Sunday, October 31, 2010

Now THIS is Fun Size -- HAPPY HALLOWEEN!

Seasonal Sundays is celebrating Halloween at The Tablescaper, be sure to check out all of the scary fun.

31 Days of Autumn Bliss is celebrating Halloween at The Inspired Room drop by for some great inspiration.


Have you ever heard of those "Fun Size" candy bars? They're little bars about three-quarters of an inch by an inch and a quarter, and seem to disappear the minute you put them in your mouth. Now I ask you, what fun is that? Why are they called "Fun Size?" I don't think that's much fun. REAL fun is an 8 oz. bar! A person can have DAYS (maybe WEEKS) of fun with that one. Here's my version of an 8 oz. pure chocolate Hershey bar all decked out for Halloween visitors.

It's easy enough to make by simply removing the label from any large candy bar to use as a template, then designing your own seasonal label.  In this case I used a computer and printer, but if your artistic skills extend beyond this, you could rubber stamp, sketch, or paint your own design.  It would be a fun project for kids anticipating the holiday and can be in any theme.

 No parents, I don't hand these out at the door in the hopes of sending your child into an endless sugar fit. I give them to friends who come for dinner and know how to handle this much fun all at once.
 
The quote from Count Dracula reads: "There are far worse things awaiting man than death."
 
BOO!






Saturday, October 30, 2010

Truly English Savoy Scones

Breakfast served this morning on a plate from The Art of William Hogarth Collection by Williams-Sonoma.

Yesterday, late afternoon, we went to St. Louis Bread Co. (known in different parts of the country as Panera) because I wanted an orange scone and was going to get Jim an "Everything" bagel. I wanted the scone because I still had half a jar of very expensive English clotted cream in the fridge and, having lost an entire jar at one point (got stuck behind the garlic pickles and eggplant chutney), I never wanted that to happen again. When I got there, there was one woman ahead of me and the service counter guy was yakking to her endlessly, making quite a point of ignoring me, as I stood there glaring at him.  When I want an orange scone, I want an ORANGE SCONE, but I digress.



There was only ONE scone (Not an orange one, alas, but wild blueberry that I don't like as well, but will take in a pinch -- orange goes so much better with the clotted cream and strawberry jam, you see. The whole wild blueberry scone/strawberry jam thing just seems wrong, but, yet again, I digress...) and ONE everything bagel left. As I stood there waiting, glancing frantically from the scone to the yakker to the scone and back, a couple came in and they, too, stood there glaring at the pastries, lips trembling, waiting to place an order.


Finally the yakker ambled over to me as the fleet-of-foot barrista, seeing the other couple unattended, ran up to them. As you've probably guessed, the other couple got both my scone and the bagel. I was FURIOUS! I told the yakker that I was there first and it was MY food that they'd just gone off with. He just sort of stared at me then shrugged and wandered off.  Can you say livid?  We're talking scones here, people!  MY scone, in someone else's house!  And probably improperly consumed, i.e. NOT with clotted cream and strawberry jam but perhaps (gasp) with butter or, worse yet, grape jelly! (I  can't stand it!)


Anyway, long story short (or is it too  late?), when I got up this morning there were Savoy Scones (that, BTW, put Bread Co. to SHAME) on the counter under my favorite French linen tea towel. Jim had baked them for me after I went to sleep last night. How's that for an "Awwwwww..." moment?


Here is Anton Edelmann's, maitre chef des cuisines at The Savoy, recipe and our favorite.

SAVOY SCONES
Makes about 8

1-3/4 c flour
4 t baking powder
1/4 t salt
5 T unsalted butter cut in small pieces, cold
5 T sugar
1/2 c currants (optional)
2/3 cup milk
1 large egg yolk for glaze

Preheat your oven to 400 degrees.

Sift together flour, baking powder, and salt. Work butter and sugar in by hand until it's crumbly.

Make a well in the center and add milk and currants and mix together quickly but don't over mix. Dough will be a bit sticky and rough looking.

