall. And pumpkin is the original harvest vegetable. At least, when I think of a September/October harvest and a veg that keeps really well through a long winter, pumpkin is like old faithful. It takes a loooong time for these hardheads to go bad, making them perfect fodder for fall and winter baking and cooking.

As I was seeking out what other bakers have been doing with their harvest, I came across a sweet little blog called Sweet Anna's. I pretty much love everything about this blog. Miss Anna has even smartly developed a recipes tab complete with meal planning and shopping lists. I am humbled by her greatness and it is in that spirit that I very minimally edited her recipe for what she calls Pumpkin Pie Slow Cooker Overnight Oatmeal. She admits that her family likes things sweet, and I opted for a little less sugar. She uses pumpkin pie spice and I spell out which spices I used because, well, I love a lot of ginger and allspice and I don't want you to miss out!

Anyhow, you know how sometimes I tell you that a recipe is easy? Mostly, they are. Some are pretty simple. Some are simple to those who know something about cooking and baking. And, then, some of them are truly Stacy-Hamilton-in-Fast-Times-at-Ridgemont-High-easy. This is one such recipe. I mean it. My four year old could put it together without much instruction.

This recipe makes me think of group ski trips - the kind where several families rent one house and one family is responsible for each meal. Or, one of those long winter weekends with kids when you don't want to have to cook every single freaking breakfast for pete's sake. Ooh! Or snow days. You could feed it to the kids all day long on a snow day. Hehe.

A few things to plan for:
  1. this recipe will take 8 hours in your slow cooker. So, plan to compile ingredients in your slow cooker bowl but not turn it on until before you go to bed, unless you want the sticky mass of burnt oatmeal on the bottom that I created
  2. this will be more oatmeal than a family of 3 or 4 can eat in one sitting. Plan to freeze 1/2 to 1 C at a time so you have individual servings later on. Or make this for a crowd when you have one over the holidays
  3. you have control of how sweet this one is. It can be syrupy like pumpkin pie or plainer like actual oatmeal. We went for the plainer so we could add pure brown sugar on top. Because, duh. 
  4. fyi, Trader Joe's has Irish Oats for less than you'll find them in the regular markets. And if you're a Costco member, try there, too. Once you eat steel cut oats, you may not ever want the mush of quick-cooking oatmeal ever again
Okay, that's it. I leave you to it. It will be spectacular. As are you.



Pumpkin Spice Slow Cooker Oatmeal
Serves 8 
6 C filtered water
1 C vanilla soymilk
1-1/2 C steel cut oats
1 C pumpkin puree (remember that pumpkin I roasted?)
3/4 C raisins
1/2 C brown sugar (or up to 1 C if you prefer it sweeter)
2-1/2 t cinnamon
3/4 t ginger
3/4 t allspice
1/2 t cloves
1/2 t nutmeg
1/2 t sea salt

Measure all your ingredients. Put them into the bowl of your slow cooker. Stir until well blended. Turn your slow cooker on low and leave it alone for 8 hours.

Top with butter, cream, brown sugar, cinnamon, sliced toasted almonds: really, whatever sounds good!

A Not-At-All-Spooky Halloween Cookie Party

Here's how this all went down: last Wednesday, Lulu had a play date scheduled with Charlie. Charlie and Lulu wanted a fun activity, so, of course, Little Miss Baker thought it would be fun to make Halloween cutout cookies and decorate them. After securing 4 adorably spooky cookie cutters at Williams-Sonoma, LMB rolled on over to her favorite cake supply store to see what cute decorations they might have. You might be able to guess, but at this point, I'm about $40 into this play date. As any good mother in San Diego County would do, I found myself at Target buying Halloween plates, napkins and, naturally, candy corn (for the kids!!!). Without a single phone call, this play date had clearly become a party.

Thank goodness Charlie's mom is so cool because we invited a small troop of the girls from Lulu's preschool to come by that very Wednesday and decorate some cookies. In perfect Halloween spirit, as soon as they arrived, the girls went through Lulu's closet and changed into dress up clothes - all of the princess variety (they are 4!). After running around our tiny very cozy condo for a while, they all sat perfectly quietly and decorated cookies like little masters. Each decorated one for herself and, if she had the patience, a few for her family. (Very bad iPhone photos below.) 

