Monday, December 19, 2011

If Only It Had Been a Pumpkin

If only it had been a pumpkin that Frosty was picking....

Blessings to you all, during this final week of Advent!  May you know much grace and peace... and if you gotta pick your nose, pick a pumpkin! 

Monday, November 28, 2011

To Rue: Amish Friendship Bread

Ahhhhhh... Amish Friendship Bread.  The edible chain letter.

A few weeks ago, I thought, "Oh... you know what I haven't had in a while... like since 1997, kind-a while?  Friendship bread!"  And because I had that thought in my head, I was somehow obligated to share that ever-so-witty-and-thoughtful thought, on Facebook.

Then out of no where, up pops a friend who offers a starter.  Stupid Facebook.  I rue you.  RUE!!

*I should note... I rue my thought and I really rue Facebook... not said friend, who nicely offered a starter and even did the "mushing" while I was out of town.  Just in case she reads this blog...

Now I have three fermenting starters sitting on my counter and one in the fridge.... the one in the fridge isn't so bad... I open the fridge a dozen times a day, and each time, I hear a flat, lifeless, "Whad'up." 

Ohhhh... but the bags on the counter... (eyeroll).  They jabber non-stop:

"I feel bloated."
"I have a sour taste in my mouth."
"I could use some sugar."
"It's cold in here."
"Are we there yet?  Are we there yet?  Are we..."
"Do I look fat in this baggie?"
"I doughn't get it... could you at yeast explain it to me?"
"Mush it.  Mush it reeeeal good."

Yeah.  That last one has some serious issues.

So.  If you'd like an Amish Friendship Bread starter and you live... I don't know... within a three hundred mile radius of the KC metro area... they're yours! 

And then you can make Pumpkin Amish Friendship Bread.  Or would it be Amish Pumpkin Friendship Bread?  Or Amish Friendship Pumpkin Bread?  Anyway...

What you'll need:

1 Cup starter
3 Eggs
2/3 Cup vegetable oil
1/2 Cup milk
1 Teaspoon vanilla
1 1/2 Cups pumpkin puree

Pre-heat your oven to 325*.  Mix together the wet ingredients.  If only to make the yammering stop.  And just trust me on this one... that vegetable oil... that entire 2/3 of a cup... is about 1/2 cup LESS than what you'd normally be putting in, if you eliminated the pumpkin. So thank your lucky stars and move on.

Then you'll need:

2 Cups flour
1 Cup sugar
1 1/2 Teaspoon baking powder
1/2 Teaspoon baking soda
1 1/2-2 Teaspoons cinnamon
1/2 Teaspoon nutmeg
1/4 Teaspoon allspice
1 Cup chopped pecans (though you could certainly add cranberries, dates, etc. as well)

Add dry ingredients; just go ahead and pile them all in there, then stir.  Pour into two well greased and sugared bread pans or six mini loaf pans.  Bake for about a 1 hour and 15 minutes.  A toothpick should come out clean.

It's yummy!  And just like the olden days...

And then start the whole dang process over again in 9-10 days.

Rue, I tell ya...

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

A New Rhythm: Gooey Pumpkin Bars

Everything is happening a little too fast around here... I started listening to Christmas music a full two weeks prior to my self-imposed "start date," which has been a fast and furious rule around here, for as long as we've been married.  Thanksgiving came out of no-where.  Boxes of Christmas decorations have been pulled out of storage since last Thursday.  The tree... up since last Saturday.  I have a wreath hanging on my door.  A WREATH... before Thanksgiving day.  This is not cool.

But it's a necessity this year. 

It's probably not a surprise, but the Christian calendar provides a lot of stability in my life.  That long season of Pentecost... which always seems disproportionate with the actual length of the life of Jesus, comes to an an abrupt halt.  And we leap into Advent... breathing in the breadth of possibility and hope and new life in the midst of gray skies and dry, crunchy leaves.  I spend all year, longing for Advent... for the rhythm of waiting and sitting and anticipating and hoping for things not necessarily hoped for throughout the rest of the year.  I wait for the nesting and the baking and the smells of warmth and the glimpses of peace, in the midst of chaos.  Christmas lights make me weep and snow blanketing the ground, fills my spirit with much needed renewal.  I find warmth in the chill and comfort in the bustle.

But this year, it's all different.  We'll be gone for week two and three, of Advent... and I've lost my orientation, my rhythm.  I don't know how to "do" Advent and Christmas, without the week to week progression, the hearing of our biblical story, and the steady climb that we make, as church, to the birth of a newborn baby... the birth of hope.

So I'm satiating, with disproportionate amounts of butter and sugar.  And I made Paula Deen's Ooey-Gooey Pumpkin Bars.  Though they won't do a lot for renewing the spirit, they're quick and easy and they get the job done.  And I guess sometimes, that's all you can do.

What you'll need for the cake:

1 Yellow cake mix
1 Egg
8 Tablespoons butter, melted

What you'll need for the filling:

2 Cup pumpkin puree
1 8-Ounce package cream cheese, softened
3 Eggs
1 Teaspoon vanilla
8 Tablespoons butter, melted
3 Cups powdered sugar
1 Teaspoon cinnamon
1 Teaspoon nutmeg

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

To make the cake, combine all of the ingredients and mix well. Pat the mixture into a lightly greased 13x9-inch baking pan. And at this point you're thinking... well, this isn't SO bad (at least not for Paula Deen).  I mean, 8 Tablespoons of butter?  Yeah, that hurts a little bit... but it's not gonna kill me.  And then you make the filling...

In a large bowl, beat the cream cheese and pumpkin until smooth. Add the eggs, vanilla, and EIGHT MORE Tablespoons of butter... and beat together. Next, add the powdered sugar, cinnamon, nutmeg, and mix well.

Spread pumpkin mixture over cake batter and bake for 40 to 50 minutes. Make sure not to over bake as the center should be a little gooey.  Then serve it to your family... and have the car running in case anyone can't handle their butter.

It's won't bring about world peace or sooth the weary soul, but you can eat it, knowing that it's not the last dessert you'll ever know... and just enjoy it for what it is... a little over the top, a bit cheapened by the commercialized-out-of-a-box taste, different than what you'd normally make...but still beckoning the holidays.