On floured surface, roll dough out 3/4" thick and cut into 2-1/2" rounds. You can also just cut into 2-1/2" squares if you don't have a cookie cutter or make two rounds of dough and cut each into four wedges.

Brush tops with egg yolk.

Put on parchment or silpat-lined baking sheet and let rest for 15 minutes. Bake 15 min. until golden. Remove to rack to cool slightly.

(To be authentic you must serve them with clotted cream and strawberry jam.)


Thursday, October 28, 2010

Famous-Barr's French Onion Soup


Hot from the broiler, Gruyere-laden French Onion Soup

During it's heyday, Famous-Barr, a major department store in St. Louis (sadly, now it's become Macy's) had a wonderful chef create an even more wonderful version of French Onion Soup. It was thick and rich, and came from the kitchen in a McCoy pottery brown drip soup bowl (like the one pictured here, itself a genuine McCoy) bubbling with melted Gruyere cheese atop two slices of French baguette. It was heaven in a bowl! The store used to sell the soup frozen, along with packages of grated Gruyere cheese and fresh baguettes so you could reproduce that onion-y goodness at home. But over the course of time, the gourmet food section in the store closed, followed closely by the bakery and candy departments. Fortunately the St. Louis Post-Dispatch published the recipe so onion soup fanciers could make this version at home. I've had a lot of onion soup in my day, even in Paris, but this recipe beats them all.


FAMOUS-BARR'S FRENCH ONION SOUP

5 lbs onions, unpeeled
1/2 cup butter (1 stick)
1 1/2 teaspoons black pepper, freshly ground
2 tablespoons paprika
1 bay leaf
7 (16 ounce) cans beef broth, divided (recommended Swanson's)
1 cup dry white wine
3/4 cup all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons salt

French baguettes
Gruyere cheese

Peel onions and slice 1/8 inch thick, preferably in a food processor. Melt butter in a 6-quart (or larger) stockpot. Add onions; cook, uncovered, over low heat for 1 1/2 hours, stirring occasionally. (The long cooking time makes the onions mellow and sweet.) Stir in pepper, paprika and bay leaf; saute over low heat 10 minutes more, stirring frequently. Pour in 6 cans broth and wine. Increase heat and bring to a boil. Dissolve flour in remaining 1 can broth. Stir into boiling soup. Reduce heat and simmer slowly for 2 hours. Adjust color to a rich brown with caramel coloring, season with salt. Refrigerate overnight. To serve, heat soup in microwave or on stove top. If desired, pour into ovenproof crocks or bowls. Top with a slice of bread and a sprinkling of grated cheese. Heat under the broiler until cheese melts and bubbles, about 5 minutes.

Leftover soup can be frozen.
 

Foodie Friday is hosted by Michael at Designs by Gollum.









Wednesday, October 27, 2010

A Harvest Dinner

Tablescape Thursday is hosted by Susan from Between Naps on the Porch.


I've long been a reader of the beautiful and informative blog, Between Naps on the Porch. Dish and dinnerware fanatic that I am, Tablescape Thursday was one of my favorite days.  It comforted me to know that I was not alone in my quiet accumulating of dishes and glassware, my flatware fanaticism, and linen lust!  Now that I have a blog of my own I've decided to take part, beginning with this harvest table set for a late October meal.

When I build a table, and in many cases, this is exactly what I do, I begin first with the tablecloth, and then the centerpiece.  This centerpiece was born of pure serendipity.  I was shopping at Michael's one day and saw cornucopias piled up like warped lumber outside in one of the sale bins.  In all my years of entertaining I'd never used a cornucopia, so grabbed one (At only $2.99 I figured if it didn't work I could just toss it without remorse.), and immediately my mind went to work deciding what I'd put in it and around it. 

I wanted the table to represent all of the beauty and glory fall has to offer, so this meant the harvest.  I wanted seasonal fruits and vegetables, nuts, sheaves of wheat, Indian corn, cranberries, and unassuming lighting that offered a glow without detracting from the main attraction.  I also wanted a hint toward what was yet to come so filled a small trifle bowl with cranberries and added an amber ceramic turkey.


