Whole Wheat Pumpkin Yeast Bread

"When there is very little else left to believe in, one can still believe in an honest loaf of fragrant, home-baked bread." --Anna Thomas

Lately, I've been feeling paralyzed about making big life decisions.

As a result, I've been baking a lot. 

Within the past week, I've made this whole wheat pumpkin yeast bread (for us), cinnamon swirl bread (for my ESL student), oatmeal chocolate chip cookies (for friends that just had a baby), and cranberry orange scones (for a brunch party).

This whole wheat pumpkin loaf is the best thing I've baked all week.

You might be thinking, "why go through the trouble of making a pumpkin bread that requires yeast and 2 hours of rise time when I can just make a pumpkin quick bread so easily?"

I love quick breads, I really do. But they're dense and sweet and predictable.

This pumpkin yeast bread is airy, soft, and decidedly worth the fuss and the rise time.

When everything is confusing and uncertain, it's comforting to make something tangible with my hands, something substantial, and good.

No matter what kind of week you've had or what kind of week lies ahead, the smell of this bread baking will make you feel as if everything is right in the world, even if just for a moment.

Have a wonderful Thanksgiving! I'll be making pumpkin whole wheat rolls with this recipe as well as strawberry pretzel cheesecake.

Whole Wheat Pumpkin Yeast Bread

1/4 cup plus 1 tablespoon warm water
1 package instant yeast
1/4 cup brown sugar
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
1 cup canned pumpkin 
1 1/2 cups whole wheat flour
1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon ginger
1/2 teaspoon allspice
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1 egg
1/2 cup of assorted grains and seeds. I used oats, sunflower seeds, and chia seeds

Prepare a clean surface on your counter and sprinkle with flour.  Prepare a large bowl by spraying it with non-stick spray or olive oil.

*Optional--preheat your oven to 200 and then turn it off. (This will provide a warm place for the bread to rise)

In a medium bowl, add the yeast and hot water. Stir gently for a moment and then let sit for 5 minutes.  Add the sugar, vegetable oil, and pumpkin.

In a separate bowl, whisk together the flours, salt, ginger, allspice, and cinnamon.

Add the flour mixture to the west mixture. If the dough is very sticky, add another tablespoon or two of flour until the dough is soft and smooth. Turn dough onto a cleaned floured surface and knead for 5-6 minutes. Dough should be smooth and elastic.

Add dough to the prepared bowl and turn over so that all sides are covered in non-stick spray/olive oil. Cover and let rise in a warm place for 45 minutes-1 hour. (I like to let my dough rise in the oven)

Punch dough down and shape into a loaf size. Transfer to a greased 9 by 5 loaf pan. Cover the pan and return to a warm place to rise for an additional 45 minutes-1 hour. The dough should rise about 1 inch above the rim of the loaf pan.

Preheat oven to 350. Brush the top of the bread with the egg. Sprinkle with assorted seeds and nuts. Bake for 35-45 minutes. Test dough by giving the top of the loaf a thump with your finger. It should sound hollow!

Let bread cool for about 5 minutes before removing from pan to cool on a wire rack. Let bread cool completely before slicing.

Recipe adapted from King Arthur Flour.


Mac and Cheese Stuffed Butternut Squash

Thinking of everyone in Paris and in Beirut, and every other place where people are suffering the effects of terrorism.

It feels a bit strange to go on as if nothing has happened, to tell you about this mac and cheese recipe that I made.

But, I suppose all that we can do is to pray for our broken world, and to continue to love the people in our lives and to be thankful for them.   My favorite way to do that is though food.

Butternut squash was not a vegetable that I ate as a kid, but I have become increasingly enamored of it in adulthood. I love its sweetness and satisfying starch-like texture.

In mac and cheese, I love that butternut squash adds both a depth of flavor and that bright orange hue reminiscent of American and Velveta cheeses.  We get to embrace our nostalgic childhood mac and cheese while eating a better tasting mac and cheese made with vegetables (and smoked gouda and white cheddar).

To make this mac and cheese stuffed butternut squash, we'll start by cutting a butternut squash in half and roasting it.