Blessings to you all this Thanksgiving Eve... may you know a rhythm of peace and joy and hope... even if it's a little different this year...

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Never Had a Chance: Pumpkin Fudge

Do you ever have those moments, where you revert back to Middle School?  You know, those moments... where even if you tried REALLY, really hard... you couldn't be less cool? 

In the seventh grade, I had a crush on this boy; his name was Brian.  (Interesting side note: over the course of six years in Middle School and High School, I probably had a crush on half a dozen different boys named Brian. It was my thing.)

Brian was dreamy in that scrawny, clean-cut, seventh-grade-jock-boy, kind of way.  Now rest assured, it was a rare day when someone would have used the word "dreamy" to describe me.  Instead, I was relatively invisible and a bit awkward in that "I know I'm too old to play with Cabbage Patch dolls, but I'd still really like one for Christmas" kind of way.  So when I felt a bit of "cool" coming on... I tried to go with it.  And by cool, I mean, I snuck makeup and a can of hairspray into the girls bathroom and went nutty.

One dreary day (and really, what day isn't dreary when you're in Middle School), I was riding high on my Aqua Net fumes as I descended the stairs to hell... I mean shop class... and encountered Brian coming up the SAME SET OF STAIRS.  I mean, it was like, fate.  And to this day, I can't tell you how I mustered the courage... but throwing caution into the wind... with much abandon and flair, I boldly said (out loud and everything), "Hey."

And then proceeded to fall down the stairs.  Hitting each one with a memorable bounce and an internal proclamation, to NEVER. RETURN. TO. SCHOOL. AGAIN.  Thank the Good Lord, my hair was there to cushion my fall.

Anyway... I had one of those moments the other day... only "Brian" was replaced with two strapping European men, a whole store full of women shopping a purse sale (so they sort of get a "pass" on this one), numerous clerks, and an ENTIRE movie theater full of people... nay, ADULTS... that could have told me that after shopping the clearance racks and trying on clothes at Macy's... I had put my shirt back on... very obviously... inside-out.

Seriously?  No one could mention it in passing?  Whisper a little something in my ear? Gesture wildly at their own non-existent tags?  Laugh, point, make a spectacle?  Anything!?

The worst though, was the guy who sold me my movie ticket that night... the same guy who wore a name tag which proudly read, "My favorite movie is Star Wars," and has probably seen the inside of Comic Con, one too many times... he had the audacity to give me Sad Face while he asked, "All alone tonight?  Just the one ticket?"  At the time, I thought..."Man, sucks to be single in the world."  But about half way through the movie, when I reached back and felt the oversized tags of my shirt, flappin' in the wind... I realize Comic Con Man was probably thinking, "Poor thing.  Never had a chance."

Well, that's how I feel about this Pumpkin Fudge.  Poor thing... never had a chance.

What you'll need:

2 3/4 Cups sugar
3/4 Cup melted salted butter
2/3 Cup evaporated milk
½ Cup pumpkin puree
2 Tablespoons light corn syrup
1 Teaspoon pumpkin pie spice
One (12 oz.) package white chocolate chips
One (7 oz.) jar marshmallow creme
1 Cup chopped walnuts, toasted (optional)
1 Teaspoon vanilla extract

Line a 9-inch square pan with aluminum foil. Spray with nonstick spray. 

Stir together first 6 ingredients in a saucepan over medium-high heat, cooking and stirring constantly, until a candy thermometer registers 234° (soft ball stage) or for about 12 minutes.  This is pretty important: I have somehow misplaced the candy thermometer I bought a few years ago... so it didn't set up quite right, as evident by the photo below.  But if you don't mind eating your fudge with a spoon...

Once the mixture reaches 234°, remove from heat and quickly stir in the white chocolate, marshmallow creme (my love affair with marshmallow cream, has no end), nuts and vanilla until well blended.

Pour into the prepared pan. Let stand 2 hours or until completely cool; cut fudge into squares.  Or simply pull up to the pan with your spoon. 

It's makes an odd first impression... sweet.  I mean sweet, in a way that turns your clothes inside out and makes your insides feel awkward.  But apparently, that's how I roll...

Friday, October 14, 2011

Versatile: Dried Figs

So two things have happened in the last few days.

1. I was given a pumpkin. And...
2. I was given 24 pounds of dried figs.

Yep. Just another average day in October....

I've been asked to "do something" with the bags of figs that our county food bank was given... and by "bags of figs"... I mean ONE THOUSAND, one pound bags of the dried little suckers. That's a lot of figs... for those of you who are quick with your math. A lot

And you know, it's common knowledge that every food-scarce person and their family, craves figs.  Duh.

There's enough raisin-hate in the world... I can image Cousin to the Raisin, the Dried Fig, knows it's fair share of bad jokes and witty limericks.  Let's face it... the FIG is a pretty ambiguous fruit for your average mid-westerner. Is it a raisin?  Is it a date?  It doesn't look like Brad Pitt. 

Oh.  But wait... there's a handy Nutritional Information sheet included.  Using a font, that makes it look like our wedding invitation from ten years ago.  Apparently, if you make it pretty enough... no one will wonder why... as a family that struggles to put bread and milk on their table... they were given a very usable and wildly versatile bag of figs.  

Anyway, if anyone's got any really good ideas for using large amounts of dried figs... I'd love to hear them. 

It needs to be a recipe using basic "food pantry" ingredients, with the recognition that some of the folks coming to the pantry don't have electricity for oven use, may not have running water, or access to things like milk and eggs.  I'm considering a carrot and fig salad, maybe a no-bake cookie of some sort..........  Ideas?  Anyone?

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

That's a Pumpkin (W)Rap: 99 Posts for All You Folks

Why... I hadn't even noticed.  But this post, is my 99th post. 

That's 99 (plus or minus) references to pumpkin.  Approximately 99 cups of pumpkin puree.  At least 99 hours that I've sat hunched over my computer, instead of the television (hey... we take the small victories... we can't all be gym goers).  And 99 times that I laughed... hoping at least 99 times, that I was able to make someone else laugh.  That's 99 times that I wondered what on earth I could possibly make, that might include a cup of pumpkin.  And 99 times that I wondered how long I could keep it up and still claim that I loved the orange stuff!


