Pumpkin Cinnamon Sugar Doughnuts

I think I might’ve mentioned once or twice on here (more like a billions times, really) how much I happen to love doughnuts. Just in case you didn’t already know this about me, I love them more than life itself. Cross my heart and kiss my elbow. They’re my all-time favorite dessert/breakfast/treat/midnight snack/reason for living. I don’t really care much for chocolate or ice cream or cookies or cake—I’m totally lying because I still love them all just as much—but doughnuts? Doughnuts are an entirely different story. Doughnuts are my one true passion in life. Doughnuts are my body and soul. I can eat them like no one’s business. Night and day. Day and night. Prepare yourselves if doughnuts are anywhere present and I’m not offered one. I’ll go crazy. Probably flip a table over and destroy everything in sight, like Godzilla. That’s what doughnuts do to me. Just a warning though, if you do offer me one I’ll probably eat them all, without shame, and without so much as a second thought.

This year I’ve dropped the ball on the pumpkin recipe game. I’m sorry. It’s not as strong as it has been over the years. Do you remember this delicious Pumpkin Mac and Cheese? Yeah, it’s sort of out of this world. The perfect autumn dinner recipe to blow people’s minds. What about these ridiculously fluffy Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Cookies? Are you having withdrawals yet? Then you should probably make a batch soon. Eating just one isn’t an option. This year however, I kind of forgot how much I love this season and how obsessed I am with pumpkin. It dawned on me the other day that I hadn’t posted a new pumpkin recipe all year. We’re halfway through October already, and there was no pumpkin spice anything to be found. I needed to take care of that right away. 

These Pumpkin Cinnamon Sugar Doughnuts sort of combine my three favorites; doughnuts, pumpkin and cinnamon. They’re so perfect I don’t know whether to eat them for breakfast before work, or as a snack in between meals, or even as a tasty dessert after dinner. It’s such a dilemma that the only logical solution I have is to eat them all day long. That way, I don’t have to fret too much about when is the right time to binge on doughnuts. The answer to which is, always. It’s always the right time to shove doughnuts in your face. I hope that’s the one valuable lesson you take away from me. Let’s get back to thinking up new ways to incorporate pumpkin into our lives. I’m not complaining. 

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Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Cookies

It’s the day before Thanksgiving and we are all running around like mad people trying to check off items on our long to-do lists. The Pre-Thanksgiving tasks have begun. No amount of mental planning could have prepared us for all of this. Although our lists are nicely organized we cannot help but still feel overwhelmed and anxious. It does not matter how much time we spend mapping everything out, to the last detail, we somehow still do not feel super confident about all that goes into this big event. Everything that has yet to be done. From all that needs to be prepped, cleaned and cooked, to the table setting and anticipation of our guests’ needs. We have a lot to do in a short amount of time. Of course there are some of us who live for these moments. Big gatherings and celebrations where we can cook ridiculous amounts of food in a short period of time and not feel an ounce of pressure. Unfortunately, not all of us our lucky to be that way. For the most part, we fall into that percentage of people where preparing a big Thanksgiving feast just sounds completely daunting to us. We are nervous and worried that we will not be able to get everything finished on time. All the worst possible scenarios run through our heads, and we shudder at the thought that we might have forgotten something, so we run through our lists about twenty more times within the hour. Then the worst does happen. You are in the middle of cooking something and you realize that you are out of a certain ingredient, or that you completely forgot to get an item at the grocery store. That occurs even to the best of us. There is so much on our minds, it seems only natural that we will forget something, or that we thought we had a certain ingredient but come to find we ran out or were mistaken.

