For today’s Sunday Dinner, I invited Laura Frantz to join us. Laura writes historical romance. Her latest release, A Heart Adrift, is set in 1755 Virginia. It’s a beautiful story. It is also about a chocolatier. So I asked Laura to tell us more about chocolate and its use in her story.
One Fish, Two Fish… Today is Dr. Seuss’ birthday. Theodor Geisel would be 116 years old. This master of the creative word left us a treasury of stories for both young and old. From learning one’s ABC’s to recognizing that a person’s a person no matter how small to the possibility that a grinch’s heart can grow three sizes in one day.
Make it Monday, my weekly blog post about creative ways to practice self-care, will be on hiatus until March. Why? Well, because self-care is necessary with Baby Boy #2 set to arrive in about 4 weeks!
Reading Wednesday Book Reviews will continue on through because reading is a great way to practice self-care. More on that when Make it Monday returns on March 2, also known as Dr. Suess’ birthday and National Read Across America Day.
It’s the most wonderful time of the year. Or so the song claims. I tend to agree, but also know that such expectation can often leave us wanting more. The wonder and magic of the season can get lost amid the running around, the shopping, the parties, the traveling. Not to mention wrestling with emotional disappointments, family drama, and personal loss. With so much riding on this season it is easy to let it drag us down when it seems like it should pick us up.
Whenever I say, ‘Santa Lucia,’ I can’t help picturing – and, frankly, hearing – Don Knots attempting to sing the traditional Italian song as Barney Fife in The Andy Griffith Show. So many other, better singers have recorded it, but for some reason, Knots’ is the version that sticks in my head.
However, that was not my first interaction with the celebration known as the Feast Day of St. Lucy. I first learned about the primarily Swedish holiday from Kristen’s Surprise, one of the books in Kristen’s American Girl series. Being part Swede and part Italian myself, Santa Lucia Day has become a holiday that fascinates me.
It’s Christmastime! To start off the first week of Advent, let’s talk Santa. Before pictures of the jolly, old elf with the red suit jump to mind, I’d like to take us back a few centuries. First, however, here’s a little background on Advent, which will inform our topics the next several weeks.
I love Thanksgiving. One of my favorite parts about the holiday is hosting the big feast. There’s nothing better to me than a table full of food and surrounded by family (or those adopted as family for the day).
Despite my love of the holiday, I know Thanksgiving has a lot of pressure. It may be one day out of the year, but on it, we pack a momentous dinner, a myriad of family dynamics, and the start of the Christmas season. Perhaps that is why there is so much fuss to push Christmas off until we’ve given Thanksgiving its due. And yet, have we actually remembered what Thanksgiving is all about?
With Halloween in the rear-view, our attention is turning toward the upcoming holiday season. In the United States, Thanksgiving is the next major holiday, though Christmas preparations like to make an early appearance. However, whether your focus is on Thanksgiving or Christmas first, there’s a little berry that often shows up on tables over the next two months. The Cranberry.
Last week, we talked about the variety of activities a pumpkin allows us to do. This week, we’ll turn our focus to the kitchen. Whether with pumpkin spice or pumpkin puree, pumpkin flavor creates a host of delectable goodies. Depending on the type of kitchen activity you prefer, perhaps you’ll find inspiration to satisfy your pumpkin craving.
Since there are so many yummy recipes one can make with pumpkin, instead of giving just one, I will give several that I particularly love. Most will be in link form since when it comes to baking, I tend to stick to the script.
First, however, let’s talk pumpkin spice.
The incredibly popular Pumpkin Spice has gone from a coffee latte flavor to infusing almost every type of edible (and, frankly, non-edible) item possible. It gets a tad overwhelming to see how many things come in Pumpkin Spice these days. But what exactly is Pumpkin Spice?
The funny thing is, it contains no pumpkin. Rather, Pumpkin Spice is all about the spices that make pumpkin into the memorable flavor that it is. Think about a pumpkin pie. What spices make it the perfect holiday desert? Many of those same spices turn apple pie into a fall favorite or chai into a fabulous beverage. Somehow, pumpkin has claimed these spices as its own.
What are these spices? One of the primary and perhaps most well known is cinnamon. According to Good Housekeeping, cinnamon doesn’t just taste good, it has several health benefits. From lowering blood sugar to boosting memory, cinnamon in proper quantities has the potential to be quite helpful.
