Thursday, October 19, 2006

GREAT pumpkins!

It's here!

The Great Pumpkin time of year!

There aren’t too many places to visit in town without first noticing the d├ęcor of pumpkins in varying sizes and shapes, or fall harvest displays of corn stalks, orange ribbons or lights and many gourds surrounding the bottom walkways or sidewalk areas.

A plethora of pumpkin produce are displayed at local farms.

The bright orange colors stand out, reminding us of the bright and cheery sunshine from summer days recently gone by, when these pumpkins were growing in soil amongst individual vegetable gardens or farmer’s fields nearby. The bright color tends to attract attention easily, often allowing us to crack a small smirk or full blown smile, the simplicity of the beauty of harvest is upon us, for our sheer pleasure and enjoyment.

This year, our pumpkins weren’t grown in our own garden, but hopefully we will have plenty of them in our “field” to carve, cook, eat and chew on the freshly salted pumpkin seeds or freeze a bowl filled with the pumpkin cooked, then pureed to a fine mush, for next summer's season.

Our family favorite.

Pumpkin pies fresh from the oven!

I can think of many recipes I have on hand for fall cooking feasts using pumpkin as a main ingredient. Some are; pumpkin spice cookies, pumpkin loaf, pumpkin & zucchini muffins, pumpkin pie (YUM!), homemade soup cooked inside a pumpkin shell in the oven, and others. Lately though, I’m dreaming constantly of the current feature at Starbucks, a “pumpkin spice latte”!

Pumpkin spice latte.

Oh, so heavenly!!! A friend sent me a web source with a recipe for making my own PUMPKIN LATTE RECIPE (HERE), but just the thought of one several times a week or so in recent days, has created a new penchant for wishing the drive not so long to run out and fetch one, just for a sipping delight to settle down the craving, and enjoying a quiet moment or two while doing so. Oh the temptation is something I must control, but perhaps I could solve the problem by having my very own espresso machine in my kitchen instead. Okay, good thought for another day.

I gave the two younger children orange and black papers the other day with a suggestion for a craft time to make a few pumpkins for decorating one window in the great room. These are what came of that artsy time. What fun they had! Instead of displaying in one area though, they have been spread them out all over the place, with lots of tape (!), though they are together for this picture below.

Pumpkin artwork gracing our windows.

Normally each year we carve pumpkins, jack o’lanterns of some sort, with a lit candle inside, nestled on the outside porch to view from the kitchen window. Sometimes just a couple in varying sizes are purchased, other years, one for each person living at home to do with as he/she chooses. Many are cooked for pumpkin pies, up to a dozen at one time in the freezer for feasting on. Did you know pumpkin is so very nutritious for you?

Before such an endeavor though, for over twelve years we’ve been attending the great pumpkin/apple fair at a local farm, where there were many activities for the children to participate in. Some of them were; the farm animal petting area with newly born animals to see and feel, strolling through both the hay and bin maze, swinging on the rope trolley in the upper floor of the barn, take a hayride through the fields, tasting the freshly squeezed apple juice, nibbling on varieties of apples sliced up to try, browsing through the store on the premises, picking our pumpkins out and shopping for other farm fresh produce, playing in the children’s playground area with assorted fun riding toys, feeding the goats with their food suspended high up on the walkway for them to retrieve it, taking many assorted photos at the colorful photo op centers including one to measure the height of the children year after year, and this year, was the very first year we werent' able to carry out our tradition of attending this family farm event, a wee bit of a void was felt in our lives when thinking of great pumpkins recently.

Pumpkin farms!

Luckily though, there have been many fall fairs in many locales nearby, and farmer stands with produce for sale around almost every corner we drive by, leaving me to wonder what happens to all the surplus they are left with at the end of the season.

Found everywhere, tis the time to pick up pumpkins now.

Our younger children chose small pumpkins this year, just their size they said. They’ve been taking up residence on the back patio surrounded by a beautiful, now blooming, pot of pink mums and other assorted greenery, awaiting their time for carving and/or cooking. Little did we think they would be covered with snow after our early record snowfalls last week.

Blooms and pumpkins! They go together.

As well, we included one in our thanksgiving dinner table display, something simplistic by nature, but a subtle and tender reminder within our fall season harvest time home decor, something yet again, to be most thankful for -- the harvest itself.

That local farmer bumper sticker is so true; “Did you eat today? Thank a farmer.”

Thank you farmers!

Meanwhile continuing on with the pumpkin theme here, I'm including two fresh, new and so very creative ideas I gleaned from an article read lately, which I'm personally thinking of trying over the coming days.

~ Bake a pumpkin-shaped cake!

It sounds fairly easy -I learned this trick from a nice lady I chat with at OT: Bake two bundt cakes and when cool, place one on top of the other. (I would imagine leveling off the bottom cake first and perhaps frosting the middle to keep them together.) Frost entire cake with orange-tinted frosting. Use a green ice cream cone for the stem and fruit leather pieces for the vine, leaves, and face. This would be a great centerpiece for a party and it would feed quite a crowd!

~ Or, on a smaller, and less sugar-laden note ~ try baking up some

"Jack Be Little Tiny Pumpkins" as described by Susan Branch:

  • 1 miniature pumpkin per person
  • 1 Tbsp. butter
  • 1 tsp. brown sugar
  • Sprinkle of cinnamon and nutmeg
  • Preheat oven to 350. Cut off the very top of each pumpkin ~ about a quarter of the way down. Scoop out the seeds and strings. Put butter, brown sugar, cinnamon and nutmeg in each pumpkin ~ put the tops back on. Place them on a cookie sheet and bake 45-55 mins., till fork tender. Serve.

Wouldn't these be cute at a children's "Pumpkin Tea" served, where else, but in the garden? Wouldn't the little ones just eat this up - figuratively and literally?!

Happy Pumpkin Days!