Thursday, September 30, 2021

Pumpkin Cookies with Cream Cheese Frosting

In my culinary calendar, after Italian prune plum season, next up is pumpkin. I love pumpkin as much as the next gal, but (just like Halloween and Christmas), online and brick-and-mortar stores start advertising EVERYTHING pumpkin way too early, so by the time actual fall rolls around, I am sick of it. But that doesn’t deter me from baking at least one pumpkin-y goodie. Because, as you know, I am all about the baked goods!

This recipe is from & it’s a good one. To begin with, it is chock-full of the de rigueur fall spices — cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger, cloves, allspice; next, they are soft and chewy (which I love); and finally, they have a luscious cream cheese frosting which, just literally, is the icing on the cake. They keep well in the fridge for about a week, if you have any left over.

Pumpkin Cookies with Cream Cheese Frosting

Adapted from 

Yields about 3 dozen cookies

Cookie Ingredients:

2-1/2 C AP flour

1 t baking powder

1 t baking soda

1 TB pumpkin pie spice (see below)

1/2 t salt

1/2 C (1 stick) butter, softened

1 C granulated sugar

1/2 C brown sugar

1-1/4 C canned pumpkin puree

1 egg

1 t vanilla extract

Frosting Ingredients*:

8 oz (1 brick) cream cheese, room temp

3 TB butter, room temp

1 t vanilla extract

1 C confectioners’ sugar (approximately)

Chopped walnuts (optional)

* The original recipe calls for low-fat cream cheese. Also, I reduced the amount of confectioners’ sugar to 1 cup, as I thought 2 cups was too much.

Pumpkin pie spice (

1/4 C ground cinnamon

2 TB ground ginger

4 t ground nutmeg

2 t ground allspice

2 t ground cloves

Whisk all spice ingredients together in a small bowl until combined. Transfer to a sealed spice jar, where it will keep for up to 2 years.


Preheat oven to 350°F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

In a large mixing bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder, baking soda, pumpkin pie spice, and salt, until combined. Set aside.

In the bowl of a stand mixer, cream together butter, granulated sugar and brown sugar on medium-high speed for 1 minute until light and fluffy. Add in pumpkin, egg, and vanilla to butter mixture, and beat on medium speed until just combined. Fold in the dry ingredients until just combined.

Drop on cookie sheet by heaping tablespoons, then use your fingers or a spoon to flatten slightly (these cookies tend to poof up slightly rather than flatten during baking, so shape them beforehand however you like. They won’t rise much).

Bake 15-20 minutes, or until baked through and bounce back slightly when you touch them. Transfer cookies to wire rack to cool until they reach room temp. Then frost or drizzle with frosting. Sprinkle with chopped walnuts (optional) or a pinch of cinnamon or the pumpkin pie spice. Refrigerate in sealed container.


With electric mixer, beat cream cheese, butter, and vanilla together on medium-high speed until smooth. Gradually add in confectioners’ sugar until it is well combined and the frosting is smooth. If it is too thick, add a tablespoon or two of milk (or water) until it reaches your desired consistency. If it is too thin, add a bit more confectioners’ sugar.

Tuesday, September 14, 2021

I Just Can't Quit You.

As much as I try, I can’t tear myself away. I meet others, but they’re just, just not the same. They don’t live up to the (probably) impossibly high standard set previously. That’s why I come back again and again…

I’m not talking about a human love interest here. The obsession I’m talking about is the OG Viennese Plum Cake I’ve been making for over 20 years. It was my late mother-in-law’s recipe that she made every September. After she passed away, I became the keeper/baker of this family treasure. A mantle I was happy to carry. No one is sure where the recipe came from; Freda clipped it from a newspaper oh, so many years ago.

Like I said, I’ve tried others, but they’re missing “something.” Don’t get me wrong, almost any baked good that combines Italian prune plums with cinnamon and sugar, in a yeasty or non-yeast-risen form, will be tasty. But none of them have that, shall we say, je ne sais quoi, that this cake has. I love the deep, dark caramelization of the plums. Maybe it’s that the arrival of these plum babies signal the end of summer and the beginning of fall. Or maybe it’s nostalgia for old-world traditions? Who knows? I could be analyzing it way too much. Maybe it’s just a damn good cake. I’m gonna go with that.

All I know is that I keep returning to it. And I am never disappointed. 

Bakers in Austria and Germany have been making plum cakes (plum kuchen) for years after the fall harvest, and with good reason. It combines the delicious sweetness of these dark little fall-season-only plums with a rich buttery cinnamon-sugary cake, which is the perfect accompaniment to afternoon coffee. I typically shower it with some confectioners’ sugar just before serving. But you could serve it after dinner and gild the lily with a dollop of whipped cream and it would certainly not be frowned upon. Maybe offer your guests a small glass of port with the cake? Who could turn that down? Not me.