While the squash is roasting, we'll boil the water for the pasta and start making the b├ęchamel sauce.[butter, flour, milk, cheese]

When the squash is done, we'll scoop out the inside, (reserving half for another recipe) mash it with a fork, and add it to that lovely cheese sauce.

Then, we'll add the macaroni noodles and scoop the mac and cheese into the hollowed-out butternut squash. After that, we'll sprinkle the top with buttered breadcrumbs, and bake for another 15 minutes. 

Then, we might just start eating the mac and cheese straight from the pan, because it is that good. 

Of course, you don't have to take the extra step of stuffing the butternut squash with mac and cheese--you could use a regular casserole dish. But, there's something fun and festive about presenting this mac and cheese in a hollowed out butternut squash, and I think this would be a major pleaser on Thanksgiving tables. This recipe could easily be prepared ahead of time and then just popped into the oven 15 minutes before you're ready to eat. 


Mac and Cheese Stuffed Butternut Squash 

1 medium butternut squash
1 tablespoon olive oil
salt & pepper
8 ounces macaroni noodles
2 1/2 tablespoons butter
2 tablespoons flour
1 3/4 cup milk
1 cup smoked gouda cheese
3/4 cup white cheddar cheese
1/2 cup breadcrumbs (combined with 1/2 tablespoon melted butter--optional)

Preheat oven to 400. Using a sharp knife, carefully cut the butternut squash in half. Use a spoon to remove the seeds. Place on a cookie sheet. Pour one tablespoon of olive oil over the surface of both halves of butternut squash. Use a culinary brush or a spoon to evenly spread the olive oil over the squash surface. Sprinkle liberally with salt and pepper. Bake at 400 for 45-55 minutes or until squash is tender. Set aside to cool.

While the squash cooks, boil the water for pasta and cook according to package directions. (I used gluten-free quinoa pasta for this and it turned out well.) Be sure to cook the pasta only until al-dente, as it will continue cooking when you bake it. Drain pasta and set aside.

Once the squash has cooled, use a spoon to scoop out most of the squash from its skin. (You'll want to leave a little inside for the skin to hold its shape) You will only used 1/2 of the squash for this recipe. Reserve the other half for another dish! I like to keep mine in the freezer in a ziplock bag. Use a fork to smash up any large pieces of squash until smooth.

Add 2 1/2 tablespoons butter to a saucepan over medium heat. Once the butter is melted, add 2 tablespoons flour. Stir for a minute or so until no lumps remain. Gradually add the milk a little at a time, stirring after each addition until the sauce thickens. Once all the milk is added and the sauce is creamy but not too thick, add the butternut squash and cheese. Stir until all the cheese is melted and then turn off the heat.  Taste and add salt or pepper as necessary. Add the macaroni noodles to the sauce and stir to combine.

Scoop mac and cheese into the empty squash halves.  Sprinkle the tops of each stuffed squash with buttered breadcrumbs. Bake at 400 for 10-15 minutes or until breadcrumbs are slightly browned.

Dig in!


What to eat in Asheville

Adam and I escaped to Asheville this weekend and ate so much good food. I need to tell you about it!

The week leading up to our weekend away turned out to be CRAZY for both of us. Adam had a 6 hour flight delay coming home from New York on Thursday night and didn't get home until 3:00am. I flew to D.C. early Friday morning for an interview and was supposed to fly back early that evening.  My flight home Friday afternoon was delayed, and I ended up missing my connecting flight home.

I shed a few tears in the airport after some airline employees were rude to me while trying to reschedule a flight home, and I began to consider canceling the trip.  I knew that I would get home  late that night, and--as always--I had lots of school work to do.

But, then I realized that I was tired of law school and job stress stealing all the joy out of my life.  Life is too short and too beautiful not to do things that make us happy.

We were exhausted by the time we arrived in Asheville late Friday night, but we had the best weekend.  We ate good food, watched a glass blowing demonstration, browsed book stores, drank wine, listened to live bluegrass music, drove on the Blue Ridge Parkway, and breathed in lots of cool mountain air.

