Autumnal Pumpkin Cookies

It’s ten o’clock at night and I should be sleeping. The morning will come quickly, I know, but I hear something outside. I hear Autumn coming. I don’t know if anyone else notices, but Fall sounds different at night than Summer. Its the leaves, I think, changing into their more festive outfits. I can hear them outside rustling and whispering and shivering in the chilly breeze and I can’t just roll over and go to sleep. Tomorrow I might wake up to find that the sound was really Summer fleeing from the cold days to come and all the trees have shed their green and blaze with Autumn color; there must be something that I, too can do to welcome the new season.

I quietly roll out of bed, careful not to wake my sleeping husband nestled deep in the quilts that have lately come out of storage, and head out to the kitchen in my pajamas.

It is cold in our dark apartment, but the windows remain open because I can’t bear to have them closed just yet. In the kitchen I can still hear the whisperings of the leaves outside while I gather up my baking supplies. The town is silent, I seem to be the only one awake in Brandon, accompanied by the small town mouse who lives beneath the cupboards. Flour, sugar, salt, spices and an egg – they all get lined up on the counter along with a big bowl and a wooden spoon. I turn on the oven and stand over it for a moment, warming my chilled fingers before I get started.

The trees are making Fall outside – I shall make it inside.

Is there a more Autumnal flavor than pumpkin? They are the choice fruit of fall adorning doorsteps, surrounded with brilliantly colored mums, and finding their way into kitchens, seasoned with cinnamon and brown sugar.

I am going to make Cake-Like Pumpkin Cookies, a slight variation of a recipe I found earlier on in the year and tucked away for such a night as this. In the morning, the mountains will greet us with dew-covered leaves in various states of Autumn dress and  I will see to it that the house is filled with the scents and tastes of Fall.

Cake Like Pumpkin Cookies

makes 2 – 2 1/2 dozen cookies

1/2 cup softened butter

1/2 cup white sugar

1/2 cup light brown sugar

1 cup pumpkin puree

1 egg

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1 teaspoon baking soda

1 Tablespoon cinnamon

1/2 teaspoon cloves

1/2 teaspoon nutmeg

1/2 teaspoon powdered ginger

1/2 teaspoon salt

1 1/2 cups all purpose flour

1 1/2 cups old fashioned rolled oats

Preheat oven to 350 degrees

In a large bowl, cream together the butter and sugars. You might want to use a mixer for this, either a stand or hand one will do. If you are doing it by hand, use a whisk and mix until the sugars and butter are completely blended and sightly ‘fluffy’ looking. Add the pumpkin puree and stir, then add the egg and stir again until everything is mixed well. Add the vanilla, spices and salt, stirring so that they are completely incorporated. Now add the flour and oatmeal and blend thoroughly. There should be no dry spots in the dough. Don’t over mix it, however, and make your cookies tough!

Get out two baking sheets and grease them lightly then drop the cookies onto the trays. They won’t expand much in baking but you don’t want them to be touching. Once you have them placed on the trays they can head into the oven for 8-10 minutes. They will be a little brown around the edges and slightly firm to the touch. Remove them from the trays and let them rest on a rack until completely cool before storing.

I think the best way to have them is while they are still slightly warm, with a glass of milk or a mug of hot tea.

Welcome Autumn!

Confessions of a former Wool SNOB

“Former” as in, last night.

I *am* a wool snob. I have violently hated acrylic yarn since I was fourteen years old and  was given a garbage bag full of it by a sweet neighbor who heard that I liked to knit. It was ugly and had the feel of strung-out plastic and I knit a horrible, beginner cardigan with it that sat in my closet for several years before finally being thrown away during a move. Although I was rather thankful for the yarn and the thoughtfulness of my friend at the time, I was deeply scarred by the finished “plastic bag sweater” (could you tell?) and have been a hard-core, no-going-back, dyed-in-the-wool, wool snob ever since.

I don’t like acrylic fabric in clothing. I sat on the sidelines of the world and watched in disgust as my fellow Crafters fell head-long into the fleece frenzy of several winters ago. I haunted the edges of the fabric store looking for wool- any wool – and found none. “It’s just not that popular anymore”, the attendant said, and I felt as though the libraries had suddenly decided to stop putting Charles Dickens on the shelf in favor of the Twilight series…

So, there you have it. I knit with wool. I wore a wool coat for many years and had many a wool sweater. No fleece. No acrylic. And of course our pocket books would never allow for alpaca or cashmere, so that left us with good old sheep fur.

