Half Moon Bay Pumpkin Bread

When I lived up in the Bay area, I loved going down to Half Moon Bay. It is such a pretty area. I don’t miss much about California at all, but there are a few things I do miss, like my beautiful Pacific Ocean and the miles and miles of gorgeous coastline that runs up and down the state. Half Moon Bay is a sleepy little coastal town just south of San Francisco. It is know for its HUGE maverick waves and surfing. It is also know for its pumpkins.

Half Moon Bay is known as the pumpkin capital of the world, though there are other states that are also known for producing a lot of pumpkins too. More than 3000 tons of pumpkins are grown in the area every year. During the fall, everything is pumpkin in Half Moon Bay. The largest pumpkin ever to be grown from the area weighed in at 2560 lbs and was appropriately named “Maverick”.

While I was looking for good recipes for this week’s coffee cart, a recipe for Half Moon Bay pumpkin bread just called out to me. It’s not pumpkin season or fall though, which is usually when the pumpkins start to call out to me. Maybe it was because I had a can of pumpkin puree out on the counter. Or maybe I was just feeling a bit nostalgic. Who knows why I chose to make this particular recipe at this time, other than it just sounded so good. And it is every bit as good as I hoped it would be too. So moist and flavorful. YUMMY!

Of course I changed the recipe, though just slightly. That’s just what I do. ๐Ÿ™‚

Half Moon Bay Pumpkin Bread

This pumpkin bread has hints of spice and orange and chocolate flecks mixed throughout. I had some dark chocolate with orange added to it which was a very nice addition to this delicious pumpkin bread.

4 eggs

3 cups sugar

1 cup vegetable oil

1 can or 2 cups pureed pumpkin

3 cups flour

2 tsp baking soda

1 tsp baking powder

1 tsp salt

1 1/2 tsp cinnamon

1/4 tsp nutmeg

1/4 tsp allspice

1/2 tsp ginger

2/3 cup orange juice

1 4-oz chocolate bar

chocolate ganache for topping, optional

Preheat the oven to 350* F or 190*C.

Spray two loaf pans with cooking spray.

Combine all the dry ingredients together well and set aside.

Mix the eggs, sugar and oil together until creamy. Add 1/2 of the flour and mix, 1/2 of the pumpkin and mix, and repeat until everything is combined together.

Cut or shave the chocolate into tiny pieces, then fold into the batter.

Pour 1/2 of the batter into each prepared pan and bake for about 1 1/4 hours or until a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean.

Allow the bread to cool completely before removing from the pans. You can definitely eat it as is if you like, or you can dress it up a bit by drizzling a chocolate ganache over the top. I like to dress it up.

Then slice and share with friends. This delicious, orange spiced pumpkin cake is a definite winner. You are going to love it. I promise. ๐Ÿ™‚

Have a great day and make everyday great. Stay safe and stay well. ‘Til next time.

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Nature Walks – Sometimes I See

It is Egret season around our lakes, and they are coming out in droves. I see them almost everyday now. They are welcome anytime they want to come out to play. I never tire of seeing them. They are so beautiful and graceful.

I see them in the reeds most often. This seems to be one of their favorite places.

Sometimes they play with friends, but and sometimes they don’t.

Sometimes, I see them in the marshy areas.

Sometimes, I see them in the trees.

Sometimes, I see them on the rocks, with or without friends.

Sometimes, I’ll see a couple at a time, or maybe even three.

Sometimes I catch them in flight.

But this time, there were five, all lined up in a row along the water’s edge. This is something I have never seen before, until now.

Have a great day and make everyday great. ‘Til next time.

Peanut Butter Cookies

I have never met a cookie I didn’t like. If it has cookie in the name, I am going to like it. Granted, there are some cookies I like better than others, however, I will eat them all, given the chance. ๐Ÿ™‚

I usually start doing all my baking for the church coffee cart on Wednesdays, so I can get everything ready without being rushed. This week was no different. This time I made peanut butter cookies. I LOVE peanut butter cookies, but then I also love peanut butter. I had more than I thought my recipe was going to make, so I just had to try one or two, you know for quality control and all. I was very pleasantly surprised at this, because usually it is the other way around. I usually get less than the recipe says I will. They came out so good! YUMMY!