Surely, I can't go into my 100th post, with the same ol' schtick.  Besides, I think I'm dreaming a new... old... dream. 

And it's doubtful that it will include much pumpkin.

But I promise it will include much gnashing of teeth, hang wringing, and pearl clutching.  Does that help? Self inflicted poverty, huge risks, and a total vocational life change?  How about I promise that it will include LO-HA-HA-TS (I mean LOTS) of sugar?  Surely that helps!  (Again.  We can't all be gym goers.  I mean, think of the doctors... who would pay their salaries?)

So as I consider which way my life ought to turn... I'll pull up a few of my favorite pumpkin posts...

* I loved the Pumpkin Bread Pudding and it just really smacked of Fall.  You know, if you're in to that sort of thing...

* I could eat a Pumpkin Waffle everyday of my life, and be pretty happy about it. (If I've said it once, I'll say it 99 more times... having a gym membership, makes you cool?  Using it, does not.)

* The Pumpkin Toaster Strudels?  Why yes.  I will have another. And maybe just one for the road.

* And I really loved the Pumpkin Tiramisu.

* A fan favorite (Hi Dad!) was the Pumpkin Butter. GREAT on fresh biscuits, poured on ice cream, used with your waffles and pancakes... or you could do the conventional thing... and make toast.  Whatever.

* And if you're tired of the sugar crashes that come with knowing me...try the Pumpkin Focaccia Bread.  This was probably the most original recipe in the bunch and if I do say so myself, one of the best.

But quite possibly, my shining moment... that time when I really stood up and taught you all a little something about myself and the art of the pumpkin puree... was the Pumpkin Puree Rap.  I know.  It brings a tear to my eye as well.... I'll wait while you get a tissue.  Of course, I am still waiting for JayZ to give me some credit on that one... look for it on his album coming out this Fall... him and Beyonce do a duet, that is just to die for.

And really... I'm grateful for the Pumpkin Patch in Scottsdale, Arizona (back in 2003)... that started it all.  And a sweet, curious, puppy-Wyatt to warm any cold hearts out there. 

Here's to 99 more moments of curiosity, 99 opportunities filled with hope, and 99 new dreams...

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Summer Moments: I'm Not Dead Yet!

Despite my virtual absence... and hem-hawyness concerning this blog...I've actually been out and about.

A retrospective: 

Aunt D and Me at the Komen's Survivors Luncheon!
Not once, did they play "I Will Survive" by Gloria Gynor,
but it was a fantastic experience. be
in a room of so many survivors.
"At first I was afraid, I was petrified..."
Bops head, walks away.

Meeting Josh Groban. Backstage passes!  Giddy like a
school girl! 

I considered briefly, leaving Brett for little Joshy-poo.
But I figured with all his traveling and stuff,
we'd never get to see each other.  And really,
that's no way to build a relationship.

So instead, I hung out with Brett that night and enjoyed
a free concert (luckiest boy in the world, won tickets).

Is it opera?  Is it rock and roll?  You JUST CAN'T TELL!
Josh Groban has a new fan. 

The rarely seen Dikdik.  Too. Many. Jokes...

The East African Crowned Crane....head.

Girl Cheetah.  You can't see it, but I'm curled up
behind her.  Just chillin'.

Baby Rhino and Mama Rhino.
I can actually hear the collective... "Awwwwww."

Fourth of July. Weird eye follows me everywhere.

"I wanna be, where the people are..."
Name that sad-sack tune, and I'll send you a
five dollar bill in the mail.

Mammy and Pappy at the ol' watering hole for a
Birthday celebration!

The two Birthday Gals! Aunt D turning 60 and
my Mother turning... ouch! That hurt.

I'm so artsy and stuff.  Dude.

The Thompson siblings...
Aunt D, Uncle D, Dad D, & Aunt D.
Really, I'm not kidding... they're related.

But of course...
Canned some pickled peppers.
Like seventeen, 1/2 pint jars worth.

What you'll need:
1/2 Pound jalapeno and
banana pepper mix
2 Cups white vinegar
2/3 Cups sugar
1/2 Teaspoon mustard seed
1/2 Teaspoon celery seed

Sterilize jars, warm lids, etc. Bring
vinegar, sugar, and spices to a rolling
boil.  Fill hot jars with peppers.
Pour hot pickling juice over peppers
leaving 1/2 inch head space.
Wipe rim of jar.  Place lids and
screw on band until finger-tip
tight.  Leave untouched for two weeks.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

A Funny: National Tell A Joke Day

Today is National Tell A Joke Day.  Who knew?

So here's a pumpkin joke:

Q: What do you use to mend a broken jack-o-lantern?

A: A pumpkin patch.

Speaking of "a pumpkin patch"... Brett's church will get their pumpkins on October 15!  Which we all know, is RIGHT AROUND THE CORNER! 

Okay... one more:

Q: What's black, white, orange and waddles?

A: A penguin holding a pumpkin.

Have a funny day! 

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

A Head Scratcher: Pumpkin Kaya

I was messin' around with my blog... considering a new direction... wondering if "this ship has sailed" when I came across a post I wrote back in March (?) but never published.  So while I wonder what's next in my life (on many levels), here's a little something to pass the time:

These guys, run amuck in my front yard.  And if you're into that sort of thing... they're quite beautiful.

Then, this weekend, this little oddity showed up.

Is it...

A Turis? Or an Irup?

Seriously?  I've never seen anything like it. 

And that, friends, is how I feel about this Pumpkin Kaya.  Is it hummus?  Is it pudding?  Maybe we call it pummus? Or humming.

But it's sort of not good enough to be either.  So then, I'm just left a little confused.  And wanting pudding.

What you'll need:

4 1/4 Cups pumpkin puree (I used canned here... fewer fibers so the texture was a bit smoother)
2/3 Cup coconut cream
3/8 Cup brown sugar
8 Young pandan leaves

Combine the pumpkin, coconut cream, brown sugar, and pandan leaves in a pot over medium-low heat. Cook, stirring frequently, until mixture is thick and smooth, about 1 hour; remove leaves and discard. Cool kaya before serving; refrigerate unused portion.