While you still have time, get your hands on some sweet Italian prune plums and make this cake. The season is short, make the most of it. I think after your first encounter with this love, you won’t be able to quit it either.

Freda’s Viennese Plum Cake


For pan:

1 t butter, softened

1 t flour

For cake:

1/2 C butter, room temp

1/2 C granulated sugar

2 eggs

1/4 t salt

1 C AP flour

1 t baking powder

16 medium-sized Italian prune plums, washed, halved, and pitted

For topping:

1/2 C sugar

2 t cinnamon

1 T butter, cut in small pieces


Preheat oven to 350°F

Butter and flour 8” square pan, and set aside.

Using electric stand or hand mixer, cream together butter and sugar. Beat in eggs one at a time, scraping down bowl as needed.

In small bowl, blend together flour, baking powder, and salt. Combine flour mixture with creamed butter mixture, until well blended.

Spread dough evenly in prepared pan. Place plums, skin side down, on top of dough.

Mix together cinnamon and sugar and sprinkle over plums, dot with the butter. Bake 45 minutes or until top is golden.

Let cake cool completely. Serve at room temp. Store leftovers in refrigerator.

Monday, September 6, 2021

Fall Plum Pound Cake

It’s that time of year, friends, when the Italian prune plums arrive! They have a very short season so we must make the most of it.

In previous years, I have made one of my very favorite prune plum recipes, but this year I wanted something more like a pound or loaf cake. I found it in this recipe from a New Zealand food site, and it is terrific. 

The original recipe calls for regular black plums, but when prune plums are available, that’s my go-to. It also calls for a sugar icing, but I really don’t think it needs it. I did add a sprinkle of powdered sugar when I served it, just to gussy it up a bit. 


The coffee's on, come on over!

Plum Pound Cake

Adapted from Claire Aldous, Dish


10 Italian prune plums

3 TB brown sugar

1/4 t ground cinnamon

1/2 t ground Chinese 5 spice


1 C butter at room temp

1 C granulated sugar

1 t vanilla extract

3 large eggs, lightly beaten

1-3/4 C AP flour

1/2 t sea salt

1 t baking powder


Grease a 9x5, 8C capacity, loaf pan and fully line with parchment paper. 

Preheat oven to 300°F.

Halve and stone the plums and set aside. Combine the brown sugar, cinnamon, and 5 spice in a bowl and set aside.


Beat the butter, granulated sugar and vanilla until pale and light. Gradually beat in the eggs, adding a TB of the flour if they start to curdle.

Combine the flour, salt, and baking powder and gently mix into the butter mixture. Don’t over beat or the cake will be tough.

Spread half of the batter in the base of the pan, then scatter half of the plums over the batter. Sprinkle half of the brown sugar mixture over the top. Repeat with the remaining batter, plums, sugar.

Bake for about 1 hr and 10 minutes or until a skewer inserted in the center comes out clean. Cover the top loosely with foil if getting too brown. Cool completely before removing from the tin.

To serve: dust with confectioners’ sugar, or drizzle with a glaze made by combining 1/2 C confectioners’ sugar with enough lemon juice to make a smooth, thick but pourable icing.

Makes 1 loaf.

Monday, August 30, 2021

Chicken Salmoriglio

From Christopher Kimball’s latest book, Milk Street Tuesday Nights Mediterranean, this is a delicious weeknight dinner. 

The book is broken up into three categories: fast, faster, fastest - which helps immensely when you are pressed for time and can’t figure out what to cook for dinner (again!). There are so many great recipes in this book that I have dozens of little post-it scraps stuck to the pages of fabulous sounding (and looking) recipes.

This one, in particular, caught my eye because a) I love chicken thighs, and b) the recipe originates in southern Italy, which holds a special place in my heart. You can’t beat the combination of chicken with garlic, lemon, and oregano roasted crisp in the oven! Served on a bed of arugula or watercress, it’s technically a salad, right? 

The recipe serves four and is from the “fast” section of the book (start to finish in 45 minutes). The name, “salmoriglio,” refers to the sauce/marinade, and you are definitely going to want some crusty Italian bread to sop it up with. I think a chilled Italian white would be perfect with this dish - the WSJ wine columnist has some good recommendations here and here.