The peanut butter cookie wasย invented in the 1910′s, when George Washington Carver of Alabama’s Tuskegee Institute published a peanut cookbook in an effort to promote the crop.

Have you ever wondered why peanut butter cookies have the forked criss-cross on top? I know I have. Peanut butter is a pretty dense ingredient. When you add it to cookie dough the cookies will bake with this density. Adding the criss-cross pattern or “hash marks” to your cookiesย allows them to bake evenly. So there you go. Now we all know. ๐Ÿ™‚

Peanut Butter Cookies

2 1/2 cups flour

1/2 tsp baking soda

1/2 tsp baking powder

1/2 tsp salt

2 sticks of butter, softened

1 cup firmly packed brown sugar

1 cup sugar

1 cup peanut butter, either plain or with nuts

2 eggs

2 tsp vanilla

1 cup chopped peanuts

Preheat the oven top 350* F or 190*C.

Line the cookie sheets with parchment paper.

Combine all the dry ingredients together and set aside.

Chop the peanuts.

Mix the butter and sugars together until creamy, then add the eggs and vanilla, and beat in between each addition.

Add 1/2 of the flour mixture and beat. Then 1/2 of the peanut butter and beat, and repeat until everything is mixed together well.

When the dough is mixed, take about 1 TBSP of dough and roll it into a ball. Repeat until all the dough is used. Take a fork and press into a criss-cross on top of each cookie. Sprinkle the chopped nuts over the tops of the pressed cookies and slightly press into the dough with your finger tips.

Bake for about 15 minutes or until the cookies are set and have a light golden edge around them. You can rotate the cookies at about the half mark if they do not look like they are cooking evenly.

Let them cool then share with friends. I promise you, they will disappear quickly though, so get some while you can. ๐Ÿ™‚

Have a great day and make everyday great. Stay safe and stay well. ‘Til next time.

Nature Walks – More Spring Flowers

As you know, I love flowers. There are so many pretty, colorful flowers popping up all around me that it’s hard for me NOT to be in awe and take a lot of pictures. Here are some of my latest floral gems.

I will share more beautiful flowers with you later. There are so many to see and to share. It’s good to space them out a bit, so we can appreciate them longer, just like in life.

Perfect For A Potluck

Monday night was the last of our Bible Study group for this season. We will resume again in the fall. Our small but mighty group of friends always has a potluck before we “get to work”. We have a rotating list featuring salads, appetizers, main meals, and desserts. This week it was my week for the main meal. I made a batch of honey mustard chicken and roasted potatoes and vegetables for the group. They were a big success. Even though our group was smaller than usual, there wasn’t much left at the end of the evening.

For both the vegetables and the potatoes, I just tossed and coated them with olive oil, salt, pepper and garlic, then roasted them at 425* F or 219* C for about 40-45 minutes.

I par-boiled the potatoes first in water with a little vinegar added, for about 30 minutes. When they were done, I drained them and tossed then in the olive oil mixture before roasting them. Adding vinegar helps add a thin crust to the potatoes, which helps to preserve the shape of the potatoes. The vinegar’s acid prevents the pectin in potatoes from breaking down too quickly.

There was no need to cook the vegetables first before roasting them. When the potatoes were ready to go into the oven, I just cooked them both together. They both came out cooked to perfection. ๐Ÿ™‚

My vegetable mixture included broccoli rabe, carrots, tomatoes and garlic. I meant to add red onions too, but I forgot. I don’t think anyone missed them at all though. They were still very colorful and delicious.

I made a simple honey and Dijon mustard sauce, with a little white balsamic vinegar and tarragon tossed in to both marinate and cook the chicken in. I put the chicken in the oven at the same time as the potatoes and vegetables. Every now and then, I coated the chicken with more of the sauce from the pan to keep it moist and tender.

When it was all done and ready to go, I covered them both up and off we went. Simple, easy-peasy food to go.