And then, when I was about 17 years old, I realized that I was terribly allergic to wool. How did this come about, you ask? Everywhere my favorite wool jacket touched skin turned bright red and the skin grew hard and flaky and extremely painful. I had to give up wearing it.

My “disadvantage”, which honestly seemed life-threatening at first to one such as I, has saved me from becoming an opinionated, crabby, snobby old woman someday. I don’t think we are nearly thankful enough for the things in life that keep up supple, at least I’m not.  I can thank God for the best things, and I have learned to see His hand in the worst, but what about all the little things in between that seem like random annoyances or plain old ‘bad luck’? What about the things that keep a spring in our spine and save us from atrophying too soon? Gotta be thankful for those things too, yup, I do.

I started wearing fleece, which was soothing for my angry, vengeful skin, and if there is wool in anything I put on it is usually blended quite generously with acrylic or alpaca, and yes, even cashmere or silk or cotton. I had to drop the illustrious title of ‘Wool Snob’.

Things shifted, but I never stopped knitting with wool yarn and that seemed to be the saving grace – at least I didn’t have to stop knitting with wool, my hands never seemed to mind it – there was one spot I didn’t have to give up, and I treasured it. I have a modest, but lovely collection of wool yarn that I have toted across this wide land, adding to it with gifts from friends and loved ones and a scattering of clearance sales at JoAnn’s.

I love my wool yarn. I really do – it’s probably the second thing I would grab if I had to run for my life. What’s a life without knitting, right?  (And if you’re interested, having no children or pets, the first thing I would grab is probably our personal records and an emergency survival kit – how unromantic we become when we reach real life!)  Not that I could easily grab the lot and run for my life – I would probably end up succumbing to whatever godawful horror was at hand.

Then I noticed the skin on my hands hardening slightly. “Oh look,” I thought, “I have calluses from knitting!” The skin continued to harden, deep down, and then it started to ‘chip’ off when I bent them and the pain was very intense. The fingerprints and feeling dissolved into hard flakes of shiny skin,and the cuticles have disappeared from around my nails as the skin swelled and cracked around it. Yup.

I know I have sensitive skin – ok, I have extremely sensitive skin, like, can’t use handsoap sensitive – but wool yarn has never bothered my hands so I didn’t even think of it. It’s just been getting worse and worse and I’ve been clueless and knitting up a storm. So I started praying about it and last night the answer came and knocked the wind out of me.

I’m allergic to wool.

I know, I thought we already covered this ground, but I had to walk it again in order to see. I’m allergic to wool. Even my hands. The End.

Yes, I was sad. I still am a little bit, but you know what – I’m feeling kind of free today. I can’t keep any of my lovely hoarded wool yarn and my heart wouldn’t stand for selling something I have treasured that much, so it’s being given away to friends and loved ones. It’s still going to be knit into wonderful, creative things, things I couldn’t have thought up, I’m sure. And my hands are going to heal.

I’m going to buy yarn that won’t hurt me – and that’s OK. Seems so simple to everyone else, I suppose, but I’m an odd duck – never denied it – pretty dense up top and rather set in my thoughts.  And – I’m also pretty thankful. I’m thankful for the Lord giving me  the lovely yarn in the first place and I’m thankful that He is giving me the opportunity to give it away to others. I’m thankful that He works through my dense dimness. I’m thankful that He is keeping my spine lubricated and pliable. I’m thankful for His answer to my silly prayers and that my hands have a chance to heal. I’m thankful that He gave me a sweet husband who says, “Have I denied you any good thing I have the power to provide? You will get more yarn… good yarn.” I’m thankful that his estimation of ‘good yarn’ is that it be the kind that won’t hurt me. I’m thankful that he doesn’t measure my value by how dyed-in-the-wool I am, as I often do. He doesn’t care how old fashioned I am, how hard-core, as long as I am “healthy and happy and loving him”.

So – it really isn’t that tragic after all, is it?

 

The Working Ten

We all have a lot of jobs that we must do in life, from teething to raising kids to putting away the dishes after dinner – there is always something to be done, some sort of work. It’s a good thing, it keep life moving in the right direction.

Here are Ten Jobs – all of which I have done at some point in my life.

