Pumpkin Patch Memories

Hubby’s headless horseman.

Posting about pumpkin carving with pre-schoolers led me down a crunchy leaves lane of nostalgia. Decorating our house and preparing costumes weren’t our only Autumn traditions. Cherished were our drives to Ort Farms in Long Valley, NJ where we’d take a hay ride to the pumpkin patch, pick as many pumpkins as we could carry, and load up on apple cider, doughnuts, and honey sticks. After saying hi to the farm animals, we’d head home. Every year, Hubby got increasingly skilled at carving pumpkins. (Check out his haunted house below.)  

Hon, what Fall traditions does your family share?

Easy Kids Activity: Pumpkin Carving

Lucy and I at Wyoming Presbyterian Church’s Pumpkin Patch.

It may seem obvious to say pumpkin carving is an easy and fun kids activity, but if you teach preschool (ahem, my wonderful new job), you might think pumpkins, knives, and carving don’t mix with ten super wiggly, touch-everything, curious two year-olds! What does work? Carving open a pumpkin and letting them feel and scoop out what’s inside.

Eight children reached right in, touching and exploring. (“Mushy, gushy!”) The textures were new to them–which showed on their faces–but they dug out the wet, stringy pulp and seeds anyway. Fun!

Two kids wanted nothing to do with this strange mess and backed away from the pumpkin. Funny!

Later in the week, my co-teacher managed to make use of time when the kids were sitting still. She carved shapes into a face. What a great way to learn!

At home, we carved pumpkins, also. It was a first for my daughter’s boyfriend from California. Hands on all around!

Tuscan Rosemary White Bean Soup

Tuscan Rosemary White Bean Soup

Thanksgiving is around the corner and I’m in the midst of shopping, cooking, baking and cleaning (aka moving piles from one part of the house to another!). At our holiday dinner, I always serve Velvety Vegetable Soup instead of salad, but this year I’m changing it up. (There might be a mutiny!) Since I like the consistency of Velvety Vegetable’s  blended veggies, I wondered if I could create the same texture with different ingredients. After combining and refining two recipes:  one from Ina Garten for Food Network and one from Serious Eats, I came up with my own version of Tuscan Rosemary White Bean Soup. This yummy soup feels like Fall.

Happy cooking, hon!

Ingredients:

–2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for serving

–3 small to medium onions, finely diced (about 3 cups)

–3 medium carrots, peeled and finely diced (about 3 cups)

–2 ribs celery, finely diced (about 1 cup)

–3 garlic cloves, minced

–2 (15-ounce) cans white beans (cannellini or great northern), with their liquid

–1 quart chicken stock (I use a low sodium “chicken stock” that’s actually parve.)

–1 teaspoon ground thyme

–1 teaspoon dried mustard

–1/4 teaspoon paprika

–1/4 teaspoon tumeric

–2 bay leaves

–2 teaspoons kosher salt

–1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper or to taste

–either 1 large branch fresh rosemary (6 to 7 inches), 4 6-inch sprigs rosemary, leaves finely chopped and stems reserved, or 1 Tablespoon dried rosemary

–Parmigiano-Reggiano for serving, optional

Directions:

  1. Heat olive oil in a large stockpot over medium-high heat. Add onions, carrots, and celery and cook, stirring frequently, until softened but not browned, about 5-6 minutes. Add garlic and cook, stirring constantly until fragrant, about 1 minute.
  2. Add chicken broth, beans with their liquid, thyme, mustard, paprika, tumeric, bay leaves, rosemary, and salt and pepper. Increase heat to high, and bring to a boil. Turn heat to low and simmer for about 15-20 minutes.
  3. Take soup off of heat and let cool a bit. Discard bay leaves and rosemary stems.
  4. In batches, transfer soup to a blender or food processor and puree until smooth (start on low speed and increase to high to prevent blender blow-out). Return to the stockpot and stir to combine. Season to taste.
  5. Ladle into bowls, sprinkle with reserved chopped rosemary leaves, drizzle with extra-virgin olive oil and a grating of Parmigiano-Reggiano, and serve with crusty toasted bread.

Yield: Makes about 2 quarts, servings 6-8.

Tip: I’ll make this ahead of time, freeze it and, after defrosting, re-blend with a hand blender.

Autumn Apple Crumble

Apple Crumble
Autumn Apple Crumble.

Thanksgiving is right around the corner, which means shopping, cooking and cleaning in preparation for Family and Feast.  I have menus to plan, furniture to move and mattresses to blow up.  My house will be crowded, but it’ll be filled with love, laughter and lots of food.