Chicken Salmoriglio (Milk Street Tuesday Nights Mediterranean)


1 TB grated lemon zest, plus 2 lemons halved crosswise

2 medium garlic cloves, finely grated

1 t dried oregano, crumbled

Kosher salt and ground black pepper

5 TB extra-virgin olive oil, divided

3 lb bone-in, skin-on chicken thighs, trimmed and patted dry

1 TB honey

1 bunch watercress, trimmed, or 5 oz container baby arugula

1 TB finely chopped fresh oregano


Don’t skip the step of cutting slashes into the chicken. The cuts allow the seasonings to get into the meat for better flavor throughout and also help speed the cooking.

  1. Heat oven to 475°F with a rack in the lower-middle position. Grate 1 TB zest from the lemons, then halve the lemons and trim off the pointed ends so the halves sit stably with cut sides facing up; set the lemon halves aside. In a small bowl, stir together the zest, garlic, dried oregano, 1-1/2 t salt, and 1/2 t pepper. Measure 1 TB of the lemon-garlic mixture into a large bowl. Stir 4 TB of oil into the remaining mixture and set aside.
  2. To the large bowl, add the remaining 1 TB oil, the honey, 2 t salt, and 1/2 t pepper, then stir to combine. Using a sharp knife, cut parallel slashes about 1” apart all the way to the bone on both sides of each chicken thigh. Add the things to the bowl and turn to coat on all sides, rubbing the seasoning mixture into the slashes.
  3. Arrange the chicken, skin side up, and the lemon halves, cut sides up, on a rimmed baking sheet. Roast until the chicken is beginning to brown and the thickest part reaches 165°F to 170°F, about 20 minutes. Leaving the chicken in the oven, turn on the broiler. Continue to cook until the chicken is deep golden brown and the thickest part reaches about 175°F, about 5 minutes. Remove from the oven.
  4. Place the watercress on a serving platter, creating a bed for the chicken. Using tongs, place the chicken on top of the watercress. Squeeze 3 TB juice from 1 or 2 of the lemon halves, then stir the juice along with the fresh oregano into the lemon-garlic oil to make the salmoriglio. Drizzle the sauce over the chicken and serve with the remaining lemon halves for squeezing.

Thursday, August 26, 2021

Strawberry-Lemon Loaf Cake

Photo by Brigitte Tohm from Pexels

As noted in the recipe I clipped this from (New York Times cooking site), “this cake is summer in a loaf pan,” and they are on the money with that description. Light, breezy, bursting with the sweetness of the strawberries and the subtle tartness of lemon, it is just begging to be taken along on a picnic, late-summer BBQ, or (my personal favorite) with a cup of tea in the afternoon. 

The pictures really don’t do this cake justice, but believe me, you will love this cake!

Strawberry-Lemon Loaf Cake (NYT)



Non-stick cooking spray

1 C/150 grams diced strawberries (fresh, don’t use frozen)

1 C/200 grams plus 1 TB granulated sugar

1-1/2 C/192 grams AP flour

1 TB lemon zest (from 1 lemon)

2 t baking powder

1/2 t kosher salt

1 C/227 grams sour cream, at room temp

1/2 C/110 grams vegetable oil

3 large eggs, at room temp

1 TB lemon juice

1 t pure vanilla extract

Lemon glaze:

1 C/123 grams confectioners’ sugar

1 TB lemon zest (from 1 lemon)

2 TB lemon juice


  1. Make the cake: heat oven to 350°F. Spray 9x5” loaf pan with non-stick cooking spray and set aside.
  2. In a small bowl, toss strawberries with 1 TB sugar to macerate while you prepare the cake batter.
  3. In large bowl, combine flour, lemon zest, baking powder, salt and remaining 1 C sugar. Whisk to combine. In a second large bowl, combine the sour cream, oil, eggs, lemon juice, and vanilla extract. Whisk to combine.
  4. Pour the wet ingredients into the dry, and stir gently to mix. Lift the macerated berries out of their liquid and add to the batter. Gently fold in the berries until evenly incorporated.
  5. Pour the batter into the prepared loaf pan. Bake until a skewer inserted into the middle comes out clean, 60-70 minutes. If it looks to be browning on top too much, tent with aluminum foil. Cool it in the pan on a rack for about 10 minutes, then un-mold the cake carefully and transfer to the rack to cool completely.
  6. Make the glaze: in a small bowl, combine the confectioners’ sugar with the lemon zest and juice and stir until smooth. Pour the glaze over the cooled cake. Let stand until set.

Saturday, August 21, 2021

Recipe-in-a-Flash: Almond-crusted Baked Peaches

Delicious, quick recipe that those perfectly ripe peaches on your counter are begging for! From chef Virginia Willis, you can whip this up in no time and serve it warm from the oven right after dinner. She suggests resting the peaches on plain yogurt (which I did & it was fabulous), but certainly no one would balk if you used vanilla ice cream. Don’t skip the candied ginger or the sage, both really add to the overall flavor.