Not to be too culturally insensitive... "kaya," besides being the name of one of Bob Marley's records, is a coconut jam made with eggs, popular in Singapor and Malaysia, and is generally served on white toast.  This one, made with pumpkin, omits the egg and finds it's creamy texture via orange gourd.  And before you go pulling out your canning supplies... I should warn you... 

Well.  I should just warn you.  It messes with your mind. 

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

I'm Sorry

I'm sorry.  This is what I get for... working.

It's highly over-rated.

Someday, I'll post a few things I've got in the works... 'till then... work well, sleep a good nine hours a night, and enjoy a little sun for me!

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Sunday Morning: Carrot Cake Jam

We don't have children. But we do have two dogs that act like children.

Scratch that.  We have two dogs that are treated like children.

Sunday morning was "Interceptor Day!"  It sounds fancy, doesn't it?  Like there should be fireworks and congressional lapel pins, but really, it's just the day that my dogs get their heartworm medicine.  And I suppose if you'd like to fashion a congressional lapel pin based on heartworms, well, be my guest.  But I prefer to celebrate, by typing the monthly task into my online computer calendar that way...with caps and an exclamation point.  Interceptor Day!  Makes me feel excited about something. (sad face)

We are a bonified pet pharmacy in our house. Boy Dog has quite a few issues... a few of which we medicate for, three times a day, with the helpful use of hotdogs.  You stick the pill in a chunk of cheap hotdog and Boy Dog will swallow it whole.  And even though there's not a single thing wrong with Girl Dog, she of course, must have a hot dog as well.  This is reminiscent of grandparents, who give the older child a gift, "so they don't feel left out," when the younger child has a birthday. (Ugh. I won't get on my soapbox.)

So, back to Sunday morning.  Interceptor Day!

The morning started out as it normally does, with me, groggily standing at the top of the stairs... it's a sight to be seen.  All this 'aint a pretty picture in the morning... but the dogs don't seem to mind, and normally, they eagerly greet me on the stairs for their morning gooby-boooby-boo session.  Uh, yea... that's puppy talk.  Anyway.

This morning, they were mysteriously absent.

Covering the living room and moving towards the coffee pot in record speed, due to the absence of my canine speed bumps, something caught my eye.

It was the wrapper, from a stick of butter, which had been left on the table from dinner the night before.  Just an empty wrapper... which means one of the dogs, had just eaten a stick of butter.

Coffee in hand and still missing the normal company of my dogs... I headed to the basement... to find Boy Dog eating a roll of paper towels.  I suppose you need something to wipe the butter grease off your mouth, right? 

Now, I have to say... up until this point... I've kept my cool. I find the emergency vet's phone number... I calmly explain that one of my dogs has eaten a roll of paper towels for breakfast... and one or the other, has topped it off with a stick of butter.  "Need I be concerned?" I ask.  Friendly Vet-Tech says, "oh no, don't worry about it... you just might have a few rough days ahead of you." Joy.

I hang up the phone.  I give the dogs a dirty look.  I give God thanks that a roll of paper towels and a stick of butter did not cost me a few hundred dollars with aforementioned Friendly Vet-Tech... and I remember that it is Interceptor Day! Yeah!

Grabbing hot dogs and pills, I pop the tiny Interceptor pills into their respective hotdogs, and present our eager, albeit stopped up dogs with their medicated treats.  Boy Dog, per his usual behavior, swallows his whole.  Girl Dog, sensing that there is something amis... something has been SNUCK into her normally "pure" hotdog... must investigate.  Taking it carefully in her mouth, she moves to the living room... well, this is NOT my first time on the ferriswheel, and being the gifted and talented dog-mother that I am, I anticipate this move... so I squarely position myself between Girl Dog, Hot Dog... and Boy Dog.  Sternly, I look the drooling mess of a Boy Dog in the eye and say, "Don't even think about it."

He looks at me... sizes up the opening between my legs... looks back at me... and begins to lunge forward... "NO!"  I have stopped him in his tracks.

Yeah.  That's right.  Who's top dog?

He looks at me again... sizes ME up... thinks it through... refers to his Dog Manual... calls his buddy in Arizona who concurs... and decides that the benefits of having another hotdog, FAR outweigh the repercussions.

Dropping my hand to the floor to retrieve the hotdog... I miss it by seconds... and before I can say "Bad Dog" it had slipped down the proverbial hatch.  Now Boy Dog has had two heartworm pills.

And I sort of lost it. 


Mother's grabbed their playing children out of the driveways and ushered them inside.  Birds retreated to the safety of the skies.  Dogs ceased their barking.  And the neighborhood cats... laughed.

For maybe the third time in nearly 8 years... Wyatt had made me mad.  And he knew it.  No sooner had I turned around, Boy Dog was making his way out to the garage with his tail tucked and head down.

And I dialed the emergency vet's number... again.

The conversation went something like this:

"Hi!  I called a few minutes ago about the dog that ate the stick of butter and the roll of paper towels.  Yeah... well, I'm pretty sure I just overdosed that same dog.  Please don't call animal control."

By the end of the conversation, Friendly Vet-Tech assured me he would not die, but would merely experience an upset tummy and (my absolute favorite), possibly some "loose stool."

Hanging up the phone, I realized I still needed to get Abby her Interceptor pill. Stuffing it in a hotdog and offering it to her, I was failing miserably... so, I resorted to the ol', crank-her-mouth-open-and-stuff-it-down-her-throat trick.

Two times.  Three times.  Four times... each one, followed by the dramatics of dry heaving and gagging noises.  Trying one more time, I found her jaw... completely locked.  Like Fort Knox.  She was NOT going to take that pill.

Finally, dejected, despondent, and nearly on the verge of tears...and not one to be above theatrics... I crumpled to the floor, barely squeaking out, "Abby.  I just can't do it anymore.  You win.  You all win."  And I sat there, with my arms crossed.  Holding in my hand, a hot dog with the "back up" pill stuffed inside...

Within a few minutes, I watch as Girl Dog belly-crawled over to me... head down, eyes averted... and stuck her sweet nose in to the crook of my elbow.  All but crawling into my lap, she waited... waited for me to forgive her, waited for words of reassurance, waited for a single touch, that showed her that it was all better. 

And after a few minutes... convinced that I wasn't going to throw her out of the pack... she lifted her head, and turned to my other hand, where the hotdog was still clenched.

