pumpkin pie overhead

Spicy Pumpkin Pie

In anticipation of Thanksgiving, I’ve been doing some serious pumpkin pie research. Mostly because I’ve only eaten it once, and had (not surprisingly) never made it before. For these reasons, I was delighted that my first attempt was a resounding success. Custard pies used to scare me, but after making a ton of Indian Pudding and Grapenut Pudding this year, a crust-encased pumpkin pie felt like a snap, and the aroma coming out of my oven more than made up for the mess I made putting the pie together.

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Potluck Pumpkin Pie Bites

Every year my work hosts a potluck luncheon in November.  I love a good potluck, so this is right up my alley.

My first year I made pumpkin spice cupcakes with cream cheese frosting and handmade chocolate leaves for garnish.  Last year I made a pumpkin trifle with layers of spice cake, pumpkin pudding, toffee pieces, and whipped cream. 

In keeping with the pumpkin tradition, for this year my mind immediately went to the Pumpkin Pie Bites I saw on Bakerella’s site last fall. 

Beyond cute, and autumn in your mouth.

There were some other very tasty desserts, too.  Homemade submissions included Ulla’s artisan bread, Laura’s pumpkin bars, Sam’s carrot cake, Chuck’s raspberry blondies, and Marilyn’s frosted brownies.

And in particular, Matt knocked my socks off with his homemade filled donuts – in raspberry or prune.  They were actually a Polish pastry called “paczki”, but Matt was kind enough to just let us call them “donuts”.

After filling my plate with Sarah’s lasagna, Holli’s baked beans, Jenn’s macaroni and cheese, Sam’s lo mein, and Tracy’s sweet potatoes with apples…I still had room for a selection of these.  Now you know why I went into an immediate food coma yesterday.

SO WORTH IT.

Do you have a potluck staple?  Do you have a potluck enemy?  Mine is pretty much anything with mayo.  Mayo and I are not friends.

Click for the full recipe!

Pumpkin Scones

I made these scones yesterday because the heat hadn’t come on yet in my heat-included apartment, and I knew a 400 degree oven would at least warm up the kitchen. I also had leftover pumpkin from the fudge.  And the recipe called for brown sugar, which was important since I was out of white sugar.

I kept them simple and didn’t add the raisins or nuts, but they were still tasty and not too sweet.

The scones were important, but the biggest event of the weekend was my leap into the modern age by getting a smartphone.  I selected a Droid X.  It’s enormous and fancy and I love it.  I used it to take the picture of the scones because I wanted to see how it would turn out.  I don’t think it’s too bad…I can definitely use it to take impromptu photos of my food in restaurants.

I know some of you do this too and I love you for it. 

Naturally, one of the first apps I added was Retro Camera, which allows you to take photos that look…well…old.

Like Polaroid style…

Or Bärbl style.

I love the Bärbl effect.  I took this next one of my house yesterday, and found the overall look very spooky…which was appropriate for Halloween. 

The heat finally came on this morning.  I was half-asleep but when I touched the radiator and it was warm under my hand I almost wept with relief. I hate being cold.

I hope you all had a wonderful Halloween!

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Pumpkin Fudge

I tried to make pumpkin fudge once, before I owned a candy thermometer.  Having no skill at detecting soft ball stage without one, it was an utter disaster.

After that I picked one up and was looking forward to trying again, but it was still a semi-disaster.  The clip on the thermometer must have been a soft metal because it bent wide open when I clipped it to my dutch oven, and wouldn’t stay in position.  I had to hold it with an oven mitt over the bubbling mass, and even after 25 minutes it still just read 210 degrees when I needed it to get to 235.  Finally I just gave up and proceeded with the recipe.

I should also note at this point that it’s not easy tilting a heavy, piping hot enameled dutch oven with boiling candy inside over a baking dish all by yourself.  It was touch and go for a moment, but I finally wrangled it in without burning the heck out of myself.

The texture could have been a little smoother, but the flavors were autumnally delicious and it was certainly 100 times better than my first attempt. 

Do you have a candy thermometer that you like?  Please share make and model if you do because I clearly need to buy a new one! 

Click for the full recipe

Keene Pumpkin Festival

Every year for the past 7 years I have put the Keene Pumpkin Festival in New Hampshire on my list of “Fall Things To Do” – but every year I missed it.  Pathetic.

This year (the 20th anniversary of the KPF) I knew I needed to man up, so I marked the day on the calendar well in advance.  My little sister Melanie is in her second year at Keene State, and the opportunity to visit her while also checking out the festival was too good to pass up.  Especially when I learned she needed help re-stocking her candy jar.  I have fond memories of my own candy jar in college.

Actually, it was a candy drawer.

Because I don’t have a car, I took the bus from Boston to Concord Saturday morning, and was picked up by my Dad, Vicki, and Lindsay.  We stopped in for a visit with Nana in Hopkinton, and then it was off to Keene!

The foliage was in glorious full swing…

and the downtown area was chock full of thousands of carved pumpkins.

Some were unusual…

and some were sweet (aw, she said yes!).

Pumpkin hats and crazy costumes were also plentiful.

Yes, I went in the kitchen store and it was heaven.

I also saw the amazing sight of a woman hoisting a dog into a stroller.  A stroller that already contained a child.

Finally Linds, Melanie and I reached the giant tower of pumpkins!

And nearby I found some hot, homemade apple turnovers courtesy of the Animaterra Women’s Chorus…a perfect treat for a chilly day.

Lindsay was on a mission to find a caramel apple…and was very excited to find one.  This picture of her cracks me up.  What a goofball!

At last it was time to light the pumpkins. 

5, 4, 3, 2….

Can you spot the proposal?

In the end there were nearly 23 thousand lit pumpkins!

I had a great day with my family in the most beautiful part of the country during the most beautiful season.  I cannot believe sometimes that Melanie is in college, since I look at her and see the toddler that couldn’t say my name right…but I am so proud of her! 

Have you carved your Halloween pumpkin yet this year?  I waited until the last second last year and had a very sad dud of a pumpkin, so I am thinking I will try to get to mine this weekend.

One hand scooping out the pumpkin guts, one hand in the bowl of candy corn.  Sounds like a plan!