Unfortunately, they don't photograph very well but don't let that deter you - this little dessert is terrific!

BTW: there is a “secret” ingredient in this recipe — soy sauce! Not something usually found in desserts, but here’s why it works (from Virginia’s site):

“Soy sauce is highly flavored with umami. However, it’s not solely the unami. We have a couple of things happening here. First, peaches and almond are related and ingredients match when they share key aromas. So, we have the match-up of peaches and almonds. Also, according to The Flavor Matrix by James Briscione and Brooke Parkhurst, stone fruit is a surprise pairing with soy sauce! Both peaches and soy sauce share certain molecular compounds and when that happens it lines up heightened flavor and aroma. There’s an actual physical reason certain things taste good together.”


Almond-crusted Baked Peaches (Virginia Willis)

Serves 4


2 TB unsalted butter - room temp, or 2 TB mild oil, such as sunflower

1/4 C fine almond flour

2 TB coconut sugar or brown sugar

1/2 vanilla bean, split and scraped, or 1 t pure vanilla extract

1/2 t low sodium tamari or soy sauce

2 freestone peaches

Skyr or yogurt for serving

Candied ginger, chopped, for serving

Honey for serving

Sage leaves for garnish


  1. Heat oven to 350°F. Combine the fat, flour, sugar, extract, and soy sauce. Stir until smooth. 
  2. Halve the peaches and discard the stones.
  3. Divide the mixture between the peaches, about 2 TB per peach. Spread it to evenly coat the peach. Place in ovenproof casserole or skillet. Transfer to oven and bake until peach is tender to the point of a knife and the almond topping is golden brown, about 30 minutes.
  4. Meanwhile, garnish the plates with the skyr or yogurt, candied ginger, and honey. Rest the peaches on top and garnish with sage.

Thursday, August 12, 2021

Summer Ratatouille

Ratatouille over couscous

Right about now, you might have more zucchini in your garden than you know what to do with. You’ve probably already cycled through the usual suspects (zucchini bread, zucchini pancakes, even zoodles…) and are ready for something else.

This recipe, from My Place at the Table by Alexander Lobrano, makes good use of not only zucchini, but also eggplant, bell peppers, ripe tomatoes, red onions, and fresh herbs. It is a delicious melange of summer’s best vegetables and is the perfect base for a number of different additions. 


Just out of the oven

Mr Lobrano suggests tossing it with pasta and salted capers (done!), or as a garnish to salmon (done!), or mixed into couscous with fresh mint (also done!) - they are all fabulous options (and you will probably come up with a few of your own!). I used pearl couscous, which are a bit bigger than average couscous so it made for a much heartier meal. 

With pasta

Another bonus of this recipe is that you can serve it lukewarm and it keeps well (refrigerated) for a few days so you can use it in all those terrific dishes mentioned above (lazy summer days cooking dilemma solved!). 


Oven-Roasted Ratatouille (Alexander Lobrano)

Total time: 1 hour

Serves 6


1 large eggplant (1 lb), trimmed and cut into 1” pieces

1 t fine table salt

1/4 C fruity extra-virgin olive oil, plus 2 TB for drizzling

2 large zucchini, trimmed, halved lengthwise, and cut into 1” pieces

1 red bell pepper, seeded, and cut into 1” pieces

1 yellow bell pepper, seeded, and cut into 1” pieces

4 cloves garlic, finely chopped

2 red onions, peeled and cut into 1” wedges

3 large ripe tomatoes, cored and coarsely chopped into 1” pieces

1 t chopped fresh rosemary

1 t coriander seeds, coarsely ground*

1 t coarse sea salt

1/2 C torn fresh basil leaves


  1. Put eggplant in a colander and sprinkle with fine table salt. Toss eggplant and let it sit at least 45 minutes, stirring from time to time to expel bitter juices.
  2. Preheat oven to 375°. Pour olive oil into a large rectangular baking dish. Add zucchini, eggplant, red and yellow peppers, garlic, and onion wedges to baking dish and toss in olive oil to coat well. Sprinkle vegetables with chopped rosemary, sea salt, and coarsely ground coriander seeds, and toss again. Lightly drizzle with olive oil.
  3. Bake for 30 minutes, then stir in tomatoes. Continue baking until vegetables are soft, about 30 minutes more.
  4. Remove from oven and serve lukewarm with a garnish of torn basil.

* I could not find coriander seeds anywhere locally so I omitted this ingredient & the dish was still fabulous. See this article for substitutes