Monday, November 30, 2015

Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Bundt Cake with Chocolate Ganache

Why I would make a terrible food blogger:

1) It generally only occurs to me that a recipe is good enough to merit its own post after I'm halfway through eating it.

2) If I do try to construct a fancy food presentation for a photo, my children believe that is their cue to stick their faces within one inch of the dish.

Case in point:
It is literally the only time my children want to have their pictures taken.
In fact, my daughter was determined to maul this bundt cake the way a rabid wolf might attack anything that moves. I am not joking when I tell you I threw a handful of M&M's on the kitchen table to distract her and then ran away with the cake in order to take a photo.

In a panic I searched for the perfect backdrop. I knew I had mere seconds to accomplish the task at hand; Elise devours M&Ms with astounding speed and ferocity. I can't imagine where she gets it from.

I finally settled for the rug in our foyer. Yes, the surface on which people wipe their muddy feet was the perfect place to set my scrumptious dessert.

Meanwhile, another child began yelling from the bathroom "COME WIPE MEEE!" Ignoring his cries for the sake of art, I frantically arranged the plates to create the illusion of 2 things we never actually use while eating: tablecloths and restraint.

In a frenzied cold sweat, I positioned myself above my masterpiece and whipped out my camera phone. Unfortunately, despite my feverish pace, I was too slow. I watched as a tiny hand reached past my foot to grab the artfully placed fork just as I snapped the photo. The life of a food blogger is super glamorous, you guys.

This pic proves that all you really need to be a food blogger are some killer Instagram filters.
I'm coming for ya, Joy the Baker.

3) I post a fantastic Thanksgiving recipe the week after Thanksgiving.

It's ok, you could still make it for Christmas. Or for Tuesday. Whenevs.

So glam. So delish. 

My friend Alev made this Pumpkin Bundt Cake several years ago and it was so good I hounded her for the recipe until she gave it up. I've made it every autumn since because I like to steal other people's best recipes and pretend they are mine.

As a food blogger it is important to take lots of close-up pictures, giving the distinct impression that you are a professional baker, and to also hide the fact that the unpictured cake has been completely decimated. 
If my remarkable food photography has not already convinced you to make this dish, please allow me to explain the gloriousness that is bundt cake. Bundt cake is obviously a fabulous dessert, but it's even light and muffin-y enough to pass as a suitable breakfast item. You can skip the ganache if anyone objects to their breakfast being glazed in chocolate. Or you can just not invite those people to breakfast.

Also, pumpkin counts as a vegetable so you could totally eat this for dinner too.

Finally, did you know that 'ganache' is harder to say than make?? Seriously, SO easy. You will be ganaching all the food after this.

There. I hope I've convinced you. I'll just leave you with this one final, stunning photo and accompanying recipe. Now if you'll excuse me, I'm sure "Martha Stewart Living" will be calling any minute.


Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In a mixing bowl combine: 3 cups flour, 2 cups sugar, 2 tsp baking soda, 2 tsp baking powder, ½ tsp salt, ½ tsp cinnamon

Add the following and blend until well mixed: 1 cup melted butter, 4 large eggs, 2 cups pumpkin purée

Stir in: 1 (12 oz.) package of chocolate chips

Bake in well-greased bundt pan for 1 hour until toothpick comes out clean.  Remove from pan and cool.


Bring 1 cup heavy cream to a boil, pour over 8 oz bittersweet chocolate (do not use chocolate chips). Cover with foil for 5 minutes, then whisk together. Pour over the cooled cake!

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Love Your Neighbor as Yourself...Unless it's Kinda Hard

I want to turn off the news. I want to snuggle my kids in their beds and read stories and forget about all the hurt that exists outside our very door. I want to avoid debates and uncomfortable conversations and just stick with sharing silly stories of motherhood and awkward pick-up lines. But there’s one story I can’t stop thinking about, a story that is nagging my mind and haunting my thoughts every time I try to get on with my comfy life.

This story is about a man who was beaten, robbed and left for dead on the side of the road. As he is lying helpless, 2 men walk by. They are respected figures in their community; they are religious leaders, but they walk on past. Perhaps they do not have the time to help or do not feel the obligation to this stranger who is so far removed from their busy, privileged lives.