1) Don’t let this pig through

2) Clean up that vomit

3) Milk these cows

4) Bring them fries

5) Sort these bolts – all of them

6) Lance her abscess

7) Pick the dead flowers off these 7,000 geraniums

8) Carry this knife

9) Walk to the end, turn and walk back. Smile.

10) Don’t overfill those donuts

Maybe you’ve been working on the railroad all the livelong day and want to talk about it… go ahead, it’s your turn to share some of the jobs you’ve had to do in life…

flat bread veggie pizza

It’s what’s for dinner.

Making flat bread involves a couple more steps than the ones used to make a plain old pizza – but boy is it worth it! I started with the Plain Old Pizza Dough recipe and after letting it rise, I simply rolled it out as flat as I could and placed it on a greased baking sheet. Then, I pricked the surface with a fork – all over – and brushed on some olive oil.  After a sprinkling of garlic powder and sea salt, the flat bread went into the oven (preheated to 375 degrees) for about 15 minutes, or until the crust was lightly browned.

While it was baking, I chopped up and sauteed some onions, sweet red peppers, yellow crooked neck squash, fresh tomatoes, garlic and spinach. When the crust came out of the oven, the veggies got spread around on top and then lightly blanketed with slices of fresh mozzarella. I turned the oven onto Broil and popped the whole thing back in the oven for another five minutes or so, just until the cheese had melted and begun to bubble.

It was incredible.

Incredible, I say. The crust was thin and firm and the veggies were tasty mellow and the whole thing was garlicky and cheesy and yet rather healthy and quick, especially if you make the dough ahead of time. This meal is definitely going to be repeated in the near future!

Nailed It.

…where you can check in, but you can never check out…

This, my dearest readers, is a Fruit Fly Trap.

Cleverly designed by some college student with too much time and a rotten banana, no doubt, they then dutifully pinned their idea on every Tips, Hints, and Tricks site on the World Wide Web – which is where I found it.

Here’s the idea: you put a piece of paper (skillfully rolled into a funnel shape – it’s harder than it sounds really) in the opening of a quart jar that has some sort of ‘bait’ in the bottom of it. The fruit flies smell the bait and fly down into the funnel and become trapped in the jar. Seems legit.

It is fruit fly season and we are swamped by them. It doesn’t matter how often I take out the trash or wipe down the counters or how tightly I seal up the fresh food – they find a way to survive. It’s getting pretty gross, so I decided to make a fruit fly trap of my own. I used an old grocery list, a quart jar and some busted tomatoes from the garden (a fruit fly delight), set up the trap (sealing off the top with some teal duct tape) and then, yes, sat and watched it.

Alex was doing something productive in the other room, but let out an appropriate sound of congratulations every time I hollered out that another fly had become prey to my brilliant scheme. I left the kitchen for the night in triumph.

It’s been several days now and I must say,

It’s All Lies.

I haven’t made a trap, I’ve made a blinking Fruit Fly Resort. I don’t know how they do it, but they travel in and out of the jar at will and have increased in numbers exponentially. I don’t know what to do. There are thousands of them and the originators of the design failed to mention what to do with the flies after you’ve caught them. Mine are sending me tiny thank you notes and requests for other types of fresh food, seems like they’re tired of the tomatoes.

Gross has turned to Grotesque and they are way too comfortable for my liking, refusing to even make a show of reasonable bug terror when I approach with my swatter -it’s as if they assume that the kind-hearted soul who provided them with such a nice vacation home would never really have the guts to then kill them.

They assume wrongly, every time.

The Fruit Fly Resort is being closed, permanently.

The End.

 

 

ConTENplations

Ten Things I Think in Ten Minutes

1) Do I need to make bread?

2) I need to exercise, that’s what I need to do! No more bread…

3) We have that new exercise ball, I could do those sit-up things for a bit.

4) Will sit-ups make my abs *poochy*? Cuz that would stink.

5) Does it matter? They’re poochy already…duh. Oh yeah. That stinks.

6) Can I look that up on Pinterest? Of course – you can find everything on Pinterest.

7)  “Exercises for abdomen muscles”

8) I hate all this ‘Thinspiration’ crap.

9) I really really hate all this ‘thinspiration’ crap. People need to not be so obsessed with their weight – this is ridiculous!  People think they’re fat if they aren’t a size two… it’s awful.