When those moments of panic arise, it is best to just relax. Nothing will get solved by panicking and getting upset. We must run through our options in our minds. Do without the ingredient? Use a substitution? Or go to the market for a quick trip and brave the madness with the rest of the forgetters and the last minute shoppers? Perhaps the ingredient is not that important and you can just omit it. I have done that before. In which case, just laugh it off and continue cooking without it. If the ingredient is important but you do not feel like putting your shoes and coat on, hopping into your car, driving to the market, braving the craziness of the last minute shoppers and the long lines at checkout, well then perhaps a substitution will work for you. Surely there is something in your pantry or fridge that will give your recipe the same taste or effect without going out of your way. To help you on your substitutional journey, here is a handy dandy holiday substitution resource put together by my friend Russell over at Chasing Delicious. It is an “informational potluck” with tips and tricks submitted by a variety of food bloggers and cookbook authors, including yours truly. And last but not least, if you cannot skip the ingredient all together or even find an adequate substitution for it, well then your last resort is to put on your brave face and go to the market. Go with your goal in mind. No fuss no muss. Walk in there like you own the place. Shoot straight for the aisle, grab your ingredient, and go pay. If you convince another brave soul to go with you, have them wait in line while you retrieve your item, that way you can get out even faster.

With all the planning and work we put into this holiday, or any holiday for that matter, we all fail to realize one thing. The holidays are not about impressing people, or busting our chops to try and make the “perfect” everything. Life is not perfect. Sometimes things do not go as planned and we need to accept that that is okay. Thanksgiving should not be stressful or overwhelming. Although at times, it seems inevitable when planning a big meal for family and friends. We want to impress and make a great feast that everyone will enjoy, but it is important to stop, take a step back, and breathe deeply. This day is about being around loved ones and enjoying yourself. It is about being thankful for everything around you. It is a day for appreciating those people that we do not get to see often and for giving thanks for the opportunities that have arisen and been given to us.

You can spend the entire day stressed, cooking all sorts of complicated dishes that will surely impress your guests. However, that does not sound fun at all. Or you can also just enjoy the day, stress-free and having fun. Laughing and playing games with your family and friends. Make easy, yet delicious, dishes that you have cooked countless times before. That way, you know it will definitely come out right. Aim for easy recipes. Dessert should be just as carefree and fast to whip up. One that does not take precious fridge space. For we all know how hard it is to arrange everything in the icebox, on this day especially. A cookie of some sort seems to fit the bill. Not just an ordinary cookie, no that will not suffice, but a seasonal cookie. One that brings together all those classic Thanksgiving dessert flavors into one tiny package.

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Pumpkin Mac and Cheese

Oh so you have been bragging to all your friends have you? You have proclaimed yourself the pumpkin master and informed everyone that you can make pumpkin anything. Well your friends have decided to put you to the test by telling you to host a pumpkin dinner party. Each dish has to have pumpkin in it, in some way, shape or form. Now you are up a creek without a paddle, and you are afraid your boat will hit an iceberg along the way. Causing you to sink in front of all your friends. Having them all stare in awe and shock with their mouths’ agape. Sure it is one thing to tell everyone you are a pumpkin genius, but it is a whole other league to actually be one. First of all, you need to find new friends. If they are inviting themselves to your house and ordering you to cook for them, and you are agreeing to do it all the time, well then you have bigger problems on your hand than a little pumpkin dinner. How would they like it if you invited yourself over their house and demanded they cook? Granted, you should not have been bragging in the first place. You have no one to blame but yourself.

So now the big day has come and you are freaking out. You have realized that perhaps you are not so savvy with that orange squash, as you thought or as you led them to believe. Sure you have dessert covered. Who does not know a thing or two about pumpkin desserts? That is a walk in the park. It is the easiest route to take. The easiest way to transform that gourd. Let us turn our attention to the main course, however. The biggest part of the dinner. You are worried that you cannot make a delicious savory dish with the star ingredient are you not? And you should be. You have every right to be nervous. I would be if I were in your shoes. I am not going to lie to you, it is very difficult to get people to like pumpkin in savory dishes because everyone goes into it with the misconception that it will taste like dessert. Stop crying and shaking your head! You have nothing to worry about. I am here to help you. Lucky for you I am a pumpkin master. Together we will get through this. Together we will conquer. Now buck up. Shoulders high. Raise that chin, proud like you know what you are doing. You have to have confidence. Put on your apron. Grab a spoon and a whisk. Cross your arms. Turn and look at your reflection on the oven. You are a master. Okay that is enough, you have a dinner party to throw. What are you doing just standing there looking like a fool with your arms crossed holding a whisk and spoon?!?! You need to start working! You are behind!

