Saturday, October 30, 2010

All I Wanted: Pumpkin Enchiladas

All I've wanted for the past three-ish months, was a family portrait with the two dogs, the bunny, Brett... and because I have to... me.  You know the kind.  Where everyone's wearing the same shirt and trendy jeans, and looks like they leapt out of a JCrew catalog? 

That's all I wanted.  I should have known, that when I use the words trendy and JCrew in the same sentence... things wouldn't go as planned.

I cut and tweezed and combed and primped... and when I got through with Brett, I threw on a little mascara and straightened my hair, and figured it was good enough.  We grabbed a blanket, the camera, tripod, and our dignity, and headed outside.

This is what I got:
Easy distraction.  And no Abby in sight.

Photographic evidence of Wyatt's desire to eat Shuffles.  And no Abby in sight.

As well as inappropriate play times.  And inappropriate licking.  And inappropriate... how should I say this... exposure.  And a hundred other photos of Brett calling after Abby, and me, barely making it into the photo, and Wyatt, licking himself... and licking Brett... and then licking the bunny...

We finally gave up. Actually, I gave up. After the 92nd time of trying to run, kneel down, look fabulous, and take a decent picture as the ten second timer mocked me... I was done.

So we did the whole, "arms-length, high-school cheerleader" photo. 

Not quite JCrew.  But then, neither are we.

Here's what you'll need for Spicy Pumpkin Enchiladas (from Martha Stewart, who is very JCrew, but adapted enough, to make it more me). 

2-3 Cups shredded chicken
1/2 Cup chopped white onion
2 Cups pumpkin puree or 1 can pumpkin puree
4 Cloves garlic, minced
1/4 Teaspoon salt
1/4 Teaspoon black pepper
1 or 2 Jalapeno peppers, quartered
1 Teaspoon chili powder
1 1/2 Cups water
8-10 Corn tortillas (6-inch)
Vegetable oil
1-2 Cups grated sharp cheddar cheese

Preheat oven to 425 degrees. In a blender, puree pumpkin, garlic, jalapeno, chili powder, and water. Pour 1 cup of sauce in the bottom of a baking dish.

Heat a bit of oil and warm the tortillas (one at a time) on a griddle or pan, lightly coating each tortilla with oil.  This will keep the tortilla pliable when you roll it.  Mound chicken and onions on warmed tortilla, and roll; place, seam side down, in baking dish.

Sprinkle a little cheese on top, then pour remaining sauce over the whole thing; top generously with cheese (and this is why, we will never look like we leapt out of a JCrew catalog). Bake until cheese is golden and sauce is bubbling, 25 to 30 minutes. Let cool 5 minutes before serving.

They're not pretty, they're not fancy, and they're not trendy.  But they're good and warm and filling.  And that's really all you need.  And all I want.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Well, It's Official...

I have finally turned into an 80 year old woman. 

I just made two bird feeders out of rotting pie pumpkins.

Next thing you know, I'll be crocheting koozies for your toilet paper and making lampshades out of egg cartons.

I need a job.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Telling It Like It Is: Pumpkin Butter

I got back from retreat at our denominations Regional Camp and Conference Center a few days ago. Just me and the woods. And the 50 or so 3rd Graders from a nearby Montessori school that got to spend a long weekend away from home. In a cabin.  Right next to mine.

One morning, as I sat outside enjoying my coffee, thankful for munchkin's eating breakfast, literally watching a family of deer leap through the forest... I heard a rustle. I'm excited. Could it be the groundhog that I ate dinner with, returning to greet me? A squirrel? A turtle? A band of woodland fairies?

Nope.  Just a 3rd Grade boy, running as fast as he could, holding his crotch with both hands and yelling as loudly as his little underdeveloped voice would let him: "A SPIDER BIT MY PENIS!!"