10) OHMYWORD that bread recipe looks AWESOME… I’m going to try it.

You have 10 minutes – what are you thinking?

The Ugly Mugwump Rises…

Button Cowl in Fern

Howdy… just thought I would pop in and share with you beautiful people some of the knitterly stuff I’ve been working on for the Ol’ Shop.

Blue-Eyed Cowl

Button Cowl in Rose

Single Button Cowl in Honeyed-Oat

The Ugly Cowl

Gnomie Hat

Gnomie Hat side view

Man Lace Scarf

My Fair Midshipman Scarf

Midshipman Scarf

I was even able to hunt down a real, live model who was willing to wear this stuff in 90 degree heat so I could take pictures of it. We love you, Allie.

And – because I so love you, dear blog friends, I am offering – for a limited time – a coupon discount for readers.  Use this super secret code, willcookforfood  in the next two months and receive 20% off your order from Ugly Mugwump Designs on Etsy.

Cool, huh?

Do good – stay warm.

Ugly Mugwump Designs on Etsy

Harvest Party

It’s coming into harvest time, and what a time it is! Probably my favorite of the year… but I say that about every season, I think…

Our modest little garden has outdone itself and far outreached our meager expectations of it, we’ve had tomatoes like crazy as well as four good pickings of green beans, enough cucumbers to keep us on our toes and all the salad we could eat in earlier months. It’s been wonderful. We planted three types of tomatoes, one was an early producer with well mannered plants and petite, perfectly shaped fruit and the other two are monster heirloom varieties that sprawled everywhere and literally ate one of their unassuming pepper plant neighbors. They produced frighteningly large, misshapen tomatoes and several green peppers (not really, it only seemed like that because I waded into them the other day and recovered the consumed plant, finding that in spite of its interment with the Amazonian tomatoes, it still managed to pop out a couple of peppers… amazing.)

I feel it only fair to mention that Alex took the lovely, well-behaved ones under his gentle wing in the Spring and tied them up nicely and cared for them, thus creating a lush tomato paradise, while the feral heirlooms were my territory. No tying, no gentle wing, just wild, uninhibited growth. One of us is a real gardener, the other is something of a impatient seed scatterer. It will be fascinating to see what comes of our children….

We didn’t grow any zucchini this year, I was banking on the fact that come August, everyone has zucchini in abundance and I would be able to get some for little or no money. I was right! A friend of ours donated three HUGE zucchini to our harvest cause and I was able to freeze seven quarts of shredded zucchini one morning. There is no room for anything else in our apartment-sized fridge freezer, but by golly – we’ll have zucchini coming out our ears till May.

I’ve made nearly two gallons of fresh garden salsa- all from our own tomatoes and peppers and ruined a huge pot of would-be spaghetti sauce, please don’t ask how – it was tragic and I haven’t really forgiven myself yet. Here me now – I will never, ever, ever, ever, EVER, ever again use identical containers to store salt and sugar. I will not forget to label said containers. I will not automatically assume that I have the right container and continue to add the WRONG thing to my sauce, ending with a salty, inedible MESS. Never. EVER. The End.

It’s been grand and we are so thankful to Alex’s mom for giving us her beautiful garden boxes, to our Landlord for letting us hog his tiny yard, and most of all to our Lord, who sent the rain and sun and gave the increase. Praise God from whom ALL blessing flow… Amen.

Silent Tuesday of 11

Since September 11th falls on a Tuesday, I am not going to post the regular Ten Things.

My heart aches with those still dealing with the pain and loss of that tragic day which changed all of our lives. It is my prayer that God would work in the lives of those struggling and bring healing and hope. He is the God of All Comfort, a Faithful Creator who is near to the wounded and broken-hearted.

I think a lot of people wondered if God had forgotten us that day, if we had finally outrun His grace and mercy and this was some kind of terrible ‘proof’ that we were once and for all “out of bounds”.

I try not to be a preachy person, I don’t feel it is my personal duty to make every person believe as I do, or think as I do, or dress as I do, or feel as I do – but I know one thing, regardless of what I think or feel or do or what I see around me in the world – I know that God is Good. It’s not something I can fully understand when my eyes are clouded with the dust of the earth and my heart often chokes on the pain I see around me- but I know that all things work together for the good of those who trust Him, He makes something beautiful from the broken pieces, if only we give them to Him and let Him work. This is not something that is only true when disaster strikes. He is not a God who sits and waits for mortals to come crawling in sackcloth and ashes, He is in the details of every day life – in the glow good days as well as the dust of the bad – they are all the same to Him, midnight is as dawn to His all-seeing eyes. He is always working and it is always to bring His creation to a knowledge of Him and His lovingkindness.