The best way to make people like anything, I have found, is to drench it in butter and cheese and cover it in a creamy sauce. Throw in some pasta and your are golden. Stop giving me that look of confusion. It is simple really. You are going to make Pumpkin Mac and Cheese. It has everything that most people enjoy. Tie it in with some autumn flavors and you are good to go. What do sage and thyme and pumpkin scream out to you? Yes that is right, Thanksgiving. It spells out Thanksgiving. So it does not really spell out Thanksgiving, but you get the point. You are going to wow your friends with this dish.

You have put together the sauce—which is now a beautiful light orange color thanks to the pumpkin—and are now mixing in the pasta. Stop eating it. This is for your pushy self-inviting friends. Throw the mac and cheese into the ramekins, hurry. Sprinkle on the sage breadcrumbs. Stand back. Look at that. Admire the pumpkin mac and cheese. Does it not look delicious like I had promised? Does it not smell fantastic? Okay, what are you doing? Enough standing around. Pop the tray in the oven. These have to bake. Your friends are due at any minute! Look at yourself! You are a mess! There is flour on your face. Cheese sauce in your hair. Pull yourself together! You cannot let your friends see you like this! Go change!  The door bell rings at the same time that the oven timer goes off. Just in time. Your soon-to-be-ex-friends are finally here and they enter with a look as if they know they have won. Little do they know you had an ace up your sleeve. Let the party begin.

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Pumpkin Cranberry Scones

As autumn continues we find ourselves needing more inspiration in the kitchen. We are easily bored by the doldrum ideas that consume us during this time of year. The same baked goods we make on a daily basis. Each week. Each month. Throughout the year we find ourselves getting into a rut. One that we cannot seem to get out of until the arrival of the holidays. We end up growing tired of the boring recipes we make on a regular basis. And why shouldn’t we? After all we are creatures of habit and when something we make is good, we end up making it all the time until we get bored of it. Until those around us get bored of it. We need something different. Something new. Perhaps it is the spirit of the holidays that make us become so adventurous in the kitchen. The fact that our loved ones will all come together, and we want to impress them with our culinary skills. We look out to find new recipes that are a little bit fancier than what we are accustomed to. Recipes that are little more impressive and labor intensive. Yet we go into the unknown waters, so to speak, with caution and hesitation. We begin to question our skills as if not knowing what we are capable of. Yet we tread on with persistence because the idea of failing is much more inviting than the idea of not trying at all. Cooking and baking disasters are not things we should be ashamed of. Rather they should be looked upon as learning experiences. Situations that help us grow as cooks.

With the holidays fast approaching, we spend most of our time preparing for the big celebration. The grand dinner on the last Thursday of November. All of our attention goes to preparing the main event. We make a blueprint and plan out what we have to do and at what time we have to do it. Some of us are lucky, or perhaps just smarter, and we realize that we do not have to cook it all ourselves. So we divvy up the roles and assign different dishes to different friends and family. While everyone is so consumed on the turkey, the sides, the gravy and cranberry sauce, and the desserts some things are forgotten. Some things are left out. We become so invested in planning out the perfect meal and have become experts in mapping out the cooking and prepping times that go into it all, that one thing is neglected. The big day finally arrives and you begin your preparations before the sun even comes out. As the morning progresses and everyone starts waking up, you realize that you do not have time to make breakfast. That was one part of the day you did not plan out. The last thing you want to do, at this point, is go out and brave the supermarkets with all the other last minute and forgot-something shoppers. You do not want to deal with that madness or with the cranky cashiers who would much rather be home with their family and friends, enjoying the day relaxing instead of working.