Nuzzling open my hand, she gently took the hot dog... and with great intentionality, chewed... and swallowed.

Some things just aren't worth the fight.

So on this cool, almost Fall-like day, don't fight it... make this jam.  It'll make me happy... and as you can see... I need a little happiness in my life!


What you'll need:
1 1/2 Cups finely grated (and peeled) carrots
1 1/2 Cups finely diced peeled and cored tart apples, such as granny smith
1 3/4 Cups canned crushed pineapple, including juice
3 Tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
3/4 Teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 Teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/4 Cup raisins
One (1.75-ounce) package powdered fruit pectin
6 1/2 Cups granulated sugar
1/2 Teaspoon butter
1/2 Cup finely chopped walnuts

If you are going to preserve this jam, you'll want to prepare everything as you normally would... boil the jars, warm the lids and rings, etc.

Combine carrots, apples, pineapple, lemon juice, cinnamon, nutmeg, and cloves in large, heavy saucepan. Bring to a boil over high heat, stirring constantly. Reduce heat to simmer, cover, and cook 20 minutes, stirring occasionally. Meanwhile, pulse raisins in food processor until finely chopped. That way, all you raisin haters won't be able to tell they're in there! Whooo-ha-ha-ha.  That was my evil laugh.  Set aside.

After 20 minutes, remove the pot from heat and stir in pectin until dissolved. Stir in raisins, breaking up clumps with back of spoon. Return pot to heat and bring to boil. Add sugar all at once. Die a little bit inside, when you see 6 and 1/2 cups of sugar go into something you will be serving your friends and family, and return to a boil, stirring constantly. Add butter and boil hard for one minute. Remove pot from heat, skim off any foam if you want (though I usually skip this step), and stir in walnuts.

Ladle hot jam into hot sterilized jars, leaving 1/4-inch headspace. Wipe rims of the jars, cover with lids, and screw bands on until just barely tight. Place jars on rack in pot and cover completely with water. Cover pot and bring to a boil over high heat. Boil for 10 minutes. Turn off heat, uncover pot, and allow jars to rest in water for five minutes. Remove jars from pot and allow them to sit undisturbed on the countertop for six hours or overnight.

I wish I had been the one to create this recipe... because it is GENIUS!  But alas, I found it at days ago... you know, when there was snow on the ground and I was foolishly searching for recipes that would convince me that Spring was on its way...  It's sweet. Sticky.  I sort of wish it had more carrots in it (literally, never thought I would say that).  And has six and half cups of sugar in it.  But it's totally worth a try... and the sugar crash that follows.

Please enjoy and... by the way, Boy Dog and I have made up.

Sunday, April 24, 2011

A Good Joke: Easter

Q: What do you call a line of rabbits who are walking backwards?


A: A receding hairline.

Happy Easter! 

May it be filled with grace, laughter, and moments of ressurection that will surprise you...

Note: No feelings were hurt in the making of this post.  Above hairline subject, and butt of minor joke, was a willing participant after a bit of arm twisting.

Friday, April 8, 2011

Not A Low-fat Food: White Chocolate Pumpkin Cups

One Lent, maybe a year or two ago, I decided to "give up" sugar.

When Protestants give something up for Lent, it always sort of feels like Paris Hilton, putting out a hip-hop cd, where she raps about the hardship of livin' her gangsta life. Or Donald Trump telling me he "understands." Or Sarah Palin running for President.  Or, for that matter, Donald Trump running for President.  (Um, Canada? You got room for one more?)

In other words... a tiny bit disingenuous.

But I was living in an Anglican world at the time, and it felt like the thing to do.

So I gave up sugar. For six weeks. Minus Feast Days. And not a day more.

During my time in this sugar free world, like any good addict, I found myself needing a fix... and thus, I was drawn to Sugar Free Candy.

The interesting thing about sugar free products, is that they are almost always prominently labeled with a statement that reads, "Not a Low-Fat Food." I found this curious.  I'm generally not a package reader beyond a quick glance to see how many ingredients are listed. I know what's good for me... and if I know something is not, I prefer to live in ignorance.  But this bold statement had me stcratchin' my noggin, and I decided to investigate.

I mean, is the package bragging?  Confessing?  Trying to stir up controversy? Wanting it's own reality t.v. show?  Who knew?

Except... it was none of those things. 

This sugar free candy... a presumably healthy option, if only by virtue of being made with one less ingredient that 60% of all American's are addicted too... is holy-smokes-I-went-up-a-pant-size-full-of-fat!!!

We're not talking a gram or two of "fat differential" here... more like 10-20 GRAMS!

Apparently, when you take the sweet goodness of white sugar and corn syrup out of something... you must plump it up (What? No pun intended.) with fat so that it will satiate in a similar sugar-induced-coma sort of way.

So, needless to say, by Easter Sunday I was ready to celebrate our Risen Lord and Saviour with chocolate bunnies and handfuls of jelly beans.  If only so I could button my blouses again.

So here's a little something to get you through the long Lenten days... and I promise, it's totally packed with fat and sugar.

What you'll need:

White chocolate chips or bark (I use Ghirardelli)
Mini (2 inch) foil muffin liners
2 Oz. cream cheese, at room temperature
1/4 Cup pumpkin puree
1 Teaspoon cinnamon
1 Teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1/4 Cup powdered sugar
1 Cup finely ground graham cracker crumbs (a food processor works best here)

Recipe adapted from What Megan's Making.

Line a small muffin tin with 12 mini muffin paper liners. Throw this in the freezer.

Melt the chocolate in increments in the microwave. Make sure not to overheat.  White chocolate can scorch pretty quickly, if not watched.

Pull out your cooled muffin tin, and using a small spoon, paint the melted chocolate all over the insides of your mini foil muffin liners.  Allow chocolate cups to harden completely by placing muffin tin back in the fridge or freezer while you do the next bit.

In a medium bowl, combine the cream cheese, puree, spices, and vanilla and mix until smooth. Mix in the powdered sugar until smooth, then stir in the graham cracker crumbs. Spoon the pumpkin mixture into your hardened chocolate cups and smooth the top to create an even surface.  There's a lot of smoothness going on here.

