Pumpkin Loaf with Cranberries & Ginger

img_3183It’s the first weekend in October, raining outside, and I’ve set the thermostat for the upcoming colder weather. There’s something great about turning off the furnace in April, and equally great about turning it back on in the fall. October on Thetis usually gives us an evenly mixed bag of warm & sunny days and cool & rainy days. Giving us time to say good-bye to summer, and start to appreciate and accept the upcoming winter.

The trees are laden with apples and pears, which desperately need to be picked before the raccoons settle in to eat them all. The oak leaves are starting to show their bold reds, with the maples just starting to have golden crowns.   I love this time year, it inspires me to get back in the kitchen to create some new things, and test out some simmering ideas I have. Here’s this week’s offering, a very light pumpkin loaf, studded with bright cranberries and pungent ginger. Drizzled with a vanilla-cinnamon glaze, it slices beautifully, and is perfect for snacking. Enjoy it as you feel the autumn settle in around you, like a well-loved blanket. Continue reading

Traditional Poultry Stuffing

 

Ready for stuffing the bird.

Ready for stuffing the bird.

When I was very small, I remember watching with fascination, as Mom & Dad would put the turkey in the sink, and proceed to stuff it full of the mixture they’d cooked earlier that morning. They’d skewer it closed, stretching the skin to fit. Hefting the bird into a roaster that we never used for anything else, they would then put it in the oven. This would all happen before lunch, as it would take hours for the bird to roast. As soon as it was in the oven, Dad would drive off to go pick up Grandma to spend the holiday with us. The smell of the herb-laden stuffing would fragrantly scent the house all day.

As we grew, we took on a bit more of the holiday cooking each year, learning to simply make dinner, perhaps with a quick glance at the well-thumbed Joy of Cooking, but usually just following what Mom did, which was probably essentially the same as her mom did, and her mom before that.

Although I now buy a bag of coarse breadcrumbs, when growing up we never did. Slightly stale crusts and bits of bread would be kept until there were enough to either break apart to make a coarse crumb, or put folded into a tea towel to be rolled and crushed into fine crumbs. Today our bread trimmings tend to go to the chickens with their morning feed.

As stuffing is a bit of this and a bit of that, I needed to narrow it down to the essentials for the recipe; herbs, vegetables, a bit of fruit, egg, a bit of liquid, and sometimes the treat of oysters, and dry breadcrumb. This is essentially how I make it year after year, occasionally adding something new just to switch it up. Continue reading

Candied Orange Peel

IMG_8849A simple little winter treat, to make use of the wonderful oranges available this time of year. Use to garnish desserts, or to serve alone, as a little something at the end of a special meal. There are a few steps to this, but none of them difficult. The first time I ever made these was after a cousin, wearing a headband and groovy bellbottoms, had come to visit, and had a bag of these yummy morsels in her pack to share. Continue reading

Pumpkin Pie

IMG_8651In 1977, while living at home and working fulltime, I was entrusted to help a friend screen people to share a rental home with her. We posted an ad in the paper and at the student union building. We sorted through the many applicants, chiseling it down to the four we thought would best fit. It was a roomy house, not far from campus, that was in really decent condition.   A coffee meet was planned at a nearby restaurant. We got there early, and waited patiently for the chosen four to arrive. No Facebook to check them out on, so we didn’t even know what they looked like. I suppose we had beacons on our heads, because they all came straight to our table. It was the easiest gathering of unknowns that I’ve ever been part of. We ended up sitting and talking for close to three hours. At the end of it, we had 3 women and a man that would be sharing the rent & the home. As it turned out, all six of us were born within four weeks of each other. Although I was still living at home (my equestrian pursuits put enough strain on my coffers that I had to stay at home or give up my training), these people would become so important in our lives for the next few years.

The first Thanksgiving in the new house, was epic. Everyone had to bring two guests, so we had 18 people for dinner. My girlfriend and I cooked the turkey nestled in root vegetables, and everything else was potluck and unplanned. I’m sure there were a couple of side dishes, but all I really remember was that somehow 8 pumpkin pies arrived. All home baked, and all very different. Of course we all needed to try a piece of each! Another realization for me – I’m a purist when it comes to pumpkin pie. Do not put raisins in a pumpkin pie. Do not put a crumble on top of a pumpkin pie. Just give me creamy pumpkin custard with un-muddled spice baked in basic pastry with a bit of cream on the side.

The two years that I spent closely knitted with Trutch house taught me so much, from singing with complete abandon, to doing our own SNL versions, and to those long post midnight hours, sitting with tea and figuring out the world with other perspectives. And the fact that I do love pumpkin pie.

Here’s the way I’ve been making it for as long as I can remember. I’ve made it with roasted and mashed pumpkin (preferred) or with pumpkin from a tin. I originally got a recipe off the back of a label, and have kept doing it essentially the same way ever since.   Continue reading