Sometimes people stress over potlucks. What do I bring? How can I transport it? Don’t fret about it. The key to bringing good potluck foods it to make something deliciously simple and easily transportable. These recipes were both. Don’t sweat the small stuff. In the end, things usually work out just fine. As I said, everything was a big hit and there wasn’t much left over at all. That is always a good sign of success. ๐Ÿ™‚

Have a great day and make everyday great. Stay safe and stay well. ‘Til next time.

Nature Walks – My Duck-A-Lings Are Back

My lakes are now complete. I have my goslings and now I have some “duck-a-lings” too. There was a momma Mallard with eight of her precious and precocious little darlings. They were having so much fun splish splashing in the water. Momma wanted to get out but the babies were having way too much fun. Typical. ๐Ÿ™‚

I call them duck-a-lings, rather than ducklings because years ago, my niece had brought her two young daughters out to visit us and her older daughter, who was all of about three at the time, called our ducklings duck-a-lings. The cute term just stuck and I have used it ever since.

Life is short. Make the most of it and play to your heart’s content as long as you can. Be like the duck-a-lings. ๐Ÿ™‚

Lemon Poppy Seed Cake

I don’t what it is about the combination of lemon and poppy seeds that makes it so appealing and delicious, but what I do know is that they go together perfectly. I have always loved poppy seeds and anything lemon will always get my vote. For those of us who live in the United States, as well as many other parts of the world, the combination of lemon and poppy seeds is a gift that we are able to enjoy and savor. However, in many other parts of the world, the use of poppy seeds is illegal.

Poppy seeds come from the poppy flowers. These beautiful flowers come in many different colors and are found in most places around the world. In many countries, mostly England and her English speaking cousins, the poppy holds a special place of remembrance for the fallen.

Poppy seeds have also been used to enhance the flavors and nutrients in foods since the first century A.D. Poppy seeds are ancient oilseeds thought to have originated in the Mediterranean area. They wereย first cultivated in the first century AD and used in bread making. Then, the seeds spread by the Roman Empire and its use in food production further developed in Europe.

But the poppy is also known for other things that are not so great. The poppy plant,ย Papaver somniferum, produces opium, a powerful narcotic whose derivatives include morphine, codeine, heroin, and oxycodone. (I am very allergic to codeine and all it’s derivatives, yet surprisingly NOT to poppy seeds). The term โ€œnarcoticโ€ refers to opium, opium derivatives, and their semi-synthetic substitutes.ย  Narcotics are used therapeutically to treat pain, suppress cough, alleviate diarrhea, and induce anesthesia. However, they are some of the most addictive substances known to man. As misused drugs, they are often smoked, sniffed, or injected.

The earliest reference to opium growth and use is in 3,400 B.C. when the opium poppy was cultivated in lower Mesopotamia (Southwest Asia). The Sumerians referred to it asย Hul Gil, the “joy plant.” The Sumerians soon passed it on to the Assyrians, who in turn passed it on to the Egyptians. As people learned of the power of opium, demand for it increased. Many countries began to grow and process opium to expand its availability and to decrease its cost. Its cultivation spread along the Silk Road, from the Mediterranean through Asia and finally to China where it was the catalyst for the Opium Wars of the mid-1800s. So because poppy seeds are used to make drugs, both legal and illegal, many countries around the world have banned them and have made them illegal.

As I mentioned above, fortunately, I live in a country that still allows the use of poppy seeds. I put them to good use and made a lemon poppy seed cake.

Lemon Poppy Seeds Cake

3 cups flour

3 TBSP lemon zest

1 tsp baking powder

1/2 tsp baking soda

1 tsp salt

3/4 cup buttermilk

1 tsp lemon extract

1 tsp vanilla

2 TBSP poppy seeds

3 eggs

2 1/4 sticks softened butter

2 cups sugar

Preheat the oven 350* F or 190*C.

Spray a bundt pan with cooking spray.

Combine all the dry ingredients together and mix well. Set aside.

Mix the butter and sugar together until creamy. Add the eggs one at a time and mix in between each addition. Add the vanilla and the lemon extract and mix again. Add 1/2 of the flour mixture and mix, then add 1/2 of the buttermilk and mix, then repeat.

Spread the batter evenly into the prepared pan and bake for 50-60 minutes, or until it is lightly golden and a toothpick that is inserted in the middle comes out clean.