A third man walks down the road. The thing about this third man is that he is of a completely different nationality and culture than the stranger. In fact, their cultures despise each other. Even still, the third man helps this stranger. He puts all of his own plans on hold and spends the day tending to the stranger’s wounds, giving him a ride back to his town, finding a place for him to recover and footing the bill for the entire ordeal. Even more remarkable is that just by entering the stranger’s land, the third man could have been killed, his people were that hated. He risked it all to help a stranger.

I probably don’t have to tell you that this story is the parable of the Good Samaritan that Jesus told in the Gospel of Luke when asked “who is my neighbor?”

The Samaritan gave his time, his money and risked his very life to help a man he had been taught to fear and hate.

And Jesus says “Go and do the same.”

I fail every day at finding Jesus in the needy, the neglected and the marginalized. How easy it is to see a homeless person and think “addict.” A welfare recipient becomes a “freeloader.” A refugee becomes a “terrorist.”

I don’t want to spend my life espousing Christian platitudes that fall apart when I’m forced outside my comfort zone. My greatest hope as a parent is to teach my children to love God and love others. Not “love others who look like you.” Not “be kind and have courage…unless you’re scared of the unknown.” Not “do unto others…unless it gets in the way of your own self-preservation.”

It’s hard. There are so many questions unanswered, so much pain, so many reasons to shut our doors to refugees in need.

But I can’t ignore the one truth that I know for sure:

“Love your neighbor as yourself.”

A Syrian refugee family living in my city. Click here to read their story.

Friday, November 6, 2015

Finding Goodness in the Cracks

*Originally published on Hello, Dearest for MOPS International

When it comes to a Thanksgiving feast, there is only one thing more important than preparing the traditional eats: making sure everything looks perfect enough for a magazine photo shoot. Because if you can’t impress your friends and family with your impeccable food presentation and themed tablescapes, then what is the point of the holidays anyway?

At least, those were the thoughts that lurked in the back of my head a few years ago as I prepared to host a dozen or so relatives for Thanksgiving dinner. The menu was planned, extra linens were purchased and approximately 72 trips to the grocery store had been made. Only one thing could stand in the way of my perfect Thanksgiving celebration: pumpkin cheesecake. You see, there was one flaw in my cheesecake that bugged me to no end each year. Every year I baked it; and every year it cracked.

I usually disguised the crack with artistic swirls of whipped cream, but that year I was determined to make a picture-perfect pumpkin cheesecake.

I stayed up late one night researching no-fail, no-crack cheesecake baking methods. Some recipes swore by the water bath technique. Others suggested adding a little cornstarch to the batter. Whatever tricks and tips the recipes recommended, they all preached the importance of cooling the cheesecake very slowly. Whatever you do, DO NOT open the oven door while the cheesecake is baking.

So that year, with the help of my eager 3-year-old son, we put all of the advice to work. We added cornstarch to the batter as we discussed his favorite part of preschool (lunchtime). While preparing the water bath, we debated the very best superhero (verdict: Superman) and as we added the finishing touches he confided in me his future ambition (to be a toy salesman). Finally, we popped the cheesecake in the oven and shut the door with our fingers crossed.

Periodically, I peeked through the oven window. My cheesecake was progressing beautifully! I turned away to continue other preparations only to hear a little voice behind me, “Look, Mommy! Our cake is going to be so yummy!” I turned and to my horror, saw my son peering in at the cheesecake, with the oven door wide open.

I screamed. I stomped. I threw a dish towel on the floor. I may have banged my head against the refrigerator. It was not pretty. And then I saw little tears beginning to well up in my son’s eyes, “I’m sorry, Mommy, I just wanted to peek at our yummy cake.”

Needless to say, our cheesecake came out of the oven with a crack that year. Actually, it was more like a giant crater. And somehow, despite the crack, it was still delicious. In my quest for perfection I had missed the goodness in the cracks.

A perfect cheesecake is not nearly as important as the act of baking with someone you love. What is on the table is not nearly as important as who is around it.

I apologized to my son for my dramatic outburst and promised myself to never again get so carried away by cheesecake, which is no small undertaking considering the power that cheese and cake possess when they join forces. Funnily enough, the crack in our pumpkin cheesecake has become a Thanksgiving tradition just as much as the dessert itself. I no longer try to hide the crack, instead it reminds me not to focus on the imperfections, but on the beauty in the flaws.

This year, let us be thankful to gather hand-in-hand with the people we love. Let us celebrate the goodness that comes from acknowledging our shortcomings. Let us be thankful for those who love us, cracks and all.