Ginger is another of the pumpkin spices. It’s a powerhouse of medicinal goodness. Perhaps most commonly known is its ability to work as an anti-nausea medicine that is considered safe even during pregnancy. Women’s Health Magazine explains that it can also reduce pain, aid digestion, and boost immunity. Personally, ginger is not among my favorite spices, but I have learned how much of its flavor I enjoy and how much is too much. Ginger is a root easily found in the grocery store. I will peel it, then thinly slice it before dehydrating it to keep on hand for making my own chai-flavored infusion.
Cloves are one of my favorite spices. Talk about flavor! A tad spicy, yet comforting. It also has health benefits. According to Medical News Today, cloves may fight against diabetes and obesity. However, in too high a quantity, cloves may also pose a health risk. So beware about using herbs medicinally without a doctor’s oversight.
Lastly is nutmeg. This is a spice I’ve used in baking plenty of times, but without considering it as a spice unto itself. The powder of this herb may be good for you, too. According to Livestrong, it can help the memory, the heart, and digestion, plus it has antibacterial properties. The powder can also be used to sprinkle on a whipped cream topped beverage.
Have you ever purchased a can of pumpkin? Ever wonder where it comes from? I haven’t tried to make fresh pumpkin puree yet, but it’s on my list to make someday. I gave made squash, however, and since pumpkin is a squash, it’s much the same process.
According to Spruce Eats, making pumpkin puree is relatively simple. Like with a butternut, acorn, or spaghetti squash, first you cut it open to scoop out the seeds. Then you bake it until the flesh is soft. Lastly you remove the flesh from the peel and puree it in a blender.
Chosing the right pumpkin to eat can make all the difference. Small is better. Here are a few tips from Southern Living Magazine to get you started.
One of my most recent recipe discoveries has become one of my fall favorites. Pumpkin Bread.
I took the Pumpkin Bread recipe on All Recipes and adapted it to make one loaf instead of three by using the following ingredient amounts:
- 1 – 15 oz can of pumpkin
- 1/2 cup vegetable oil
- 1 cup sugar
- 2 eggs
- 1 2/3 cup flour
- 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
- 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
- 1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
- 1/2 teaspoon cloves
Recognize some of those seasonings? After adapting the ingredients, I simply followed the directions according to the recipe and the bread turned out perfectly.
When it comes to pumpkin desserts, there are very few that I don’t like. Pumpkin pie. Pumpkin custard. Pumpkin cake with cream cheese frosting. With only so many hours during the fall and holiday season, I haven’t perfected all these recipes yet. However, pumpkin pie is the exception. Making it with my grandma is one of my fondest memories.
I can’t make a pie crust. I’ve tried and failed. One day I want to master it, but for now, my patience is best spent elsewhere. So, while I use a store-bought, refrigerated pie crust (likely blasphemy to a true pastry baker), I also have a secret power when it comes to the pie itself. I adapt the recipe on the back of a can of Libby’s Pumpkin (post not sponsored, just being honest). I am all for simplicity and this combination does the trick!
The part of the recipe that I play with most is the type of sugar used. I split the granulated sugar between white sugar and brown sugar. The ratio is entirely dependent on my mood, but I always use both.
I have also found a substitute for the eggs. I rarely do this any more, but for awhile, I used an egg substitute with every pie. The best egg substitute I found was a potato based substitute. It did a competent job of keeping the consistency.
The hardest part about making a pumpkin pie, crust aside, is baking it. Following the instructions on preheating and lowering the oven temperature is vital. But knowing how long to bake the pie is a work of art. One gimmick that might help is wrapping foil around the pie crust to keep it from burning.
Pumpkin flavor and its spices are both favorite flavors of mine. I make the most of them during the fall months, but even then, it seems like I can’t make all the recipes I’d like to.
Pumpkin goodies seem to satisfy that cozy feeling that lends itself to self-care. What pumpkin recipe has become your favorite?
Whether you like Halloween or not, pumpkins are a mainstay of Fall decorations, food choices, and all-around-fun. Pumpkins come in all sorts of different shapes and sizes. From adorable baby pumpkins, to flat, white pumpkins, to humongous, award-winning pumpkins. Some are better for decoration and others for baking. Depending on your preferred way of expressing creativity, Pumpkins provide all the options.