Allow the cake to cool completely before removing it from the pan and adding the glaze.

The Glaze

2 TBSP lemon juice

1 TBSP lemon extract

1 TBSP milk or buttermilk

2 cups powdered sugar

Mix everything together and drizzle over the cooled cake.

Slice the cake and enjoy with friends and family. This cake was completely gone. There was not a single morsel left at the end of the day. This is always a very good thing. When nothing is left and the plate is clean, that is a very telling sign that it was thoroughly enjoyed by all. I’ll take this form of compliment anytime and every time. ๐Ÿ™‚

Have a great day and make everyday great. Stay safe and stay well. ‘Til next time.

Doing Time In Laramie

As I mentioned in my post yesterday The Alibi, Laramie, WY is only a couple of hours north of us. So it is a very easy and pleasant day trip for us. The terrain for Northern Colorado and Southern Wyoming are very similar, although Larry and I both agree that Colorado is prettier. Both are very dry, arid states located in the Rocky Mountains with high altitudes. We both get the Chinook winds, though Wyoming is even windier than Colorado. And we are both known for our sunshine and blue, blue skies. Are we in Colorado or are we in Wyoming?

We had a good time up Laramie. We took in the sights of the town, ate lunch at Alibi, and after lunch we decided to “do some time” at the Wyoming Territorial Prison. Our time was voluntary, unlike the prisoners who actually did time there for real. The Wyoming Territorial Prison is now a state park.

At the time the prison was built, it was the tallest and one of the most elaborate structures in Wyoming.

The Wyoming Territorial Prison is one of the oldest buildings in the whole state of Wyoming. It opened its gates in 1872 and was both a state and Federal prison for about 30 years. It closed down as a prison in 1903. To some, it was known as “the Big House across the river”, since it is located in Western Laramie, across the river.

During its time as a prison, over 1000 prisoners were locked up between these walls for crimes such as grand larceny, cattle rustling, murder and other various crimes as well. It housed about 150 prisoners at maximum capacity. It started as a maximum security prison, but due to a very high escape rate of about 25% within the first few years of operation, it was lessoned to a lowered security prison. It was completely built by the prisoners themselves. One of the harshest punishments for the prisoners was that they were meant to keep completely silent throughout their tenure. This however, proved impossible to maintain, and was changed, however, speaking was still supposed to be kept to a minimum.

The prisoners were brought to the prison in this wagon that was drawn by the big Percheron horses.

Percherons were used because of their great size, strength and stamina. Percherons were also the horses most often used in war, to carry the heavy artillery and equipment.

The prisoners were brought in bound and shackled.

As soon as they were brought inside, they were processed, given their prison clothes, and had their heads shaved.

The Warden’s office was located directly acorss the hall.

When the Warden was not in his office, he and his family were in their home, just outside the prison walls. Their life was fairly luxurious, especially compared to the prisoners.

As luxurious as the Warden’s life seemed, he and his family shared these small quarters with the guards and often their families as well. So quarters were still very cramped.

The most famous inmate at the prison was Butch Cassidy, born as Robert LeRoy Parker. He served there for about 2 years. Ironically, he was let out for good behavior, but it was after his release that his life really turned to crime. He and his gang, the Wild Bunch Gang, were notorious and dangerous criminals. They were loved by the pubic though, because they were thought of as “the Robin Hoods” of the west, stealing from the rich and giving back to the poor.

Larry was an honorary gang member for the day, but thankfully after being “locked up”, he realized a life of crime was not for him.

I too was “locked up”, and realized a life of crime is not for me either.

Inside the prison.

The cells were very small – 6x8x8 or in some cells, 5x7x7. There were at least two, and often times three prisoners per cell. Conditions were tough. There were only chamber pots, with no running water in the cells. Needless to say, the prison and its cells were a bit ripe.

Life was lived by the bell. This bell is VERY loud and very SHRILL. It was rung in a series of different amounts to determine what time of day it was, and what was the next “activity”, whether it was time to get up, or eat, or go to work, or go to bed.

Each prisoner was responsible for doing his or her own laundry. Most of the prisoners were men, however, there were seven women who also did time, and even one married couple, though they never saw each other. The women were kept completely separate from the men.