I wanted the placemats rustic and the dinnerware simple.  The dinner plates were from my collection of Fiestaware, alternating yellow plates with crimson ones.  The bowls are from a set of dishes called "Autumn Splendor."  I can't tell you how much I love these.


The napkins were made by my dear mother who can turn any piece of fabric I give her into something lovely for the table.  This fabric she found on her own and I think it's just perfect.  I'd told her that I wanted something that smacked of fall and food.  Her choice of the Indian corn pattern did both perfectly.  The goblets are also a favorite.  My mother bought them on a whim back in the 70's along with the chunky yellow-handled flatware.  After 20 years of use she was ready to move on and passed them to my welcoming hands.  They are bold, and fun, and surprisingly versatile.

I hope you enjoyed my harvest table.

Plates: Fiestaware
Bowls: Autumn Splendor
Napkins: My mom
Table Covering: Bed, Bath & Beyond
Flatware & Goblets: Gift
Mini Trifle Bowl: Target
Ceramic Turkey: Crate & Barrel

Cream of Tomato Soup

 The first soup I remember liking was Campbell's Cream of Tomato.  I don't know if it was the soup, or the toasted cheese sandwich that accompanied it that made it so appealing, but it was one lunch I always enjoyed in my youth, and still do today. It represents a combination of comfort and nostalgia that, as I get older, turn to again and again. These days the soup has become more sophisticated as have the cheese sandwiches, and yet there are days when I yearn for the uncomplicated and that's when I make this delicious and amazingly easy soup. The recipe is pictured below in the handwriting of an old friend.* This makes four nice servings. I caramelized the onions instead of just sauteing them. The soup relies heavily on the garnishes so do not omit them!


*If you find the photo hard to read, see below.

Cream of Tomato Soup

1 #303 can Italian chopped tomatoes (see below)
1 #303 can tomato sauce (see below)
1 cup Half 'n Half
2 teaspoons sugar
Salt & Pepper

Combine all ingredients and heat thoroughly; do not boil.

Garnish:
6 slices crumbled bacon
1/2 cup sautéed onions
1/2 cup sharp cheddar cheese, grated

NOTE: Can sizes used to be designated by number. Approximately 16-17 oz. make up what used to be known as a 303 can. This will be about 2 cups.


Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Driving the Great River Road to Grafton, IL


The fall colors were unspectacular and the food was adequate at best, but still we three had a fun day driving along the Great River Road to Grafton, IL.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Baked Potato Soup from the Magpie Cafe

A trip to St. Charles would not be complete without shopping on Historic Main Street, and dining at Magpie Cafe. Fortunately when I can't get there, or when the weather is too inclement to be able to sit outside on their multi-level patio and watch shoppers stroll the cobbled streets, I can at least fix one of my favorites, the Baked Potato Soup, at home.  It is but one of their many delicious specialties.

As luck would have it, this recipe is one of the many gems in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch's cookbook called Special Requests, that I mentioned earlier here.

I made this soup for dinner tonight to accompany a salad, and while the atmosphere might not have been quite as festive as dining at the restaurant (though I'm sure my husband would disagree), the soup was just as good.

Let me encourage you to try it!  Here's the recipe.




Cup - Konitz Cappuccino from Amazon


Konitz K103 Coffee Bar Cappuccino Cups and Saucers Set of 4

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Pumpkin Pancakes

My husband is a pancake purist.  If I add so much as add a chopped pecan he balks.  Me?  I'll try as many varieties as are available and then some.  Fruit varieties appeal in the summer, but come fall and winter and I'm drawn to more seasonal tastes like pumpkin, squash, and gingerbread.

The Pancake Handbook: Specialties from Bette's Oceanview DinerThis morning I made the pumpkin dollar cakes from our local market's cooking flyer.  It's not that I don't have plenty of pancake, waffle, crepe, and breakfast in general, cookbooks.  No, I have plenty and am likely to get more, (The Pancake Handbook is next on my list), the flyer just happened to be within arm's reach, the photo beckoning me to give this recipe a try.  How can anyone resist such a beckon?