If you have broken pieces today – from whatever cause, it is not too small or too great – I can assure you, there is One who is waiting to heal and comfort and bring good to you if you only give Him the pieces.

We see so little and we know even less – how can we not trust all to Him who holds All in the first place? We don’t understand, we don’t get it, we don’t see it – He does. And that right there is what has gotten me through my dark days, and there have been plenty of them. I am no more religious than the rest, but I know God and love Him and trust Him, and that makes all the difference in all the world.

Thanks for reading, God bless and keep  you, dear readers!

Make-Ahead Oven Homefries

Because really, who has time to stand over a hot skillet and *fry* the silly things!

Some days I miss living out on the prairie, with my man busting sod all day while I busy myself with bread baking and soap making and chicken feeding. It was a good life, but not exactly the one we enjoy today – and honestly, that’s alright. Our days have gotten so much easier with the invention of electricity and indoor plumbing – I particularly enjoy toilet paper and dishwashing liquid. And who can say that things were better *before* the advent of penicillin and Tylenol?

I’m here to say that there are good things about this modern age, even if it is a bit hedged in by insane busyness, and one of those good things is my oven.

The other night we had our weekly Breakfast for Dinner and I made oven homefries, a mash-up of sorts of oven fries and the hashbrowns you get at the local diner. One of the best kitchen tips I picked up while waitressing is to boil the potatoes before frying them, they cook faster and get crispier that way. Also – I never seasoned them enough. You’ve got to season homefries like you mean it – like you intend to Taste those herbs and spices when everything is said and done.

Oven Homefries

4 potatoes (this number can be easily adjusted to fit a smaller or larger crowd)

Spices

A big pot ‘o’ water

A flat, oven-worthy cooking vessel

Olive oil, or Butter, or preferably Both

Alrighty then.

First thing to do is chop your potatoes into bite-sized, homefry pieces. While you’re doing this, you should have your pot of water on the stove, heating to a boil. It’s up to you whether or not you want to peel your potatoes first,  I like mine a little on the rustic side so I let them keep their skins.

When the water is boiling like mad, add a little salt and then toss in your potato chunks (toss them carefully so as not to bathe thyself in boiling water). You don’t want to cook them all the way – this is important. They’re still going in the oven to bake  *at some point*. This is the lovely part about this process, you can parboil the potatoes any time you wish. I knew that we were going to have a rather frantic evening, so I boiled my potatoes in the morning and let them sit in the fridge all day, ready to be popped into the oven fifteen minutes before dinner. SO easy.

But I digress. The potatoes are boiling for 5-10 minutes, depending on how big your pieces are. You want them to be slightly fork-tender, but not mushy *At All*.

Remove them from the stove and strain them. After they’ve cooled a bit (and most of the wetness on them has evaporated from the heat), you can either put them in the fridge, or if you are going to cook them immediately,  dump them into or onto your oven-worthy cooking vessel.

Turn on your oven to 375 degrees.

Now for the fun part – the seasoning.

I like every sort of season – all at once, but some times just plain old salt and pepper do the trick, it’s up to you. First, however, you have to give the taste something to stick to. This is where the olive oil and/or butter come in. Pour a couple of Tablespoons of oil over the potatoes and stir them around in it, coating them as evenly as you can and allowing some extra for the bottom of the pan so that there is No Sticking. Then, sprinkle on some seasonings. Salt, pepper, garlic powder, onion powder, paprika, sage, thyme, oregano, curry powder, basil, rosemary – – the options are endless. My favorite seasoning mix is sea salt, freshly ground black pepper, garlic powder and poultry seasoning (of all things), which is a recipe with its origins lodged in an old folk song, “Parsley, sage, rosemary and thyme…”

The whole shibang is going to head into the oven for 15-20 minutes, and half-way through they should be stirred up a bit so they get crispy on all sides.

Yum.

They are definitely house-on-the-prairie-slaved-over-a-cast-iron-skillet-all-day good, without the actual slaving-over-a-cast-iron-skillet part – which is even better.