Re-melt the remaining chocolate if needed and top off your filled cups, smoothing the tops and making sure the chocolate reaches all the way to the edges in order to seal the goodness in. Chill in the fridge until set, about 1-2 hours.

(Not recommended for dogs.  Though they might try to convince you otherwise).

Totally genuine.  And not lookin' for it's own reality t.v. show.  Which means, it might be the only thing in the world, not looking for a reality show.

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Home: Canning Dreams

So last weekend was a gorgeous, 70 degree, Saturday.

You know the kind...babies laughing, children riding their bikes, gardens being planned with hope and expectation, lunches being made and consumed outdoors...

...neighbors, pulling down their pants and urinating in plain view.

I'm not exactly sure why my neighbor couldn't walk five feet into his house to relieve himself...but I'm sure his reply, had I said something, would have been along the lines of "it's my dang property, I can do what I want."

I make that assumption, only because a few hours later on this same delightful, promise-filled day, my husband was outside playing with our dogs... and the neighbor's teenager, hit him with a BB (thankfully, said BB, hit the visor of his hat, and not his eyeball). And the neighbors kid responded along the lines of "it's my dang gun, I can do what I want."  Spoken like any good ol', red blooded, American...

So you know...obviously...summer is in the air.

And it got me thinkin' about retiring the pumpkin for a bit and pulling out the canning supplies again...

So, I thought a little preview might be in order! Here's what I've got planned for Spring and early Summer:

Strawberry Jam; how can I not?

Strawberry and Lavender Jam; home grown lavender is sure to invoke memories of Lyon...

Strawberry Jam with Thai Herbs; think cilantro, ripe berries, sugar, and balsamic vinegar...can't help but drool a little.

Strawberry Butter; hubba hubba

Rhubarb Something or Other; I've been a little fixated on growing rhubarb...but it takes two years to establish and I believe I've mentioned once or twice before, how patience is not my this will likely be based on what I can find at the City Market.

Pickled Asparagus; we'll see.

Carrot Pickles; apparently, all the rage in San Francisco. Who knew?

Anyway. That was the dream...until today.

Now the dream has morphed into visions of ice scrapers and earmuffs. But at least I can rest assured that my neighbor will relieve himself indoors...


Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Age Old Rituals: Pumpkin King Cake

Today is Shrove Tuesday.  A day in which we are "to shrive" or, for those who speak modern English... a day of celebratory penance.

Traditionally, Shrove Tuesday has been set aside as a day to confess one's sins, receive absolution, and thus, free one's self from sin and guilt... before entering into the somber and penitential season known within the Christian and Catholic churches, as Lent.

At some point, we interpreted this to mean... "drink as much alcohol as humanly possible and show your breasts to strangers, in order to collect cheap beads and trinkets."

What?  You don't see the connection?

God is... so proud of us.

If flashing a neighbor is out of the question and confession isn't really up your alley... try a King Cake.  Pumpkin style. (There are lots and lots of King Cake recipes out there, and this one, is a conglomeration... but surprisingly, I didn't find a single one, which included pumpkin! So there you go.)

What you'll need:

For the cake/pastry
1/2 Cup milk
2 Tablespoons butter
1 Package active dry yeast
1/3 Cup warm water (110*F/45*C)
1/4 Cup white sugar
1 Egg
3/4 Teaspoon salt
1/4 Teaspoon nutmeg
2-3/4 Cups flour

For the filling
1/2 Cup packed brown sugar
1-1/2 Teaspoons ground cinnamon
1/3 Cup pecans (chopped)
1/4 Cup flour
1/4 Cup melted butter
1/2 Cup pumpkin puree

For the icing
1/2 Cup confectioners sugar
1-1/2 Teaspoons water
Colored sugar
A bean of your choosing

Scald milk, remove from heat and stir in butter. Allow mixture to cool to room temperature. In a large bowl, dissolve yeast in the warm water with 1 tablespoon of the white sugar. Let stand until frothy, about 10 minutes.

When yeast mixture is frothy, add the cooled milk mixture. Whisk in the egg. Stir in the remaining sugar, salt and nutmeg. Beat the flour into the milk/egg mixture 1 cup at a time. When the dough has pulled together, turn it out onto a lightly floured surface and knead until smooth and elastic, about 8 to 10 minutes. Lightly oil a large bowl, place the dough in the bowl and turn to coat with oil. Cover with plastic wrap and let rise in a warm place until doubled in volume, about 2 hours.

While that's doing its thing, combine the brown sugar, ground cinnamon, chopped pecans, and 1/2 cup flour. Pour 1/2 cup melted butter over the cinnamon mixture and mix until crumbly.  Add the puree and stir.

Roll dough out into a large rectangle (approximately 10x16 inches or so). Spread the filling evenly over the dough and roll tightly like a jelly roll, beginning at the widest side. Bring the ends of each roll together to form an oval shaped ring. (Mine lost it's oval-ness, but tasted just fine.) Place on a greased or parchment covered cookie sheet. Let rise in a warm spot until doubled in size, about 45 minutes.  Preheat your oven to 375*.

Bake in preheated oven for 30 minutes. Push a doll or a bean into the bottom of the cake. Frost while warm with the powdered sugar blended with 1 to 2 tablespoons of water.  Sprinkle with colored sugar, according to your preference.

Cut a piece while it's still warm, and Oh. My. Gosh.  You'll know then, what it is that you shall "shrive." 

Blessings to you this Shrove Tuesday...

Friday, March 4, 2011

Resentments: Pumpkin Oatmeal Cookies

There's a lot being said these days, about dear old Charlie Sheen.

How he's gone crazy... how the drugs have finally done their job... how he's a sex addict. Or an alcoholic. Or addicted to the Internet. Or chocolate. Or peanut shells. Or eating the dadgum stuffing found inside your living room couch. (Did anyone see that special on TLC?)

I don't agree with any of these assertions. I think... he's an overpaid punk that's never had to work for the life he lives and can't comprehend the normal boundaries which the rest of the world (either willingly or reluctantly) lives within.

But that's just me.

What can I say? Compassion is not my strong suit.

I say... put him in one of these get-ups for a few weeks. And lets see what happens?

"Resentments...are the rocket fuel that lives in the tip of my saber." (C. Sheen, 2011)

Yeah. You don't know how many times I've heard that, this past week.

