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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Cranberry-Pineapple Relish

I am not typically a fan of relish, but that was before I knew it could be fruity.  Fruity and refreshing and delicious. Especially when paired with a sharp cheddar and buttery cracker.

Courtney made this relish for pre-Thanksgiving snacking, because she had already committed to making the cranberry sauce (our first year having it from scratch, and I will never go back).  Unfortunately, our family isn’t very culinarily adventurous and I only saw 2 other people besides us try it (cheers to Mom and Uncle Ricky) without her forcing them (semi-cheers Uncle Al). 

My favorite reply to Court’s attempted cajoling was Nana, who deferred by saying she doesn’t like anything cranberry, and she knows this despite the fact that she has never even tried it.  And don’t try to argue with her. 

I am still laughing about this.  I love my Nana.

And I loved this relish!  It was great way to get my appetite going for the big meal ahead.  The tartness of the cranberries and pineapple, the sweetness of the brown sugar and honey, and the bite of the coarse salt and ground pepper made for one tasty condiment.

I am sure it would be equally delicious on a leftover turkey sandwich, if you’re into that kind of thing.

How cute is my big sister?  I love her. 

Keep the faith, Court!  I will always try anything you make! 

Especially if it’s one of Martha’s recipes.

Click to see it!

Thanksgiving Recap

I hope you all had a wonderful Thanksgiving – and that you fell into the same food coma I did come Thursday evening.   I had a great time visiting with my family and counting all of my many blessings.

There are a lot of us so we do Thanksgiving “family-style” with all the food set up in one spot…or, as you can see, on every available inch of my mom’s counter.  Covered in copious amounts of tin foil.  Underneath was a turkey, a spiral ham, a pork roast, a tray of stuffed shells, and a tray of veggie lasagna.  Plus sides. 

We are Italian.  The phrase “too much food” doesn’t exist.

My mom and Arthur had me as their guest for 2 nights and took great care of me.  They are terrific.

Arthur used to wake us up on Thanksgiving morning by “making the turkey dance” before it went in the oven.  This consisted of coming into our bedrooms with the turkey like a hand puppet and waving it over our heads while we hid under the covers, shrieking.

Thankfully, he now just sticks to basting and carving.

Our Community Servings pecan and pumpkin pies were both delicious…especially the pecan.  I could have eaten it with just a spoon.  Dangerous.


Sadly, one thing I was not thankful for was the batch of Italian Meatball cookies I ruined when I forgot to add the baking powder.  Not a proud moment, but it happens…and I will admit it!

In need of dessert one way or another, I grabbed a lemon cake mix and a brownie mix and doctored them up with the help of some trusty Bundts.

Lemon Pound Cake Bundt:

The side of the cake mix box told me I could turn it into a pound cake by adding a box of instant pudding mix and tweaking the egg, water, and oil extras.  My mom didn’t have lemon pudding so I used vanilla.  I also added vanilla oomph by poking 2 dozen holes in the baked cake with a toothpick and then pouring a vanilla glaze of powdered sugar, milk, and vanilla extract over the top to drain down into the cake.  A dusting of powdered sugar added class.  I love how powdered sugar accentuates the lines of a good Bundt.

This pan is my mom’s, one of the few styles I don’t have, so it was fun to try it out.

Also on the menu was a Thanksgiving edition of Brownie Bundts – this time with sprinkles:

I used a Ghiradelli brownie mix (the best of the mixes) and made a quick glaze using a little melted butter, cocoa powder, vanilla extract, and milk.  Some autumn sprinkles made them holiday-ready!

And of course, I couldn’t forget to include these 3 boys from my visit.  They are very clean.

My favorite Thanksgiving Day treat was a new appetizer my sister Courtney made.  I will be sharing that recipe next, so stay tuned!

Cranberry Lemon Bread

I have been heavy on the pumpkin this fall, so it only seemed fair to add another cranberry recipe to the roster before we switch gears to winter.  I was disappointed to see a lot of cranberry bread recipes calling for canned cranberry sauce.  Say what?

I finally found a nut bread recipe in the Better Homes and Gardens cook book with a variation for cranberry nut bread.  I omitted the nuts and swapped out the orange zest for lemon zest.  It seems to be an unofficial rule that cranberries go with orange and blueberries go with lemon, but I don’t support that rule.

This bread is delicious.  The lemon zest is subtle in both appearance and taste, but definitely balances the tartness of the cranberries.  I had actually never baked with fresh cranberries before and I admit I was skeptical when I started chopping them and saw their hollow, teeny-seeded interior…but the end result was delicious.  And lovely in color.

I am headed to my parents for a few days to celebrate the holiday and visit with family and my mom’s 3 Siamese cats (you may remember them from this post).  John will be in Plymouth with his family, and while I am sad that we have yet to spend a Thanksgiving together in 3 years, the history nerd in me can’t argue with someone spending Thanksgiving in actual Plymouth.  Or with his terrific family!

