Upside-Down Blood Orange Polenta Cake

Upside-Down Blood Orange Polenta Cake RecipeThe markets are spilling over with lavish amounts of spritely citrus, and I am taking full advantage of the abundance.  I love them all but I will admit that I have a secret (or not so secret) love affair with blood oranges.  As an artist, I am drawn to their electrifying color, and as a baker I am inspired by their citrusy sweetness.  Each time I cut into a blood orange, I am smitten all over again.  Just beneath its mottled orange and red peel, segments of crimson pulp burst with vibrant pink juice.  If you haven’t experienced a  blood orange, you don’t know what you’re missing.
Upside-Down Blood Orange Polenta Cake RecipeThis cake allows the exotic blood orange to shine.  It’s rainbow of warm color sits atop a tender and exceptionally moist cake.  Polenta delivers a rustic bite while complimenting the tangy essence of the citrus.
Upside-Down Blood Orange and Polenta Cake Recipe Upside-Down Blood Orange and Polenta Cake RecipeThere is a bit of preparation in readying the fruit for this cake, but with a well sharpened knife, it goes pretty quickly.  The only other advice I have for you is to be extra vigilant in removing all the white pith from the oranges.  The smallest amount can result in a bitter bite of cake.  And one last thing, this cake is delicious and most beautiful when served warm from the oven.  By the second day, the oranges loose their shine and become a touch withered.
Upside-Down Blood Orange and Polenta Cake Recipe

Adapted from Bon Appetit

Spiced Shortbread Cookies

Spiced Shortbread Cookie RecipeI’ll admit, I’m a bit tardy getting this recipe to you.  As apparent from the warm colors and Fall leaves on the background linen, I shot these photos pre-Thanksgiving.  Ignoring the seasonal feel of the photos, this recipe easily transitions right into a cookie perfect for the Winter holidays.  In fact, as far as I’m concerned, this is a year-round keeper.
Spiced Shortbread Cookie RecipeI adapted this recipe from Country Living Magazine, taking the liberty of making a change that I feel definitely enhances this shortbread.  I added the flavor of orange.  I added two teaspoons of orange peel powder to the dough, and drizzled Lindt Excellence Intense Orange Dark chocolate over top of the cooled cookies.  During a recent trip to New York, my daughter took me to a marvelous spice shop.  I went a little crazy, scooping up armfuls of anything unique or unusual that I didn’t already have in my extensive spice cabinet.  (I collect spices like some women collect shoes.)  That spice shop is where I found the orange powder I used in this recipe.  Not to fret if you don’t have this ingredient, just add a teaspoon of grated orange peel in its place.
Spiced Shortbread Cookie RecipeI’m not a calorie counter, nor do I focus on ‘healthy’ when it comes to the sweets I eat.  However,  I’m going out on a limb here and considering this a nutritious cookie since its main ingredient is whole wheat flour.  Maybe ‘nutritious’ is a bit of a stretch, but with that familiar crispy crunchy bite of shortbread, a helping of warm spice, and a hint of citrus, this shortbread cookie has it all going on.
Spiced Shortbread Cookie Recipe





Butternut Squash Chess Pie

Butternut Squash Chess PieThe color of this burnt orange pie could be misleading.  Cinnamon, ginger, and cloves are not among its ingredients.  Instead, lemon is the starring flavor in this pie.  Together with lemon, roasted butternut squash is added to this classically southern pie, and the result is a filling of tangy citrusy custard, made richer and smoother thanks to the sweet nutty taste of the roasted squash.
Butternut Squash Chess Pie RecipeButternut Squash Chess Pie RecipeButternut Squash Chess Pie RecipeButternut Squash Chess Pie Recipe
There is nothing fancy or complicated about this pie.  Most of the ingredients are staple items.  If you have a squash on hand, you are good to go!

Cinnamon and sugar pie crust cookiesButternut Squash Chess Pie Recipe


Adapted from Food Network Magzine

Espresso Gingerbread Cake

Espresso Gingerbread Cake RecipeThe Santa Ana winds were gusting Sunday night,  and just as I had predicted, the power went out.  Likely to find myself in the dark before the evening was over, I had lit candles throughout the house and tucked a small flashlight nearby.  As anticipated, the lights flickered on and off as the power supplied to our neighborhood gave way to mother nature’s will.
Espresso Gingerbread Cake RecipeEspresso Gingerbread Cake RecipeAfter I adjusted my evening’s plans from watching television and working on my computer to reading by the glow of candlelight, I welcomed the break from routine; the mindlessness and distraction that can so often accompany the background noises in life.  I curled up with old friends, holiday baking magazines I have been collecting for years.  Each year they seem new again.  Along the way I found this little jewel of a recipe.  So simple and so delicious.
Espresso Gingerbread Cake Recipe Espresso Gingerbread Cake LR-5888 Thank you mother nature for providing a space for me to just ‘be’!
Espresso Gingerbread Cake Recipe


Adapted from Fine Cooking Holiday Baking 2004

Pecan Pie Bars

Pecan Pie BarsI have quite the collection of cookbooks.  Some people might think it excessive, but I think of each and everyone of them as a friend.  I spend endless hours flipping through their pages, inhaling the smell and savoring the taste of each recipe via my imagination.  My favorite books are the vintage cookbooks.  There is history to be discovered between their covers.  When I peruse their pages, I travel to a time when cooking and baking seemed simpler, especially baking.  I think of how far the world of baking has come, even in the last number of decades.  We have at our disposal so many more ingredients, gadgets, and pieces of equipment.  The possibilities are endless.  Of course, all that considered, the past provides the foundation from which all our modern-day baking comes, and for that I owe a debt of gratitude to the pioneers in the field of baking.
Pecan Pie Bars RecipeWhile looking through one of my older cookbooks recently, I came upon a recipe for what the book called Penuche Bars.  I was immediately drawn in by the title.  I shared in this post from last year just what a fan of penuche I am.  Enticed,  I gave the recipe a try.  What resulted was a very delicious bar cookie, but not exactly one reminiscent enough of penuche to be called that.  It more so resembled a slice of caramely, chewy, and nutty pecan pie than brown sugar fudge, and I’m not complaining about that .  Once I got out of my head what I expected the bars were going to be, and embraced them for what they were, I realized I had stumbled upon a keeper of a recipe.  Even more than that, I actually prefer these bars over pecan pie, because sometimes the pie can be too goopy and syrupy for me.  So this Thanksgiving, give them a try.  You might just become a convert too!
Pecan Pie Bars RecipePecan Pie Bars



Crust adapted from Carole Walter’s Great Cookies
Filling adapted from Farm Journal’s Country Cookbook