The prisoners were also responsible for cooking the meals. It was only the most trusted of prisoners who were allowed to work in the kitchen.

This room served double duty. It was used as a resting room for the guards, but was also used as a room of restraint for the worst of the worst.

The prisoners were allowed to take a bath once a week. But the water was not changed in between bathers. Once again, the prisoners who were well behaved had the privilege of having the first baths, and everyone else had the sloppy and dirty seconds and thirds and so on, until everyone was “clean”.

The infirmary. I wouldn’t want to get sick or injured here. The treatments were pretty rudmentary at best.

The prisoners were also expected to work. The coveted jobs within the prison walls were the jobs in either the broom making section or in the carpentry section, which were housed in the same building. Once again, only the well behaved prisoners were allowed to work in these sections.

Broom making was a booming business, but no one wanted to really know their brooms were made by prisoners, so the prison was contracted out by the Laramie Broom Company.

The brooms were made from the “broom corn”, which is actually more like a sorghum. The city of Broomfield here in Colorado, just a hop, skip and a jump away from us, actually got its name for this very same broom corn.

There were some very skilled craftsman and furniture makers within the prison as well. This was made entirely by prisoners and was a piece of furniture that was in the Warden’s house. It was exquisite and beautifully crafted.

This was a very informative and historic tour. At first Larry wasn’t interested in doing it, but once he found out that it was actually part of the state park system, he changed his mind. I am really glad we took the tour. Seeing how hard life was, not only for the prisoners, but life in general, it really makes me appreciate the good life we have even more.

Have a great day and make everyday great (try your best to stay out of prison). Stay safe and stay well. ‘Til next time.

The Alibi

Saturday, Larry and I decided to do one of our little drives. This time it took us up to Laramie, WY. We are only a little over an hour’s drive away from the Wyoming border and Cheyenne. Laramie isn’t too much further than that. Laramie is the 3 largest city in WY, with a population of only about 33,000 people. We had a fun day exploring the Laramie area.

While out and about, we were talking to some of the locals, and they recommended we try Alibi for lunch. Glad we did too. It was a delicious lunch, Alibi offers a wide selection of homemade goodies and baked goods everyday. That’s not something you see much of any more.

These are the homemade bakery selections and daily breads.

The bakery where all the magic is made.

Everything is homemade and fabulous. Alibi is famous for the baked goods and breads, but especially for their wood fired pizzas. We tried both the pizza and a strawberry cream dessert and thoroughly enjoyed both. They just hit the spot. We shared them both and it was just enough.

The wood-fired chicken pesto pizza for lunch,

cooked in this fancy and colorful wood-fired pizza oven,

and a strawberry cream pastry for dessert. YUMMY!

Alibi was a hoppin’ place. It was filled with people enjoying their lunch and each other’s company. Most people were inside around the bar area.

But it was such a gorgeous day outside, albeit a bit windy, Laramie is famous for it’s high winds, so Larry and I opted to dine outside in the large, grassy section. There are two firepits outside and plenty of tables. Alibi is even dog and pet friendly as long as they are outside. There is even a little stage area that I bet hosts a lot of local bands in the summer. It’s a fantastic, fun and comfortable environment for summer concerts.

There is an even a smoker that smokes all the locally grown meats Alibi uses for their delicious recipes.

Alibi is full of personality and down-home charm. It even has a funky side to it as well. I liked this fun little Alibi sign that was parked in their backyard.

Next time you are in Laramie, even if only for the day like we were, I highly recommend stopping in at Alibi for a good home baked lunch. I am so glad we ran into the people who referred us to Alibi, and that we stopped in for lunch. I wish to pass on the good tidings to all of you as well. I guarantee, you’re going to love it. And if you can, sit outside and enjoy their outside patio area.

Alibi is located at 404 South 4th Street, Laramie, WY 82070. You can call them at (307) 745-9738 or just stop in like we did. Either way, you will definitely be glad you did. You can also reach them online at http://www.alibiwoodfire.com.

Have a great day and make everyday great. And if you stop in at Alibi, you’ll have some great tasty treats too. Stay safe and stay well. ‘Til next time.

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