The best part of all this was what a great time we all had with, really, a minimum of planning and expectations. If only the rest of life went like this play date!

We have one week till Halloween. I strongly suggest baking up some impromptu fun!



P.S. Cookie recipe is here. The glazes are after the photos.

P.P.S. My very talented friend Kate took far better photos than I and I will for sure be asking her to partner on a post in the near future. Stay tuned!
The setup.

Mise en place.

It's possible that not all of the girls waited until they got home to eat their cookies.

Look how diligently she's working. She's a pro already!

Because when we think Halloween, we think Elsa & Anna. Doesn't everyone?

Working it. In every way.

This one is mine. Can you see the sugar gloom in her eyes?

We really made the most of these Frozen rice paper decals I bought for Lulu's birthday last May. They're FINALLY all used up.

My favorite. Made by my friend Kate and eaten as soon as she left. What? I was trying to be respectful and not eat her art in front of her.

One pooped cookie decorator.
Cream Cheese Cookie Icing
Yields enough for 4 dozen cookies. Also, this one acts a bit like royal icing and makes a nice sticky surface for decorating.
1 T cream cheese, at room temp
3 T whole milk or cream, at room temp (this is going to make it much easier to blend)
1-1/2 to 2 C powdered sugar

Whisk cream cheese and milk together first and then add in the sugar and whisk until thoroughly blended and no lumps remain.

Gently spread a small amount on each cookie and decorate immediately.

Buttercream Icing
Yields enough to frost 4 dozen cookies.
This icing I make for my holiday cookies but it's fabulous for cakes, muffins, or anything else you can imagine frosting.
1 stick unsalted butter, at room temp
2 C powdered sugar
1 T vanilla or vanilla bean paste (if you want the flecks)
1/4 t salt

Whip butter for about 3 minutes, until light and fluffy. Add sugar and mix well. Add vanilla and salt and whip another minute or so.

This is a far thicker icing that you can add color to if you like. Or, smooth it onto a cookie and add any additional decorations immediately.

Pumpkin Bread

You may have noticed it's October. Do you know what that means for a baker? Cooler weather, ovens on, spices and PUMPKIN!

We've been eating pumpkin everything at our house. Pumpkin oatmeal, pumpkin fudge, and my very favorite (drumroll, please!) pumpkin bread. (Just a quick tangent here: we call a thing a bread, a muffin, a biscuit, but really it's cake: the sugar to fat to grain ratio makes it so. And may I say that cake is the most wonderful food in all the land.) A healthy slice of pumpkin cake bread on a cool fall day with a hot cup of tea or mulled cider, sitting by a fire in your jeans, socks and an oversized sweater creates the epitomal fall moment, n'est-ce pas? Je pense oui!

Lulu and I were at the Whole Foods and saw these cute little pumpkins hanging out by the butternut, spaghetti and kabocha squashes and we just had to buy one. This started a frenzy of oven-roasting, blending and baking several recipes (yes, there will be more from this pumpkin!). I used to make some of Lulu's baby food and pumpkin puree was a huge hit back then.

It's fall, my friends. The best season of the year to turn your oven on and try something new. If you have never baked before, this season is YOURS. And, so is this cake quick bread. It's easy to assemble, easy to bake, stays looking nice when you slice and serve it and it's way too easy to gobble up. You may find yourself spreading cream cheese on a slice or two or toasting it and smathering apple butter all over it. You can also bake it in a bundt pan, glaze the top (I'll include a recipe below) and serve it as actual cake with some whipped cream - or on its own! This one will travel well, keep well and freeze well. My equations make 2 regular loaves or one bundt cake, which I highly recommend, especially if you've been invited somewhere.

Keep in mind that it's pretty amazing to use fresh squash, but if you're a newbie chef, please don't do that. Open up a can and feel GOOD about that. You're amazing. This bread is amazing. You're a match made in heaven.


Pumpkin Bread
(makes 2 loaves or one standard 10 C bundt cake)
3-1/2 C flour
2 t cinnamon
1-1/2 t baking powder
1 t nutmeg
1 t ginger
3/4 t kosher salt
1/2 t allspice
1/4 t cloves
1/4 t baking soda

First blend all those together and set aside. Then, read on.