I know I heard it. The folks in the neighboring town heard it. A friend of mine from Indianapolis called and asked me how the boy with the spider was doing. And in Boston, there was a 20-something woman, shuffling to her front door to grab the morning paper, who heard it. Sure it was muffled by then... and it came out sounding like "Fire and light in Venus." But still, the young woman nodded, and after the night she'd had, mumbled, "Tell me about it."

But I digress.

As quickly as the 3rd Grade boy emerged from the forest, he was gone. Hightailing it to his cabin to inspect the damage.  I said a quick prayer for the unsuspecting male teacher, whose break, was about to be cut short.

Then gave the boy props for telling it like it is.

I guess if you're gonna say something, you might as well say exactly what you mean. Right?

In the midst of all the political volleying that is going on out there... the churches that keep functioning but are afraid to say anything... the visionaries that talk to empty rooms because they don't believe in themselves enough to invite others... the everyday people that say "I'm fine," when they really mean, "I'm tired" or "I'm sad" or "I hurt"...

I guess in the midst of all that, a little boy running through the forest holding his crotch and yelling about a spider that bit his penis... well, I guess it's almost refreshing.  There's no second guessing.  No critique.  Or mulling.  And my Mother The Biology Teacher, would be proud that the little guy called it by it's anatomically correct name.

So here's Pumpkin Butter. It doesn't try to be anything other than, what it is. Pumpkin.

What you'll need:

2 Cups pumpkin puree or one can (disappointed look)
3/4 Cup apple juice (but if you use the canned stuff, you might need to add a bit more)
1/2 Teaspoon ground ginger
1 1/2 Cups white sugar
2 Teaspoons ground cinnamon
1 Teaspoon ground nutmeg

Combine pumpkin, apple juice, spices, and sugar in a large saucepan; stir well and bring mixture to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer for 30 minutes or until thickened. Stir frequently.

You might be able to can and store this butter... but given the low acidity of pumpkin, I'd be afraid to do so. Someone with canning prowess might be more inclined to give it a try, and if you do, and you don't spend a night or two in the hospital from food poisoning, let me know.

Enjoy it for what it is, and nothing more. Just sweet pumpkin and a few spices, in a jar. And may you find the courage to speak today... speak when it matters and say what you mean. Someone might only hear "A fighter's flying to Paris." But at least you'll know you tried.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

There's One In Every Crowd

For everyone's sake, I apologize for the 1980's leggings.

White after Labor Day, and all.

And my oral hygiene is lacking something.

But otherwise, isn't Brett's hiney cute?

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

One Alarm Pumpkin Soup

Last night, at 2:30 in the morning, the smoke detector in our bedroom decided that it wanted us to know, that it's battery was dying.

Do they have to be so loud? Geeze.

I mumbled something along the lines of "What is that?" to Brett... knowing full well what it was and how to make it stop, but hoping that my feigned incoherency might propel him out of bed, and into the cold house in search of a ladder, while I stayed safely tucked under the blanket and comforter.

But partnership is a pain, 'cause then I felt obligated to at least get out of bed and stand around with my hand on my hip, like I was totally invested in the beeping box of madness.

Of course the step ladder that we keep upstairs wasn't tall enough. And the dining room chair downstairs was just tall enough that Brett felt obligated to make it work, but not quite tall enough to be safe.

After a good... I don't know... five, ten, thirty minutes of Chinese acrobatic moves, Brett was able to dislodge the battery... only to feel compelled to stand on the chair, in his sleepy stupor, investigating the battery, as if it might be able to tell him something about how Christine O'Donnell got into politics.

So, in my sleep deprived state, I give you One Alarm Pumpkin Soup. The jalapenos give you a nice little kick out of bed, but the cheese and pumpkin welcome you back, like a down comforter at 2:30 in the morning.