As it turned out, they were great!  Spicy, pumpkin-y deliciousness in a cute little dollar size.  With a cup of coffee served in my Starbuck's pumpkin mug, I felt downright festive!  If you're interested in having a little seasonal breakfast fun of your own, here's the recipe.  If you have a problem reading it, please email me and I'll send it to you.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Curried Carrot and Pumpkin Soup

I was ready to try something savory after all of the sweet pumpkin dishes earlier this week, so decided upon soup.  Soup is my middle name come fall, and I like to make as much as I can both for instant enjoyment and to pop into the freezer to carry us through the winter and into the spring.  Having a nice variety of soups from delicate to hearty means I'm always ready for guests at a moment's notice; when we're weary from Christmas shopping I can have a meal on the table faster than I can hit the defrost button on the microwave.

Instead of simply making a pumpkin soup, I wanted to create something a bit more complex.  A soup that was not at all sweet, but with a depthness of flavor that would cause people to wonder just exactly what made up the list of ingredients.  So I combined carrots with pumpkin, seasoned them with curry and pumpkin pie spice, and came up with a delicious soup with a cayenne kick.  It goes together in a flash, and if you have an immersion blender and can blend it at the stove, you can have it on the table in 30 minutes.

1 tablespoon olive oil
2 tablespoons butter
1 medium onion, chopped
1 pound packaged baby carrots
4 cups chicken stock, homemade if possible 
1 tablespoon medium curry paste
1/8 teaspoon ground cayenne pepper *
1/4 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice *
1/3 cup solid pack pumpkin
1/2 teaspoon coarse salt *
Sour cream for garnish, if desired

* More to taste

Equipment: Plastic condiment bottle (recommended) or small plastic food storage bag

Preheat medium pot over medium high heat. Add olive oil, butter, onions and carrots and saute 5 minutes. Add 4 cups chicken stock, curry, pumpkin pie spice, and cayenne, and about 1 teaspoon salt to the pot. Bring to a boil, cover and cook until carrots are very tender, about 15 minutes. Remove from heat and blend using an immersion blender, or process in small batches in a blender or food processor.  Return soup to heat and thoroughly stir in pumpkin. Adjust seasonings.

To make spider web decoration:  Place sour cream in a plastic condiment squeeze bottle or into a medium food storage bag. Cut a very small hole in the corner of the bag with scissors. Ladle soup into bowls and squirt a swirl of sour cream around the bowl from the center out to the rim. Drag a toothpick from the center of the bowls out to the edges, forming a spider web design on soup.
Mug - Starbucks

Friday, October 22, 2010

Making Whoopie(s)!

It's been a little over a year since we were in Maine, but when we were in the planning stage of our trip, I noted the location of Wicked Whoopies. I wasn't about to go to the State known for its Whoopie Pies and not get one of the best.  I was not disappointed!  They were as delicious as they were immense, and since that day I've been telling myself that, one day, I'm going to make them myself.

As it turned out, today was the day.  I decided to go with something "Martha," and tried her recipe for Mini Pumpkin Whoopie Pies, that can be found here.  I figured it would serve two purposes: 1) to satisfy my seasonal urge for pumpkin, and 2) to satisfy my curiosity about making Whoopies.  It succeeded on both counts.

These do not spread so can be piped close together.
This is an easy recipe to make.  It mixes up fast and, if you pipe the batter onto the cookie sheet using a pastry bag you'll have them ready for the oven in no time.  I did the same with the filling and had a stack of them piled up on the plate ready for tasting with a minimum of effort.  I use the disposable pastry bags that I get by the box at Michael's; it makes clean-up a breeze!

Pipe an ample amount of filling onto each half.
The recipe claims it makes 20, but following it closely I still came out with around 40.  Not that I'm complaining, mind you, but it was more than I expected.  Both cookie and filling are light, so you're not going to be bogged down when eating more than one of these.  The filling has a delicate pumpkin taste that, when I make them again, I'm going to alter a bit by using more than just a pinch of cinnamon and nutmeg, and adding pinch of allspice.
Martha Stewart's Cookies: The Very Best Treats to Bake and to Share (Martha Stewart Living Magazine)

The book Martha Stewart's COOKIES -- one I highly recommend -- has another recipe for Whoopie Pies with a peanut butter filling.  I think I'll try that the next time and then after that I'll try them with a vanilla cream filling, and then...