1-1/2 C sugar
1-1/4 C dark brown (or regular brown) sugar
1 C canola or other light oil
5 eggs, at room temp
2 C pureed pumpkin
2/3 C buttermilk

If using pumpkin, slice your squash in half, scoop out the seeds and place face down on a lightly oiled cookie sheet. Bake at 425 for 30-45 minute (this will depend upon how much squash you're baking) until the pumpkin gives easily when pricked with a fork.

Once it's cool, scoop the pumpkin flesh out from the skin and puree in a blender or food processor until lump free. If you find this is not happening easily, add water in tablespoonsful until you get a nice, smooth puree. With a 3 lb. pumpkin, you'll have about 4-5 cups of puree, although you only need 2. Put the remainder in a freezer bag and stick it in the freezer for next months' pumpkin pies. See? You're ahead!

Preheat your oven to 350 and prep your pans by buttering and flouring them or by spraying them with baking spray.

Combine sugars, oil and 2 eggs until blended. Add remaining eggs and pumpkin and mix well.

Alternately add the dry ingredients and buttermilk in 4 total additions. So, you're going to add about 1/2 the dry mixture and then about 1/2 the buttermilk. Then, repeat.

Pour the batter into your prepared pan(s) and bake 60-70 minutes or until you feel the cake spring back when touched. If you're using a glaze (recipe below), pour the glaze on while the cake is warm, but not hot.

Vanilla Cinnamon Glaze
1-1/2 C powdered sugar
2-3 T milk
2 T maple syrup
1/2 t vanilla
1/2 t cinnamon
pinch of salt

In a medium bowl, whisk all ingredients together. Pour over warm cake. Let set at least 10 minutes and then slice away.

One Motorcycle, Two Brides, and Three Tiers of Krispy Kreme

I mean, have you EVER? She's STUNNING.
Caveat: this post does not include a recipe, nor any photos of aforementioned Krispy Kreme donuts, although those were served at the wedding in lieu of wedding cake. But, I wanted to share this with you. Hope it fills your heart even a smidgeon as much as it has mine.

My cousin Erica is a wild animal of the fluffiest variety. You know how the biggest, baddest men are actually teddy bears on the inside? My Harley-riding, 6-foot-one-inches tall, stunner of a cousin is exactly the same. What I mean to say is that this young woman (she's 12 years younger than I) may run marathons, travel the globe for work (and play!) and generally tackle life head-on, but she also has this beautiful and rare capacity to make herself vulnerable in the most intense of circumstances.

Two years ago she started dating someone that from the moment she shared the news, just felt different. Gone was any desperation or fear from Erica's voice. When talking about this new relationship, she simply had a calm about her: a steady hope. Watching it unfold in social media, I fell in love with her new love, too. Alisha was a bona fide grown up. Gorgeous and successful, it was almost too good to be true. And, then, one day in July 2013, I got a call.

"So...I wanted to call you and let you know directly..." Erica was speaking very, very quickly. Oh, s--t. What was she going to tell me now? I could feel the other shoe dropping. "...that we've decided to take a leap of faith and I'm moving to London I know it's kind of fast and sudden..." Insert sigh of relief. Oh, thank goodness.

It didn't actually seem sudden at all. Not to me, anyway. Alisha and Erica had been dating long distance for about a year. Only a few months before this conversation, they had survived the Boston Marathon bombing (literally seconds and inches). It made sense they wouldn't waste time. Plus, Alisha is my age, so, for sure she knew what she was doing, even if E didn't, right?

Erica moved to London last October.

In early December, I got an email asking me to officiate her wedding. What?!?!?!?!?!! Beyond thrilled, I said YES and proceeded to tell everyone we knew that my cousin was engaged! Okay, I actually told people that I had been asked to officiate a wedding and that my cousin was engaged.

Me (left) yukking it up as officiant. Alisha taking in her bride.
Me and my mom.
Where she got the idea to ask me to officiate, I do not know. Humbled, honored and scared s--tless, I pretty much got e-ordained the next day and started writing the ceremony. Which was great because I realized right away that I had no freaking idea how to write a wedding ceremony. Several library trips and one large Amazon purchase later, I read everything I could get my eyes on. (In case you are ever called to do this, the most helpful of these were the Knot's Wedding Vows & Traditions and Reverend Judith Johnson, PhD's The Wedding Ceremony Planner, the latter of which completely saved my life.) It took me the whole 10 months to write what would take me less than 20 minutes to say, but it filled my year with something so happy, so meaningful, so deep that it was more than worth the hours I spent reading, writing, editing, sending the brides email after email.
If only you could hear Alisha whispering "Oh my God" as she sees her bride for the first time.
Erica with her flower girls Piper (her niece) and Lulu (my baby girl!).