What you'll need:

A pumpkin about the size of your head (I used one that was a bit bigger and it took a lot to fill it. That could totally be turned into a really bad joke.) cut open like jack-o-lantern and scraped to remove the seeds and gunk
2 Cups cooked white or brown rice
1-2 Cups cubed cheese (I used about a cup of extra sharp cheddar, and a cup of gouda and smoked provolone combined)
2-3 Jalapenos, chopped
2-3 Cloves of minced garlic
1/4 Cup chopped chives
8-10 Sliced of bacon, cooked and chopped
1 Teaspoon minced thyme
Black pepper to taste
A hearty pinch of nutmeg
1 Cup heavy cream

Preheat your oven to 350*. Line a super sturdy baking sheet with parchment paper and set aside. Cut and gut your pumpkin.

In a bowl, combine the warm cooked rice, cheese, jalapenos, garlic, chives, cooked bacon, and spices. Stir to combine and stuff the pumpkin with the cheesy goodness. You'll wanna fill the pumpkin to the top, so you might find that you need to make one more cup of cooked rice. Top with the heavy cream. As you can see, this is not an exact science. So pour a little more cream on there, if it suits your fancy. Put the "handle" back on your pumpkin.

Place the filled pumpkin on the baking sheet and put it in the oven; let it cook for at least two hours. You want that pumpkin to almost turn a carmel color.

When it's done, let it sit for about 10 minutes, then transfer it to a fancy dish (or in my case, a cheep plate you've had since seminary). As you serve it, make sure your spoon scrapes a good portion of the tender, yummy pumpkin... and enjoy.

This is comfort food at its finest. Cheesy, carbohydrate laden goodness. A hearty "A+" from both of us!

Sunday, October 17, 2010

No Spring Chickens

Okay. I'm not gonna beat around the proverbial bush.

The folks at the church where my husband serves... well, they're not exactly spring chickens. In fact, I'd say the median age is probably somewhere around 75 years old. And yeah... I know...

You're only as old as you think you are...

Growing old is mandatory, growing up is optional...

There's a twinkle, in your wrinkle...

I get it.

But when a semi-truck pulls in to the church parking lot, heaving with the weight of over one thousand pumpkins that need to be unloaded, one at a time... old is just old. The body wears out, the muscles aren't as strong as they once were, and the bones crack and pop like the Chicago Symphony's percussion section.

It's okay. It's not a judgement. It's just reality.

This is Ralph. He had his 84th Birthday a few months ago. Today in church, I asked him how he was feeling after unloading approximately 10,000 pounds of pumpkins, and he gave me a two-thumbs-up and a little nod-n-smile, as he audaciously said, "I feel great!"


I, on the other hand, spent a few hours serving as the official photographer, trying not to draw attention to myself, for fear that I might be recruited for the assembly line...

And making it a point instead, to draw attention to the slackers. I mean, come on. One tiny pumpkin at a time? Way to be aggressive.

But it wasn't long, before my stalling tricks were noticed, and I was urged to help carry a few of the larger pumpkins...

And then spent most of last night and part of this morning, realizing for the first time in my life, that there are several muscles in my back, that have never been used.

T.S. Elliot once said that, "the years between fifty and seventy are the hardest. You are always being asked to do more, and you are not yet decrepit enough to turn them down." I believe T.S. Elliot may have been wrong. 'Cause 30 something, is turning out to be a pain. In every sense of the word.

Friday, October 8, 2010

It's Almost Time...

pumpkins Pictures, Images and Photos

It's almost time...

...for October evenings spent de-stemming, chopping, baking, gutting, and pureeing pumpkins. Not one, not two... but multiple trash bags, filled to their breaking point... with tiny, perfect, pie pumpkins.
...for freezers that overflow with hope. And time spent cleaning up the containers that explode. And the magic act that is involved when you cram 30 cans worth of puree into an already full freezer.
...for chilly evenings made warm with the smells of nutmeg and ginger and cinnamon. And for eating my share of the pumpkin harvest.
...for buying pants that are a few sizes bigger than normal. And shirts.
...and for finding pumpkin puree under my cabinets and in my coffee maker and on top of my dogs head. And of course, in my ear.

Yep. It's almost time...