Thursday, October 21, 2010

Pumpkin Pie Granola

There is a very sweet blog called Cooking with My Kid that I find such fun to read. In the doing I spotted a pumpkin recipe that I wanted to try. This week I've been all about pumpkin recipes that aren't quite the norm, and here is another, for pumpkin pie granola. It looked easy, and I pretty much had everything in the pantry that I needed in order to make it, so figured, why not? If I make it tonight, breakfast is in the bag for tomorrow morning. The only ingredient I was lacking was pepitas, so I thought I'd pick them up on my way to get a flu shot.  

So, I saw a bag of pumpkin seeds at Walgreen's and bought them. Pumpkin seeds are pepitas, right? That's what the nut vendor on the pier in Virginia Beach told me back in 2000 when he sold me a bag. Well, he lied! They're not! In fact they are nothing at all like pepitas. What they are like is little bits of tree bark -- same flavor, same texture. And if you think I don't know whereof I speak, you're wrong. Back in my college days when I was a geology major I did an entire semester on wild foods - locating, harvesting, turning them into foods to sustain people for weekends at a time. I learned to make tea from sassafras root (this was before, of course, we knew it had hallucinogenic properties), chewed the bark (there, what did I tell you?), and ground thrice boiled acorns into flour to make bread. But this is a topic for later. My point is, I bought the wrong thing.

Not to worry, I am nothing if not the queen of substitution when it comes to cooking and baking, so I made the recipe using pistachios instead. It was good! In fact, as we were watching the rather frantic end of tonight's playoff game between the Phillies and Giants we downed it in large quantities in much the same way you'd gobble popcorn during a horror film.

As good as it was, however, it still wasn't as good as the recipe for fruit and nut granola that I created some time ago. So, since my plan is to give beautifully packaged and labeled cellophane bags of pumpkin pie granola to each guest at the Thanksgiving table (and if you’re one of my guests and reading this...SURPRISE!), I'm going to make some changes to my own recipe and create a new version featuring pumpkin. My thanks, though, to Cooking With my Kid for the great idea.


Here is my original recipe, with planned changes

COCONUT ALMOND GRANOLA with FOUR FRUITS
PUMPKIN PIE GRANOLA

4 cups old-fashioned oats
3/4 cup whole almonds, halved
1/2 cup sweetened flaked coconut
1/2 cup sunflower seeds
2/3 cup (packed) brown sugar or less to taste
1 1/2 teaspoons ground allspice 2 t. pumpkin pie spice
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt (optional)
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 stick unsalted butter
4 tablespoons honey
1/2 cup solid pack pumpkin
1/2 cup (packed) pitted dates, each cut crosswise into thirds
1/2 cup dried apricots, cut in quarters
1/2 cup golden raisins
1/2 cup raisins or dried cranberries, blueberries or cherries

Preheat oven to 300°F. Mix first 8 7 ingredients in large bowl. Melt butter with honey in heavy small saucepan over low heat, stir in pumpkin. Pour over granola mixture and toss well. Spread out mixture on baking sheet. Bake 20 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add dried fruits cranberries; mix to separate any clumps. Continue to bake until granola is golden brown, stirring frequently, about 15 minutes longer. Cool. Do ahead Can be made 2 weeks ahead. Store airtight at room temperature.

I'm sure it will be delicious!
Leaf dish - gift
Mug - Starbucks

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Pumpkin Cornbread


As you know, I've been on a bit of a pumpkin tear lately, the natural result of the seasonal move from summer to fall. Recently a recipe came to my attention that I found most interesting: pumpkin cornbread. I'd not heard of such a thing (I'm even currently reading THE CORNBREAD GOSPELS by Crescent Dragonwagon and even she doesn't mention one), thought it sounded tasty, but alas didn't quite have enough cornmeal, or wheat flour, or an 8" square pan, so made some alterations and it came out great! It is dense, moist, and delicious, not at all sweet, and not falling apart crumbly like a lot of cornbread tends to be. This is a keeper, and I'll be serving it for Thanksgiving.