This easy Apple Crumble recipe was mentioned in my post “Fall Fete (Dessert and Decor).”  I tried it out on Teen Daughter’s friends and parents and it was a hit!  Thanks to the blog, Mama’s Gotta Bake, I have another way to sweeten up and serve autumn apples.

Happy baking, hon!

Apple Crumble Ingredients
Apple Crumble ingredients.

Prepping Apple Mixture.
Prepping the apple mixture.

Ready to go in the oven/
Ready to bake.

 

 

 

 

 

Apple Crumble ready to eat.  "I'll serve the Crumble and you dish out the ice cream!"
Apple Crumble fresh out of the oven. “I’ll serve the Crumble and you dish out the ice cream!”

Autumn Apple Crumble

Ingredients:

7 large apples, peeled, cored and cut into 1/4″ slices (I used a variety of apples)

2 teaspoons lemon juice (plus 1 Tablespoon to be used before baking)

1/2 cup brown sugar

1 Tablespoon granulated sugar

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1/8 teaspoon grated nutmeg

Topping Ingredients:

1 stick (1/2 cup) unsalted butter, cut into small cubes

1 1/2 cups old fashioned oats

3 Tablespoons brown sugar

1/2 cup walnuts, chopped small (optional, I didn’t use them in my recipe)

1/2 cup all purpose flour

pinch of salt

Directions:

1.  Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.

2. Fill a large bowl with cold water and stir 1 Tablespoon of lemon juice into it.  As you are slicing apples, put them into the bowl of lemon water so they don’t brown.  When all the apples are sliced, drain them and put into another bowl.

3.  Toss the apples in the 2 teaspoons lemon juice, brown sugar, granulated sugar, cinnamon and nutmeg until they are coated.  Place apple mixture into a baking dish (About 2 quart-sized dish).  Set aside.

4.  In a large bowl, mix the Topping.  Toss the oats, walnuts (optional), pinch of salt, brown sugar and flour until all are incorporated.  Then, work in the butter by pinching it with your fingers until mixture resembles coarse crumbs.

5.  Sprinkle Topping mixture over the apple mixture and bake for about 40 -50 minutes, until the apples are tender when pierced with a sharp knife.

6.  Best when eaten warm from the oven with a scoop of–what else?–vanilla ice cream!

Serves 8

 

Fall Fete (Dessert and Decor)


IMG_2108

I recently hosted a Fall Fete, or festive celebration.

Hon, you know how much I love a theme.  And baking.  Combining my favorite season with decor and dessert energized me more than usual.  The morning after the Get Together, we drove through the stunning Lehigh Valley to visit one of our college daughters.  I guess I was still buzzing from the night before because, when I ordered coffee with lunch, the Barista said, “Decaf for you?”

Flowers, pumpkins and pumpkin trees.
Flowers, pumpkins and pumpkin trees.

Look what I found at Trader Joe’s.  I’d never heard of pumpkin trees before, but apparently that’s what those branches with real, mini pumpkins growing on them are called.

Window display.
Window display.  I love to merchandise!

I love merchandising!
I collect decor for every season and am a big fan of using what I  have and embellishing it.

Snoopy-dressed-as-a-pumpkin and youngest daughter's ceramic bunnies welcome friends.
Snoopy-Dressed-as-a-Pumpkin and Youngest Daughter’s ceramic bunnies welcome friends.

It must be the children's writer in me that sees this porcupine candle as a character!
It must be the children’s writer in me that sees this porcupine candle as a character!

Cupcakes, candy and a Haunted House.
Cupcakes, candy and a Haunted House Kit.

I couldn’t resist this Haunted House Kit from Williams-Sonoma.  Orange icing inspired the Decorate-Your-Own-Cupcake Station.  The flavor of the icing is

IMG_2112

…candy corn!  And the Hershey Kisses aren’t chocolate, they’re pumpkin spice!  So much yumminess!

Dried Fruit, Pumpkin Mini Muffins, Rice Krispie Treats and Crudites.
Dried Fruit, Pumpkin Mini Muffins, Rice Krispie Treats and Crudites.

Apple Crumble
Apple Crumble.

You can bet I tried a little of everything!

Menu:

Pumpkin Muffins

Apple Crumble with Vanilla Ice Cream

Rice Krispie Treats (made with M & M’s and candy corn)

Crudites

Dried Fruit

Chips-n-Salsa

Dunkin’ Donuts Munchkins 

Drinks:

Hot Apple Cider

Hot Chocolate

Coffee and Tea

Wine

A candy bat is caught in a giant spider's web.
A candy bat is caught in a giant spider’s web.

The candy corn fence is adorable.
The candy corn fence is adorable.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Maybe next year, we should have a Kids-Versus-Grown-ups Haunted House contest!
Assembling the Haunted House looked like fun.  Maybe next year, we should have a Kids-Versus-Grown-ups Haunted House contest!