Ignore this who-haw, and bake some cookies.  Pumpkin Oatmeal Cookies.
What you'll need:
2 Cups all purpose flour
2 1/3 Cups old fashioned oats
1 Teaspoon baking soda
1/2 Teaspoon baking powder
1/2 Teaspoon salt
2 Teaspoons cinnamon
1/2 Teaspoon pumpkin pie spice (it's like, the bottle that never runs dry!)
1 Cup (2 sticks) butter - softened
3/4 Cup dark brown sugar
3/4 Cup granulated sugar
2 Tablespoons honey
1 Cup pumpkin puree
1 Large egg
1 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
Extra bits: cranberries, chocolate chips, walnuts, pecans, etc.

Preheat your oven to 350* and line the baking sheets with parchment paper.

Cream butter and sugars together until light and fluffy. Add egg, pumpkin, vanilla, and spices and mix until just combined.  Add flour, baking soda, and baking powder, stirring until combined... then add your oats.

Divide your batter and add your "bits" accordingly. I put cranberries and walnuts in one batch (Yum!)... semi-sweet chocolate chips in another (meh.).. pecans and milk chocolate (okay)... plain pecans (the best!)... just throw in whatever your little, crazy heart desires.

Bake each batch 10-13 minutes.

And by the way, for those of you who know the cone head above... he is doing well. He's certainly not fixed, but at the very least, we bought some more time.  Time... to live with his incoherent rantings, hotdog binges, and shady behavior with Princess, the street-dog from down the road.  Sigh.

Monday, February 14, 2011

St. Valentine: Pumpkin Tiramisu

Oh hey!  Guess what?!  Today is Valentine's Day!!

Noooooo.... it wasn't in November when WalMart started to throw boxes of pre-made iced sugar cookies on the shelves. As appetizing as that sounds...

Or in December when Target threw open the doors and filled every last crevice with red and white Saint Valen-tiny memorabilia.

OR January, when our local grocery store started to convince me that if I didn't pre-order my red roses RIGHT NOW, I'd be sorry, grow an awkward and unexplainable fungus on my foot, and die a lonely old maid.

Nope.  It's today.

So my husband... my dear, sweet, beautiful husband... took me to IHOP for lunch and then (yes, it actually gets better) we went to Sam's Club... to buy a printer.

I know. 

You don't have to say it.

Romance is alive and well, in the metro.

So in return, I smoothed down the hair on my legs and made Pumpkin Tiramasu.

What you'll need:
1 1/2 Cups whipping cream
1 Package of gelatin
3/4 cup sugar
1 (8-ounce) container mascarpone cheese
1 Cup pumpkin puree
2 Packages ladyfingers or a loaf of pound cake, cut into "finger" sized strips
1/4+ Cup coffee liqueur (I used Sheridans, which is just about the best coffee chocolate flavored liqueur out there)
Crushed toffee bars (Buy four.  Eat one.  Use two for the tiramisu.  Stash the other for that day.)

Dissolve gelatin in about 1/4 Cup whipping cream. Pour remainder whipping cream and gelatin-ized cream together, and beat with sugar, until peaks form. Add mascarpone cheese and pumpkin, and beat just until filling is smooth.

Line the bottom of a springform pan (my springform is on the small side, and it still works wonderfully) with 1 package ladyfingers, overlapping and crowding to fit. Sprinkle with a generous few tablespoons of liqueur. But don't be so generous, that there's none left for the juice glass that you may or may not have filled, for yourself.  Spread half of the filling over the ladyfingers.

Repeat with the second package ladyfingers, remaining coffee liqueur, and remaining filling. Smooth. Wrap tightly in plastic, then foil. Chill overnight or at least, 6-8 hours.

It's beautiful, it's lovely, and Saint Valentine would be proud.

Proud, no doubt, that we've run his name and his message, through the chocolate and candy heart mud.

But anyway...

I pray you know love today... from a spouse, a partner, a dear friend, or a family member.  I hope your dog or your cat can take a few minutes out of their busy, busy lives to show you how much you mean to them.  But most of all, I hope you love yourself today... despite the fungus.

Happy Valentine's Day!!!

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Gettin' Fancy: Pumpkin Cake with Honey Creamcheese Frosting

Well, it's time to pull out my purdy dress. 

My cousin is getting married today. 

What is it about weddings, that turn regular, down-to-earth women, into little girls who "sqeeeee" at the mention of ballgown dresses and tiny after dinner mints? Made out of cream cheese. (sigh)

Or that turn naturally reserved, happily-married women, into blushing bride-wanna-be-agains?

What is it about weddings, that turn sweatpant wearing, mascara-on-a-good-day, hair in a ponytail type women, into giddy "mercy me, what am I gonna wear," sort of a women?

I mean for the love of all that's holy.  The wedding is in Arkansas.  If I get shoes on this morning, it'll be a step in the right direction.

(I didn't mean that.  I have friends... I have family... in Arkansas.  Not one of them has ever been shoeless in my presence.)

Anyway, to celebrate this festive and fancy occasion, I have Pumpkin Cake with a Honey Cream Cheese Frosting. (There are lots of folks on the Internet who do this cake... but I'll attribute it to Martha Stewart, since "she is to weddings," what "AARON RODGERS IS TO GREENBAY!!!!!!!"  Sorry.  Had to.)

What you'll need:

1/2 Cup butter, melted
1 Tablespoon pumpkin-pie spice (still trying to work my way through it)
1 Teaspoon cinnamon
Dash or two of nutmeg
2 Eggs
1 1/2 Cups sugar
2 1/2 Cups pumpkin puree
2 1/2 Cups all-purpose flour
2 Teaspoons baking soda

1/4 Cup butter
8 Oz. reduced fat cream cheese
1/4 Cup honey
1 Teaspoon cinnamon

Preheat oven to 350 degrees and spray a 9-inch square baking pan with non-stick baking spray.

In a medium bowl, whisk flour, baking soda, salt, and pumpkin-pie spice. In a large bowl, whisk eggs, sugar, butter, and pumpkin puree until combined. Add dry ingredients to pumpkin mixture, and mix gently until smooth. Pour into prepared pan, and smooth top. Bake until a toothpick inserted in center of cake comes out with just a few moist crumbs attached, 45 to 50 minutes. Cool cake 10 minutes in pan, then turn out of pan, and cool completely, right side up, on a rack.