Here's my version of the recipe:


Pumpkin Cornbread
1 1/4 cups cornmeal
3/4 cup all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
3 tablespoons granulated sugar
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon salt
1 egg
3 tablespoons vegetable oil
3/4 cup canned pure pumpkin
1 1/2 cups whole milk

Sift dry ingredients. Beat the egg. Stir egg, oil, pumpkin and milk into dry ingredients quickly, leaving a few lumps. Pour into a greased 8-inch cake pan. Bake at 350 degrees F for 35-40 minutes. Cool for 10 minutes. Cut into wedges.

To make it extra special serve with spiced honey butter:

1/2 cup unsalted butter, softened
1/2 cup confectioners' sugar
1/2 cup honey
1 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice
Pinch of sea salt

In a medium bowl, combine butter, confectioners' sugar honey, spice and salt. Beat until light and fluffy. Refrigerate until ready to use. Wonderful on toast, pancakes, biscuits, and waffles.
The Cornbread Gospels

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Harvest Pumpkin Loaf

It was in the fall of 1984 that I learned the true deliciousness of pairing pumpkin with chocolate. How do I remember the time so well? That day is burned on my brain. My first-born son was 14 months old, sitting in his high chair waiting for an afternoon snack. My mother had just baked up a new recipe from Southern Living Magazine called Harvest Pumpkin Loaf and brought over a small section for us to enjoy. I cut a thin slice, broke it up into small pieces and put a couple on Christopher's tray. He picked the first piece up with his tiny fingers and put it into his mouth. In an instant the other two followed and he asked for more. Did I say asked? Demanded was more like it, and he punctuated this demand with a bang on his tray with his open palm. Wow, I thought, breaking off more hunks, I'd better taste this, it must be good. It was! I continued to feed him piece after piece until his cheeks were as full as a squirrel preparing for a long winter. "More!" he cried. "More!" pieces falling out of his mouth and back onto the tray with each demand.

Ready for the oven with the streusel on top.
Since that day, making this loaf has become a fall tradition. It is equally appropriate as a breakfast loaf as is it for dessert. I like it warmed because it makes the pieces of chocolate gooier. I made two new adjustments to it this year, one of which I liked, the other I didn't. I decided to add a streusel topping before baking. I liked this a LOT. Who doesn't love streusel? I also thought that instead of using regular size chocolate chips that I'd use the mini morsels in order to get a wider distribution of chocolate. Eh. I didn't care for this too much. Yes, the chocolate was more widely distributed, but when it comes to chocolate, I think I'd rather have the bigger chunks.  Oh, I also dusted the top with powdered sugar before adding the glaze.  I thought this made it look so much prettier.  See for yourself.

Out of the oven, cooled, and lightly dusted with powdered sugar.

HARVEST PUMPKIN LOAF

1/2 cup butter or margarine
1 cup sugar
2 eggs
1-3/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
3/4 cup mashed pumpkin
3/4 cup semisweet chocolate morsels
3/4 cup pecans, divided

Glaze:

1/2 cup sifted powdered sugar
1 tablespoon half and half
1/8 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/8 teaspoon ground cinnamon

Pumpkin Loaf: Cream butter; gradually add sugar, beating well. Add eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition. Combine next 7 ingredients; add to creamed mixture alternately with pumpkin, beginning and ending with flour mixture. Stir in chocolate morsels (I use the mini morsels) and 1/2 cup pecans. Spoon mixture into a 9"x5"x3" greased and floured loaf pan. Sprinkle top with remaining pecans. Bake at 350º F for 1 hour and 5 minutes or until a wooden toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. Cool in pan 10 minutes; remove from pan and cool on a wire rack. Drizzle with glaze. Yield: One loaf

Glaze: Combine all glaze ingredients, stirring until; smooth. Yield: 1/4 cup.
The finished loaf with the addition of the glaze.
Basic Streusel Topping

½ cup all-purpose flour
¼ cup brown sugar, packed
½ stick unsalted butter
½ tsp ground cinnamon
½ cup chopped pecans

Combine all the ingredients in a food processor and pulse until crumbly.