You look around in your pantry and in the refrigerator and you cannot seem to think of anything. Mornings are usually brought to us by breads like coffee cake, bagels, english muffins, and scones. You go through all the different possible situations in your head. Just when cereal begins to look like your best bet, you think of an idea. Scones. Sure, you can make them. Scones are easy to put together. You have time for that. Look at your perfectly planned out schedule. You have time. You grab a few ingredients from the fridge and some from the pantry. Of course it is Thanksgiving morning and you do not want anything ordinary. You are still looking to impress. Still adventurous. Two ingredients stand out to you like beacons of light. Pumpkin and cranberries. Thankfully you stocked up on both for the big event. You mix the dry ingredients into a large bowl. Flour, sugar, baking powder, salt, cinnamon and other autumnal spices, and combine the wet. Toss in the cranberries and mix in the pumpkin, stirring until just combined. Quickly and efficiently you put together the dough and shape it. You proceed to cut it into scone-like triangles, and bake them for about 20 minutes until the house is filled with the warmth smell of fall. Coffee peculating. Marveling at yourself for whipping up breakfast in a cinch, you cannot help but wonder, how you would have made Julia Child proud. Heck, you would even have made Martha Stewart proud with the cranberry and pumpkin addition. Okay that’s enough self-apprecition, you still have a long list of to-do’s to get done. So get back to work.

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Cinnamon Raisin Bagels

The air is still and there is no sound to be heard anywhere. The dead silence, that of which would normally instill fear, is actually quite comforting. It is a different kind of silence. One that is alluring and peaceful. The sun has yet to make its presence this Sunday autumn morning. Bluish-gray shadows are cast throughout the sleeping house. The hour is far too early for anyone. Yet I awaken and get dressed. I wrap myself up in warm clothing. A heavy coat and scarf. I step outside into the chilly morning air. It hits me like a razor cutting my face, and it takes me a minute to register how cold it actually is. For a split second I rethink my idea. The warmth of my bed and the prospect of more sleep calls back to me. That second passes and I leave my home, a destination in mind, my family still sleeping. Still dreaming. I walk at a brisk pace, mostly because I have long legs therefore I naturally take long strides, but mainly because I am freezing and I figure walking fast will fix this problem. There is no doubt in my mind that fall has arrived. The leaves have changed their colors to those of an orange, yellow, red and brown hue. They have begun to fall, swirling through the air and gliding as with a purpose. A purpose to die. I marvel at how autumn makes everything look so beautiful. In my head I tell myself, “Jonathan, autumn makes everything look so beautiful.” Even small ordinary things that I would never have noticed before seem to stand out during this season. I glance around taking in my surroundings. The houses lining the streets seem so peaceful and festive with their pumpkin littered porches. Halloween decorations appear every now and then and I get excited. An excitement that appears during this time of year. Halloween is almost here, one of many holidays to come.

I walk through a park, a path of trees with nothing but nature on both sides and an empty playground. The leaves crunch under my feet as I continue towards my destination. The light begins to warm up and I stare up off into the distance and there like a beacon of hope, the sun has begun its decent. Through the mountains and the clouds, the trees and the leaves, the bushes and the grass, rays of sunlight creep through each crevice and hit the ground. The shapes and shadows that the light creates onto the fallen leaves brings back memories of elementary school. The days when life was so carefree and I knew nothing about worries and work. As a child, I’d throw myself on the ground, onto the grass and the leaves. I’d roll around and play without disturbance or burden. Life was so simple then and I am reminded of how one must cherish every moment in life, for it does not always last. I snap out of my trance and I remember of my goal this morning. I start up again, exiting the park and back to civilization.