Make Honey Frosting: In a medium bowl, whisk butter, cream cheese, and honey until smooth. Spread top of cooled cake.  I didn't, and it slid all around like it was trying to escape.

Okay.  So it's no wedding cake.
Not even close. 
But the honey does add a flavor that I don't often pair with pumpkin and the cake is so moist, it was hard to tell when it was done... so make sure you cook it thoroughly... and enjoy! 
Now, I need to go find something to wear, that has deep pockets...there are cream cheese mints to be stashed!

Saturday, January 29, 2011

Dreams: Pumpkin Oatmeal

I was watching the X Games tonight.

I'll let that sink in first.

Ministers wives aren't generally X Game watchin' sort of folk. But me?

Well, let's just say that, if I could laminate my "list" (that's a Friends reference), a little red-headed, boy-wonder, named Shaun White, would be front and center. 

Anyway, we were watching Snowboard Cross this evening, and I turned to Brett and said, "You know, I'd really like to learn how to snowboard."

A few minutes later, the commentators said something about a 28 year old competitor getting ready to "age out" and I turned back to Brett and said, "I'm gonna need to get on the ball... my time is almost up."

And Brett goes, "Are you planning on competing?"  And I, with all sincerity, said, "Well, I am having a bit of an identity crises...maybe this is the way I go!"

Maybe you had to be there... but we laughed for ten minutes.

Now, to be clear... I once stepped out of bed, twisted my ankle, and couldn't walk for two days.  Gretchen Blierler made up a trick called The Crippler, which involves spinning 180*, 60 feet in the air, while you're upside down.  I figure as soon as I can master Getting Out Of Bed (an exceptionally difficult trick, some mornings)... I'm just a few rides away from tackling the Crippler.

So of course, I'll need a hearty breakfast to fuel my day on the slopes (we're going to completely ignore the fact, that the nearest" slope", and-by-slope-I-mean-icy-hill, is about two hours away) and I made Pumpkin Oatmeal.

What you'll need:
1 Cup old fashioned oats
1 1/2 Cup Light soy milk
2 Teaspoons brown sugar
1/2 Teaspoon pumpkin pie spice (had some left in my cabinet; trying to get rid of it)
1/2 Teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 Cup pumpkin puree (heaping)
Handful of dried cranberries

Bring milk and oats to a boil and let simmer, stirring occasionally, for about five minutes.  Stir in sugar, spice... and everything nice.  Including pumpkin. Let simmer for another minute or two.  Stir in cranberries.

It wasn't too bad.  I mean... it's oatmeal, so let's have some perspective. But it would be a great way to use up leftover puree.  Or I can even imagine throwing some pumpkin pie... like actual, leftover pie... into the oatmeal.  Might be good.

So, live out your dreams today. Even if it only means getting out of bed, without hurting yourself.

Saturday, January 22, 2011

No Dimethylopolysiloxane: Pumpkin Walnut Focaccia Bread

I read in a recent Consumer Reports, that McDonald's Chicken McNuggets are prepared using a preservative called TBHQ. Apparently, TBHQ is derived from petroleum.

I'm not entirely sure what the problem is. I mean, if it's good enough for my car, it's good enough for me, right? Just don't get my mother started about the antifreeze that the "bakers" put in the pound cakes, at Sam's. But again, I say... if it's good enough for my car...

A bit more disturbing though?

I also read that chicken nuggets (you know, that yummy ground up chicken paste that constitutes a meat) are mixed with Dimethylpolysiloxane (say that, ten times), an anti-foaming agent used in hair conditioner.

Why the heck do chickens need hair condition? They barely have any hair.

Anyway.  Make some Pumpkin Walnut Focaccia Bread. Nothing weird or hard to pronounce. Just yummy goodness, while you try to live into your new year resolutions! (This recipe is from the Cooking Light Magazine, and each slice... you get eight out of each loaf... will only set you back 169 calories.  Not bad, considering you can eat an over-processed "thin bagel" for 110 calories and feel utterly unsatisfied, exactly four minutes after you finish it.  Or is that just me?)

What you'll need:

3/4 Cup warm water (100*-110*)
1/3 Cup packed brown sugar
1 Package dry yeast (which for most jars, ends up being somewhere around 2-2 1/2 teaspoons)
3 1/2 Cups bread flour
3 Tablespoons melted butter
1 Cup pumpkin puree
1 Teaspoon salt
1/4 Teaspoon nutmeg
3/4 Cup grated Gruyere cheese
Cornmeal for sprinkling
Walnuts, coarsely chopped

Combine water, sugar, and yeast in a large bowl; let stand 5 minutes. Lightly spoon flour into dry measuring cups; level with a knife. Add 1 cup flour and butter to yeast mixture; stir just until combined. Cover and let rise in a warm place (85°), free from drafts and mean Republicans, for 30 minutes.

Add pumpkin, salt, and nutmeg to flour mixture; stir until well combined. Add 2 1/4 cups flour and half of cheese; stir until a soft dough forms. Turn dough out onto a floured surface. Knead until smooth and elastic (about 8 minutes); add enough of remaining 1/4 cup flour, 1 tablespoon at a time, to prevent dough from sticking to hands (dough will feel tacky, but that's probably just the powder blue leisure suit in it's closet).

Place dough in a large bowl coated with cooking spray or olive oil, turning to coat top. Cover and let rise in a warm place (85°), free from drafts, 1 hour or until doubled in size. (Press two fingers into dough. If indentation remains, dough has risen enough.) Punch dough down; cover and let rest 5 minutes. Divide dough in half; shape each half into an 8-inch circle. Place dough circles on a baking sheet sprinkled with cornmeal. Sprinkle remaining cheese and nuts evenly over dough circles; press lightly to adhere. Lightly coat dough circles with cooking spray; cover and let rise 20 minutes (dough will not double in size).

Preheat oven to 400°.

Uncover dough; bake at 400° for 30 minutes or until loaves are browned on the bottom and cheese melts (shield loaves with foil to prevent overbrowning, if necessary). Cool on a wire rack.

Very yummy, free of motor oil or windshield wiper fluid, and quite filling!  Enjoy!