ENJOY!

Plate: "Autumn Splendor" by David Harden, gift


Monday, October 18, 2010

Pumpkin Pie Oatmeal



Since it’s fall and I’m (and presumably you’re) reminded of falling leaves, shorter days, cool weather and pumpkins, I’ve decided to make this “Pumpkin Week” on the blog. So during the coming week expect to see lots of pictures of pumpkins and drool over recipes featuring the most versatile of all of the squashes. (Did you know canned pumpkin purée is often recommended by veterinarians as a dietary supplement for dogs and cats who are experiencing digestive problems? Now that’s versatile!) What you will not see, alas, is a recipe for pumpkin pie. While I do like pumpkin in pretty much everything, I’ve always considered pie to be the “liver of desserts,” and as a consequence neither make nor eat it.



Murder Most Maine (Gray Whale Inn Mysteries, No. 3)This first recipe I found was in the back of a mystery novel (and how appropriate is that with Halloween coming up?). The novel is called Murder Most Maine and was written by Karen MacInerney. It’s a part of the Gray Whale Inn mystery series featuring innkeeper cum sleuth, Natalie Barnes. I discovered this series of the cozy mystery genre last summer before our trip up to Maine and Canada. I like to read books that take place where I'm about to visit to provide a little advanced atmosphere.  It’s a fun, very readable series of mystery books each of which has recipes for dishes served at the Gray Whale Inn in the back of the book. I love this type of dual purpose in a book, don’t you?


The first recipe intrigued me: Pumpkin Pie Oatmeal. The delicious decadence of spicy pumpkin for breakfast! I mean is that the way to start the day, or what? Her recipe serves four, so since I was making it just for myself, I cut it into fourths (look for my proportions in parentheses), which got to be a bit tricky and came down to the 1/8 cup, but keep in mind that if you don’t have an 1/8 cup measure (well, if you don’t, go get one because you’ll be truly amazed at how often you’ll use it) that an eighth cup = 2 tablespoons. The end result was one ample adult portion, or possibly two child portions. Top it with some cream and a sprinkling of raisins, and I’d think any kid would just gobble this up and not even realize all of the whole grain goodness he'd just consumed.


Another thing to consider before making this is the pumpkin pie spice. As I mentioned earlier, I neither make nor eat pumpkin pie, so pumpkin pie spice is one of the few spice mixtures that we do not have on our shelves, so here’s a recipe to make your own for the purpose of trying this oatmeal (and, hang on, perhaps another recipe later in the week):


Pumpkin Pie Spice

4 Tablespoons ground cinnamon
4 teaspoons ground nutmeg (I ground fresh)
4 teaspoons ground ginger
3 teaspoons ground allspice

Combine all ingredients in a small bowl; mix well. Keeps in an air-tight container for 6 months.



PUMPKIN PIE OATMEAL

2 cups old fashioned oats (1/2 cup)

3-1/4 cup fat-free milk (3/4 cup + 2 T.)

¼ teaspoon salt (Pinch)

6 Tablespoons brown sugar (or Splenda brown sugar blend) (2 T.)

1-2 teaspoons pumpkin pie spice (to taste) (1 t.)

Add oats, milk, and salt to pot, heating until almost boiling. Lower heat to medium and cook five minutes, stirring occasionally. When oats have thickened, stir in brown sugar, pumpkin, and pumpkin pie spice to taste; cook on low an additional two minutes, or until pumpkin is heated.

Serves 4.

NOTE: Cooking time, I found, is lessened if you’re making a smaller amount, just keep an eye on the oatmeal and add the additional ingredients when it has thickened.

Bowl: "Autumn Splendor" by David Harden, gift
Napkin: Williams-Sonoma
Spoon: Fiesta Flatware