Stealing a kiss at the altar that was decorated with sheets of Led Zeppelin music.
My husband and I have been fortunate enough to attend more than 12 weddings in the 7 years we've been together. This one was something unique and special. There is something truly beautiful about seeing two people who are so obviously meant to spend life together commit to doing just that. These two were so grateful, so vulnerable, so earnest, so very beautiful in every way and they poured themselves into this gathering, each wanting it to be special for the other. Alisha, formerly entirely non-musical, learned to play Led Zeppelin's Thank You on the guitar in only 5 lessons. Erica rode in on her dad's Harley with Uncle Danny.

Just married!!! And, Erica's dad's (my Uncle Eric's) Harley, in repose.
Each of them had make up and hair and gowns and fabulous shoes. Every touch was personal to them. Even the gifts they gave to each of us in the wedding party (I was an honorary member) were personal. Beautiful art books specific to something that means something to each of us. In my case, a gorgeous book of art made famous by some of the world's most incredible bands.

Hands-down the BEST Best Man I have ever seen (in those fab red shoes). Robert was never further than this from Alisha all day long.
Of course, these women are family, so, I will never forget this. It was an incredible experience and has made me feel so close to them. But, I cannot thank them enough for giving me the opportunity to step so far outside of my comfort zone that my boundaries have been redefined. There are not words for the gratitude I feel to them and the hope I have in my heart that they will have happiness and laughter every day of their lives together. The English language fails me in trying to describe the love I feel for them and the overspilling of love I have felt every moment since declaring them Mrs. and Mrs. Anderson.

They had it right. Led Zeppelin said it best. "An inspiration is what you are to me." Thank you, Alisha and Erica. Thank you.

When Jeremy, Lulu and I got home Sunday afternoon, naturally, I baked an apple pie. More on that soon.



Apple Spice Cake

It's obviously apple season and we the Stabiles are certainly celebrating it!

After I baked those rustic apple dumplings last week, we were far from satiated. In fact, it seems we needed lots more apple. As fall is my favorite season, I start feeling nostalgic for the holidays as soon as school starts up. I start dreaming of a home filled with the scent of gingery & cinnamony spices, a fire in the hearth, a big chunky sweater and cuddles on the couch.

Nothing goes better with those yummy dreams than a hearty apple cake with a simple apple cider glaze and a little cardamom whipped cream. I swear, this cake is everything it sounds like it might be. Hearty & buttery like a pound cake, tart & chunky with apples and sweet & crisp with appley glaze and spices, it's a great cake to take to a fall dinner party or picnic. That is, if it can stay in tact long enough to make it out the door!



Apple Spice Cake
3 C flour
2 C sugar
1/2 t baking soda
1/2 t salt
1 t cinnamon
1/2 t ginger
1/4 t allspice
1/4 t nutmeg
1/8 t cloves
1 C + 2 T oil
3 large eggs, at room temp
1 t vanilla

2 large or 3 small apples peeled, cored and diced into medium-sized chunks

Apple Cider Glaze
1-1/2 C powdered sugar
3 T apple cider
1 T melted butter

Cardamom Cream
1 C heavy whipping cream
1 T sugar
1/4 t cardamom

Make the cake.

Preheat the oven to 350 and whisk the dry ingredients together, including the spices.

In a separate bowl, blend the oil, eggs and vanilla.

Make a well in the dry ingredients and pour the oil mixture into the well, slowly folding the wet ingredients in with the dry. When you have a good, lumpy batter going, fold in the apples.

Transfer the batter to a well-greased bundt cake pan and bake 55-70 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean and the top of the cake is a nice, light golden brown.

Let cool 10-20 minutes before turning out of the pan to finish cooling, another hour or so. 

Make the glaze.

Pour all ingredients into a small bowl and whisk until well blended. Spread over the cooled cake.

Now, you can eat the cake just like this. But, why stop when we've come this far?

Make the cream.

In a stand mixer with the whisk attachment, blend the cream, sugar and cardamom until nicely whipped.

Slice the cake and dollop a generous bit of cream on top. Enjoy!