Of course, my family is wonderful, too.  I always look forward to Thanksgiving because it’s an occasion to just sit around the table and visit and eat and tell stories and make each other laugh.  I am so grateful to be a part of it.     

Happy Thanksgiving, everyone!  I hope you have a wonderful (and delicious) holiday.


Click for the full recipe

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.


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!

9 For Thanksgiving

I would gladly shop for my kitchen instead of myself any day of the week.  When I go to a department store I make a beeline for the home section.  I don’t dream about a wedding dress, I dream about centerpieces and favors. 

These things caught my eye recently.  I purchased one of them.  Can you guess which?  There may be a prize in it for you if you are right!


  1. Fall Icon Cakelet Pan – Williams-Sonoma, $36.00
  2. 3 Piece Fall Cookie Cutters – Crate & Barrel, $2.95
  3. Acorn Mini Cutting Board/Server, Set of 2 – Amazon, $34.00
  4. Leaf Napkin Rings – Crate & Barrel, $1.95/each
  5. Classic Red 12-cup Bundt – Target, $12.39
  6. Maple Leaf Napkins, Set of 4 – Lissy Madden on Etsy, $15.00
  7. Fall Glass Tile Magnet Set – PoptartsBoutique on Etsy, $7.00
  8. Vera Neumann Brushed Leaves Tablecloth – Macy’s, $22.99
  9. Pyrex Mixing Bowl Set – BeeJayKay on Etsy, $32.00

Have a great weekend, everyone.

And a very happy Bonfire Night to my GB friends!

“Pie in the Sky” Thanksgiving Fundraiser

This year I am very excited to participate in the Community Servings “Pie in the Sky” annual Thanksgiving fundraiser.

Community Servings is a wonderful organization that provides free home-delivered meals and nutrition programs to Eastern Massachusetts residents in need – specifically homebound individuals and families struggling with HIV/AIDS, cancer or another life-threatening illnesses that has caused them to be too sick to shop or cook for themselves.

Now in its 18th year, “Pie in the Sky” gives caring neighbors the opportunity to purchase a pie that has been artfully baked by one of Boston’s best restaurants, bakeries, caterers and hotels for your Thanksgiving table.  These businesses donate thousands of pies each year, that volunteers like me then sell for $25 each.  Your $25 provides a week’s worth of hearty home-delivered meals to a Community Servings’ client…and a tasty Thanksgiving treat to you!

Last night Jessica O. and I went to the Pie Seller Kickoff Party at Rocca in the South End to pick up our volunteer materials and sample some delicious cocktails. I had the Burnt Orange and Cranberry Pie martini.  Who isn’t a sucker for drinks in a mason jar?

Jessica tried the Maker’s Maple Walnut Old Fashioned.  I tried a sip, but man…I just don’t like whiskey.

The posters for the campaign are charming and eye-catching.  We were all given buttons featuring the trademark slice of pumpkin pie and the slogan “The Secret Ingredient Is You”. 

Here’s how it all works:

  1. Purchase your pie!  You can choose from apple, pecan, pumpkin, sweet potato, or diabetic apple.  You can also choose to donate a pie, or purchase a special Raffle Apple Pie for $75.  This pie enters you to win a variety of great raffle prizes.  The link to the prizes isn’t working right now, but I will provide the details ASAP.
  2. Local restaurants, bakeries, caterers and hotels get busy baking your pies.
  3. The thousands of pies are picked up by volunteers and brought to be organized at “Pie Central” in Boston (see below).
  4. The pies are then shipped to over 50 local distribution points in Boston and the surrounding suburbs to be picked up by you the day before Thanksgiving, or delivered by me if you are in my family.
  5. You get to enjoy a delicious pie in your mouth and belly on Thanksgiving, but also a warm feeling in your heart because your contribution is helping feed those in need.

Here is a view of “Pie Central” from last year’s event:

I will be putting the “Pie in the Sky” logo on the right hand side of my blog for the next few weeks that will take you right to my fundraising page with Community Servings.  I know money is tight these days and we all participate in many charity opportunities throughout the year, so I appreciate you even taking the time to read this.

I take it for granted sometimes that if something bad ever happened to me or someone close to me, there would be an army of friends and family to swoop in and provide the most basic of essentials….food, clothing, shelter, kindness, and support.  Community Servings makes sure those of us that don’t have that army are still provided with nourishing and delicious meals, human contact, and the knowledge that others care.

Click here to read a wonderful little feature on a Community Servings driver, Bobcat Smith.

Opportunities really are everywhere to make a positive difference in someone else’s life.

The secret ingredient is you!

Thanks, everyone!