Pumpkin Muffin Recipe:  click here

Apple Crumble Recipe:  post under construction (source, Mama’s Gotta Bake)

Icy Compostions

IMG_1016

Nature creates its own composition of Winter ice and Fall leaves.

IMG_1012

The ice magnifies the brick’s texture, creating a pointillist-type palette of colors.

IMG_1015

In my imagination, this piece of ice is the head of an Ice Creature.

IMG_1011The ice is all angles and edges.

IMG_1010Was Mother Nature inspired by Piet Mondrian?

“I wish to approach truth as closely as is possible, and therefore I abstract everything until I arrive at the fundamental quality of objects.”

Mondrian

Autumn Haikus

DSC_3211

My triplets plus one pumpkin picking.
My triplets and Plus One pumpkin picking, ages 10 and 3.

Colorful and crunchy leaves make me nostalgic for the time when my children were little. If you read my recent post, 19 On the 19th (Happy Birthday To My Triplets), then you know I’ve been strolling down memory lane since September.  Every year, we would

drive to the a country farm,

ride in a wagon,

pick pumpkins,

decorate our house,

carve pumpkins,

jump in leaf piles

and, of course, go trick-or-treating.

Topping off the holiday season was the best entertainment around, the elementary school Halloween show. Soon after Thanksgiving arrived and we feasted with extended family at our home.  Heaven!

I recently came across my big kids’ third grade Autumn Haikus.  I couldn’t wait to share them with you, along with a photo of each kid, all grown up now.

Autumn Haikus H

"Baby A"
“Baby A” and me.

Autumn Haikus T

'Baby B"
‘Baby B” and Hubby.

Autumn Haiku M

Tween Daughter, Me, "Baby C"
Tween Daughter, Me, “Baby C”

Do you and your family have favorite Fall traditions?  Hon, I’d love to hear them.

DSC_3470

Lucy’s 1 Year Anniversary (Four Season Puppy)

Lucy joins our family.

Spring–Porch Puppy.

Summer–Shady Puppy (under the car’s open back hatch).

Fall–Autumn Leaves Puppy.

Fall–Halloween Puppy.

Winter–Snow Puppy.

Happy One Year Anniversary to our adorable, sock-eating, shoe-stealing Border Collie/ Black Lab mutt (uh, I mean “mixed breed”) who joined our family last November!  She’s our very own brown-eyed, soulful sweetheart.  Sure she’s a lot of work, but she shows us how to enjoy the simple things like a belly rub and a nap.  She makes us laugh with her games of “Rip Around the Dining Room Table”, “Hide the Ball Under the Couch” and “Watch Mommy Fetch The Ball.”

Lucy In The Sky With Diamonds (Diamonds for her white markings/ Lucy for short) wouldn’t have joined our household if it weren’t for Daughter Number Three’s Girl Scout troop volunteering at a shelter.  I tagged along with the troop and was smitten by the puppies.

Allergic hubby and two allergic teens officially “allergy tested” a bunch of pups (they rubbed different sections of their arms on different dogs until, lo and behold, one dog didn’t require an immediate dose of Benadryl to halt hives).

Hon, I was always a “cat-person.”  Truth-be-told, I still am.  But now I’m a dog lover, too.

Top ten reasons why I love Lucy:

1. She’s my running partner.

2. A furry dog makes a great personal foot warmer.

3. To her, every day is a great day.

4. She accepts herself for who she is.

5. She looks at the world like a toddler; everything’s new and interesting.

6. I don’t have to fix the broken doorbell.  Lucy announces all visitors.

7. She still believes she will be friends with our 13-year old cat.

8. I have a reason to imitate Ricky Ricardo on a daily basis. (“Lucy, you have some esplainin’ to do!”)

9. My three college freshmen say they miss Lucy more than they miss me, hubby and little sister.

10. Daughter Number Three, who was terrified of dogs for the first 10 years of her life has been transformed!  She said, “Mom, I never realized dogs had personalities.  I was just afraid because they were dogs.”

  

Nor’easter-Fall Meets Winter

These leaves don’t usually touch the ground, but they were weighted down by the snow.

Wednesday’s Nor’easter introduced Winter to Fall.

Last October, the unseasonal snow on autumn leaves caused many trees to topple.  This year, those trees had already fallen (see “Hurricane Sandy-Uprooted”) so the mix of Fall and Winter played out without drama.

Thursday afternoon the snow was already melting.  Hon, I’ll be ready for snow again when the air has that crisp Winter scent, the mountains call me to ski, and it’s necessary to have a mug of hot chocolate daily (yes, necessary!).