Pumpkin Sage Cake

Just last weekend, I was strolling around the farmers market not too far from here with my dear friends Nancy and Amber. We had such a nice time catching up, sharing our latest food triumphs and – as per usual – brainstorming a bit about recipe ideas and possibilities. It is so nice to be able to spend a warm, sunny afternoon with people who love food as much as I do. Afterward, we headed over to a local spot to grab a bite to eat. I came home satiated – body and mind. And in my arms I carried a plethora of market goodies. Nancy kindly brought me a little something from her garden: a gorgeous and elegantly wrapped bunch of herbs,  a share from the last from her summer crop.

Fast forward 6 days:  I am calf deep in snow running around my yard with my ridiculously insufficient-for-the-task-at-hand broom, attempting to remove the heavy wet snow from the sagging leafed-out maple trees. It was eerily quiet save the sound of C-R-A-C-K — one beautiful branch after the next falling to the ground. Our town has faired worse than Hurricane Irene. Which was pretty bad. But, that’s another story. Instead of curbside snowbanks deposited by passing plows, heaping towers of broken branches have been dragged toward the street awaiting bulk pick-up. It’s all part of nature but it’s still heartbreaking.

Alas, I had planned on baking over the weekend. I typically spend a few hours cooking on Sunday, getting ready for weekly dinners and such. But, we were without power. It got down to a brisk and unpleasant 55 degrees inside our house. In some kind of miracle, power was restored late last night. Many many other parts of New Jersey are still without power so we are feeling pretty grateful. I peeled off my layers before climbing into bed and woke up this morning to a functioning oven. So I baked. And then I enjoyed a slice of this cake with a cup of tea – – silently reflecting on how important it is not to take anything for granted.

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Louise’s Lemon Dill Dip

Yesterday, I was at the supermarket. As I rounded the corner, there were these huge perky bunches of organic dill perched right in front of my shopping cart. My first thought was the lemon dill dip of my childhood. Our neighbor Louise used to make it for us. She was the coolest lady with incredible stories of travelling the world. And she had an incredible arsenal of recipes in her kitchen to boot. Her children were grown and gone so she used to love making special treats for us.  Her original recipe had dairy but I recreated it using cashew cream/meal. It’s a perfect complement to carrot, celery and cucumber sticks but you could always break out some low-sodium crackers if you like.

1/2 cup (heaping) raw cashews soaked overnight (in filtered water)
1 tblsp filtered water
1 1/2 tblsp freshly squeezed lemon juice
1/2 cup gluten free mayonnaise (I like Spectrum Canola Mayonnaise)
2 tblsp fresh dill, chopped/minced
pinch salt & pepper to taste

  1. In a glass bowl, cover cashews with filtered water and pinch of salt. Let soak overnight. In the morning, strain cashews and discard the liquid. Rinse cashews thoroughly.
  2. Place cashews in the bowl of a food processor fitted with a metal blade. Add water and lemon juice. Process for 15-20 seconds, or until cashews are almost smooth.
  3. Add mayonnaise and dill and process for an additional 30 seconds. Dip will be smooth and creamy.

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