I approach a small local mom and pop convenience store. Nice to see that they too are not immune to autumn and halloween. The glowing fluorescent light through the glass doors and windows invite and entice me. I walk up the steps onto the porch and I reach for the door. I enter—bell ringing—repeating the same words in my head, “Eggs, milk, potatoes, orange juice and cream cheese. Eggs, milk, potatoes, orange juice and cream cheese. Eggs, milk, potatoes, orange juice and cream cheese.” I repeat it over and over so as not to forget. I could have just written it down but I was far too lazy this morning. After all it was early. I gather my groceries and check out, bidding a thank you and good day  to the “I-would-rather-be-sleeping” clerk. Mom and pop decided to sleep in apparently. I exit, the bell jingling once more. I make my way back home, groceries in hand. I hold on to them tightly hoping that I do not have a Home Alone moment where the bags rip causing my groceries to fall on the floor. Luckily I make it home without such a travesty. I walk in and remove my scarf and coat. I hang them on the wall, taking off my shoes and schlepp the groceries to the kitchen. My domain. I put away my recent purchases and begin to rattle around through the cabinets. I take out a few skillets, turn on some music on low, and I begin to cook. As I put breakfast together, the house begins to awaken. I hear movement upstairs, the girls starting their routines. I’m greeted with one sister who has now entered the kitchen and begins to set the table. We hear a car pull up and it can only mean one thing, our sister has come for Sunday breakfast. Sure enough a familiar “hello,” echos through the house. My older sister holding her coffee—she has to bring her own as none of us drink coffee in our house—and the Sunday Times. It would not be sunday breakfast without the reading of the horoscopes.

Mom comes down just in time, at the precise moment when the bagels hit the table. Warm and aromatic, cinnamon raisin bagels that I made the day before. The girls stare at them with anticipation, for they know all too well what I was making yesterday. The long process had forced them to wait until this morning to eat one. However they are a perfect addition to the morning menu. Bagels are not as complicated as one might think. They do have various steps that need to be completed throughout an entire day or a two day process but for the most part, they are fairly simple. I often tell people that if I can do it, anyone can do it. We sit around the table, music still on, catching up on the weeks’ occurrences and the news that needs to be shared. I look around at the delicious food, and my beautiful family and I am filled with a joy that cannot be described or explained. Autumn is all about sitting around a table and catching up with family and friends. The fall seems to bring people together and it forces us to appreciate and thank those in our lives who make a difference. I am thankful for these women who have made my life so incredible and for all that they have taught me. The youngest in a family full of women is not always easy but it sure is fun.

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Homemade Pumpkin Purée

Now that Autumn has arrived you’ll find pumpkin in almost anything. No matter where you turn or what crevice you crawl into, this squash seems to creep its way into every recipe during this time of year. It could be because pumpkin is so delicious a flavor that we have to eat it everyday. It could also be because pumpkins are grown during this season and are all over the super markets. No matter what the reason might be, one fact is clear; October and November infect us with pumpkin fever. We find ourselves thinking outside the box and coming up with some delicious, out of the ordinary, recipes that fulfill our craving for this autumnal fruit. From simple baked goods ranging from breads to pies to cinnamon rolls and even cookies, there does not seem to be an end to our pumpkin madness. It is even finding its way into our dinners with such dishes as pumpkin ravioli and pumpkin soup.

As avid fans go crazy and whip up unique pumpkin concoctions, by the day, they often turn to easy-to-find canned pumpkin. Sure it’s there for your convenience because you think that it’s super complicated to make your own pumpkin purée. Well, I’m here to tell you that you are wrong. This is not true. Pumpkin purée is probably the easiest thing ever. Canned pumpkin is a convenience in that you just open the can and use it. But what goes inside that purée? Think about that for a second. Okay, that’s enough. We’re not there when they are making it. We do not know what sorts of preservatives they add to it. Why not make your own pumpkin purée?Knowing that all you are going to be adding is nothing but 100% pure pumpkin.

I, myself, am not immune to the pumpkin hysteria that is Autumn. I too find any excuse to cook and bake with this orange squash in any way I can. As a matter of fact I am dedicating the entire month of November to the Great Pumpkin. Every recipe featured in November will center around this homemade pumpkin purée. Why? Because it is autumn and in autumn we cook with pumpkins. It’s a new law. Also because Thanksgiving is in November and when I think of Thanksgiving, all I think of is pumpkin for some reason. So to christen Pumpkin month I have decided to create a quick mini how-to post on homemade pumpkin purée. Sure it’s still October and I still have October recipes to post, but I’m preparing you in advance to get you ready. Keep this in the back of your mind. Hold it on the back burner as reference for when we get to November. It will come in handy. Soon. It will be your savior.

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