Thursday, November 27, 2008

Passionate about Pumpkin

Pumpkin is one of my favorite foods. Thinking and writing about pumpkin makes me smile. I have the skinny and the not so skinny versions of most of my pumpkin recipes. The house always smells so good when pumpkin and spices are melding together.

I will admit it, I am a stay under the quilt, read a good book, drink a cup of java and munch on a muffin person. My favorite...yep, pumpkin. 

Here is my not so skinny version. *If you wish to make this the skinny way - replace butter with applesauce (I use the homestyle), the sugars with Splenda® products and use egg whites. I have not played with alternative flours.

Pumpkin Muffins
2 c flour
2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp ground ginger
1/4 tsp fresh grated nutmeg
pinch of clove
8 Tbs unsalted butter (melted)
1/2 c sugar*
1/4 c light brown sugar*
2 large eggs*
1/2 tsp vanilla
3/4 c pumpkin puree
1/4 c buttermilk
1/4 c dark raisins
1/4 c golden raisins
1/2 c chopped pecans or walnuts

(Do not over whisk or fold)
  1. Stir together flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt and spices. Set aside.
  2. In large separate bowl whisk eggs with fork, add sugars and whisk. Add butter, whisk.
  3. Add pumpkin, buttermilk and whisk until just blended.
  4. Fold in flour mixture.
  5. Add raisins and nuts, fold in gently.

Evenly distribute in prepared muffin tins and bake in 350 degree oven approximately 20-25 minutes - however it depends on the style and size of your muffin tins. 

If you are preparing these for company, sprinkle a little powdered sugar on top after they have cooled.

I will take a photo and post the next time I make these.

Monday, November 3, 2008

I Spy with My Little Eyes...

For many years we traveled to Rhode Island to celebrate Thanksgiving with my husbands family. Due to my mother in laws health now we are unable to make this annual pilgrimage. One of my favorite things to do was stay up very late the night before T-day and make centerpieces with my husbands cousin. She is wonderfully creative and has an acute sense of spacial design. We click on several levels and that makes for lots of chatting while we create the "thing" that will go on every table. 

One year we needed some greenery or "twiggery" to add to our creation. It was near midnight, no florist was going to be open at that hour. "Let's go outside," she said. So, with our Wellies on, a flashlight and clippers in hand we headed out into the depth of night. I went along thinking ok this is fun. I am still not sure whose yards we snipped some treasures from but what I do know is we found some really interesting shapes and textures. And once we got inside it was obvious not much of our clippings were green. That didn't matter.

The following year we went to the left coast over the Thanksgiving weekend to celebrate a family wedding. During all the hustle and bustle of getting things ready for the wedding, my parents decided to host Thanksgiving at their house. Tables were being set with table clothes and place settings and I noticed something was missing AND I was also missing my time with my husbands cousin. Feeling kind of nostalgic, on Thanksgiving very early in the morning I asked my mom what she was doing about the centerpiece. She said she could pull out some candles or some artificial flowers because she had not thought of the table flowers. That was my cue. This was my chance. I asked my mom if I could go into her garden and find some stuff and make a centerpiece. She looked a bit puzzled as if to say, "are you crazy there's nothing blooming outside," and yet we both smiled with relief, it was a win win.

Outside I went with my Wellies, hat, coat, clippers and a collecting basket. Martha would be proud. I didn't need to snip away in neighbors yards, my mom has a green thumb and she had so many plants to chose from. That morning it was chilly enough I could see my breath. The plants were sparkling from the sunlight just coming through the trees. I might have been talking to myself or out loud, "ooh that's a good one", as I spied a fine specimen here and there.

Once inside, I raided the refrigerator of some veggies. I found a giant basket in the attic, that green foamy block stuff and some floral pins. The kitchen provided me the necessary wooden skewers. Frankenstein's lab was in the garage and what emerged was a beautiful Fall arrangement and it came from my moms garden.

As the Summer turns to Fall and our gardens begin to brown don't be so hasty to cut and mulch. You might need some of the "twiggery" to ordain your next feast, or maybe your neighbor needs it (at midnight).

Sunday, November 2, 2008


Thanks to a friend who discovered this goodness in a bottle, I now have another reason to go to the wilderness in Oregon and go camping. No arm twisting is needed for me to go camping or travel to my home state of Oregon, this is just a bonus. Blended with eight year old whiskeys, Snake River Stampede made by Indio Spirits makes me want to put my hands in the back pocket of the guy I love and snuggle near a fire. 

I leave the official taste descriptions to the professionals. However, in my amatuer opinion probably using words not normally found in descriptions of whiskey, Snake River Stampede is smooth, slightly woody, has a touch of sweetness, not heavy and definitely warms you up all the way down to your toes. Check out the Indio website for current selling locations. It's not yet in my state...but it's getting closer.

Monday, October 27, 2008

Dor L'Dor

What a gift we have when family and friends can come together and share bread. We all know that the kitchen is where we tend to hangout. Throw in some favorite foods, drinks and stories and the memories are what is really cooking. I am blessed to have inherited the love of baking from my mother and her grandmother. Although I only remember one of my great grandmothers baked sensations, out of the oven yeast cinnamon rolls with hot chocolate, the memory of her sitting with me while I was eating it is just as important as how yummy and sticky the treat was.

There have been many people in my life who have taught me how to cook or bake using their "method" or "secret" ingredient. From time to time as I remember these people and the food we prepared together, I will share the story and the recipe.

Today I was putting away some powdered sugar and I remembered a cookie recipe, Kipfel or Crescent, given to my husband by his grandmother who was quite a baker in her day. I never had the honor of meeting her or sampling her confections but I certainly strive to master her recipes and feel great when my husband says they are just like his Nanny made. That is the ultimate compliment indeed. Hopefully I can teach my children to appreciate these recipes so they too can pass them on to their children, generation to generation.

1/2 lb sweet salted butter
1/2 c sugar
1/2 tsp vanilla
1/4 lb ground almonds with skins
2 c flour
vanilla sugar*
powdered sugar

  1. Cream butter, sugar and flour
  2. Fold in ground almonds and flour with a wooden spoon
  3. Roll and shape into crescents
  4. Bake 15-20 minutes in 350 degree oven
  5. After baked dip crescent in a mixture of vanilla sugar and powdered sugar
  6. Store in airtight container. May be frozen.
* Vanilla Sugar: vanilla sugar is simple to make and keeps in an airtight container easily. Scrape the seeds of one vanilla bean with the back of a knife and place in a bowl with 2 cups of sugar. Stir well. Transfer to an airtight container and let it sit for 2 weeks before using.

Friday, October 24, 2008

The Nutmeg

Nutmeg is a spice I use all year. However, when the leaves begin to change color and the days get shorter I definitely reach for that seed and grater more often. Indispensable to eggnog and a Starbucks® Pumpkin Spiced Latte, nutmeg is usually associated with sweet, spicy dishes.

Whole nutmegs will keep indefinitely and accompanied by a grater you can grate away anytime.

  • One whole nutmeg equals 2-3 tsp of ground nutmeg
  • Nutmeg is not a nut and people with nut allergies need not worry
  • Adding nutmeg to your recipes is suppose to improve the appetite (not an issue for me)