We ate at casual restaurants the whole weekend, but we ate really well.  Here are a few of our favorite spots from this most recent trip and trips past:


Vortex Doughnuts 
What to try: Everything! They have both yeasted and cake doughnuts, as well as some vegan options

What to try: Sweet potato pancakes, biscuits, grits


What to try: any of the Mexican-Caribbean dishes

White Duck Taco Shop
What to try: fish, bangkok shrimp, mole roasted duck, BBQ carnitas

Barley's Taproom & Pizzeria
What to try: all the great beer on tap, meat lover's pizza, vegetarian pizza

Doc Chey's Noodle House
What to try: dumplings, pho, pad thai


French Broad Chocolate Lounge
What to try: Everything!!!!

5 Walnut Wine Bar
What to try:  wine, beer, mead, or cider, boiled peanuts, cheese plate. They have great live music almost every night. Going here was the highlight of the weekend for me!

I know we've still yet to try many of the great eateries that Asheville has to offer.  Please let me know of your favorites!


Kale Salad with Wild Rice, Sweet potatoes, Apples, Almonds, and Goat Cheese

From the time I met her, my friend Tori raved about a salad place in D.C. called SweetGreen.

At that time, I had never heard of a salad-only restaurant, and I wasn't totally convinced that it was as amazing as she said it was.

But then I spent this past summer in D.C. and Tori (who now lives in D.C.) took me to SweetGreen.

It is, totally amazing. On my first visit, I got a harvest grain bowl with wild rice, kale, sweet potato, apple, almonds and goat cheese. So, so good.

But, I was only in D.C. for the summer, and even if I did have a SweetGreen nearby, their salads are a little too pricey for weekly consumption.  I needed to make my own version.

This salad is proof that healthy food can be really delicious. We start with a collection of stellar ingredients:

Chewy, nutty, woodsy wild rice.

Sweet, sweet honeycrisp apples.

Crunchy buttered almonds and tangy goat cheese.

And crispy roasted sweet potatoes. 

Let's take care of ourselves this week and eat delicious things that also happen to be really good for us.

Also, let's read something or listen to something that challenges and inspires us. I've been listening to a lot of podcasts lately, and this past week I listened this interview with poet Mary Oliver from the On Being podcast.

She read her poem "Wild Geese," which struck me deeply.  I hope it brings some comfort to your week too.

"Wild Geese"

You do not have to be good. 
You do not have to walk on your knees
for a hundred miles through the desert, repenting.
You only have to let the soft animal of your body
love what it loves.
Tell me about your despair, yours, and I will tell you mine. 
Meanwhile the world goes on.
Meanwhile the sun and the clear pebbles of the rain
are moving across the landscapes, 
over the prairies and the deep trees, 
the mountains and the rivers.
Meanwhile the wild geese, high in the clean blue air, 
are heading home again. 
Whoever you are, no matter how lonely, 
the world offers itself to your imagination, 
calls to you like the wild geese, harsh and exciting --
over and over announcing your place
in the family of things. 

Kale Salad with Wild Rice, Sweet Potatoes, Apples, Almonds, and Goat Cheese

1 large sweet potato, peeled and cubed
1-2 tablespoons olive oil
salt and pepper
1 large honey crisp apple, cubed
1/4 cup sliced almonds
1 cup wild rice, cooked according to package directions
4 ounces goat cheese, crumbled
1 bunch kale, stems removed sliced into small pieces (feel free to use less kale if you want the wild rice and sweet potato to be the start of the show!)
honey balsamic vinaigrette for serving

Preheat oven to 425.  Arrange sweet potato cubes on a cookie sheet. Drizzle with olive oil and add salt and pepper. Using your hands, toss sweet potato cubes to evenly coat each piece with oil and salt and pepper. Bake at 425 for 15 minutes, stirring halfway through to prevent burning.

Meanwhile, cook wild rice according to package directions. (This can also be done the day before.) Set aside to cool.

Optional: Toast the almonds. Heat 1/2 tablespoon of butter in a small saucepan. Add almonds and stir for a minute or two until fragrant.

In a large bowl, combine kale, sweet potato cubs, apple cubes, wild rice, almonds, and goat cheese. Drizzle with honey balsamic vinaigrette.

*Makes around 3-4 full lunch-sized servings or 6-7 side-dish sized servings
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