Friday, October 17, 2008

The Lovely Smell of Fall Treats

I see, when I bend close, how each leaflet of a
climbing rose is bordered with frost, the autumn
counterpart of the dewdrops of summer dawns.
The feathery leaves of yarrow are thick with silver
rime and dry thistle heads rise like goblets plated
with silver catching the sun. ~Edwin Way Teale

I love fall food; the smells, the spices, the fruit and of course, the eating. We also love tea at our house, and baking goodies to go along with the tea. I thought you would like these fall recipes to try this weekend.

Harvest Spice Tea Cake

1/2 cup water
2 cinnamon tea bags (see note)
1 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
1 1/2 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. salt
3 eggs
3/4 cup granulated sugar
1 tsp. Vanilla extract -

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Bring the water to a boil in a small pan,add the tea bags, and steep for 3 to 5 minutes. Mix the other ingredients in a large bowl. Add the tea, carefully squeezing excess liquid from tea bags before discarding the bags. Mix the batter well. Pour into a 8x8x2-inch greased baking dish that has been buttered. Bake for 25 minutes. When cooled slightly, spread a little butter on top to melt and sprinkle with the nutmeg. Note: Any spicy type tea will work great--even a chai.

Ginger Cranberry Tea

2 cups boiling water
1/2 cup fresh ginger, peeled and thinly sliced
1/2 cup fresh, rinsed cranberries
pinch nutmeg
1/2 cup cranberry juice
2 mint sprigs
Sugar or honey to sweeten

In a medium sized bowl, pour boiling water over ginger and cranberries. Cover and let stand 20 minutes. Strain, add nutmeg and cranberry juice and stir. Add sugar or honey to taste. Serve warm. Garnish with mint.

Pumpkin Dip

4 cups confectioners' sugar
2 packages (8 oz each) cream cheese; softened
1 can (16 oz) pumpkin, or cooked pumpkin- pureed
2 tsp. ground cinnamon
1 tsp. vanilla extract

Mix together all the ingredients. Serve with teddy bear
shaped crackers, apples or ginger snaps.

Lina, one of my long time friends, shared this recipe from Libby's. These are fun to make and give as a hostess gift, autumn birthday gift or just to make and eat.

Mini Pumpkin Muffin Mix

3 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup raisins, sweetened dried cranberries
OR chopped nuts (optional)
1 cup granulated sugar
4 teaspoons baking powder
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1 can (15 oz.) Pure Pumpkin

COMBINE all ingredients, except pumpkin, in large bowl.Pour into 1-quart container, resealable plastic bag will work; seal. Wrap muffin mix and a can of pumpkin in fabric; tie with ribbon or twine.

Pour muffin mix into large bowl. Cut in 1/2 cup vegetable shortening with pastry blender until mixture is fine. Add 1 cup LIBBY'S 100% PURE PUMPKIN, 1 cup milk and 2 large eggs; mix until just moistened. Spoon into greased or paper-lined mini-muffin pans, filling 2/3 full. Bake in preheated 400 degree F oven for 15 minutes; remove to wire racks. Sprinkle with powdered sugar, if desired. Makes about 60 mini muffins.

I hope your weekend is lovely. ~Brenda

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Homemade Pie Baking Tips

The scarlet of maples can shake me
like a cry of bugles going by.
And my lonely spirit thrills
to see the frosty asters like
smoke upon the hills.
~William Bliss Carman

Hazel, one of my readers, sent in these tips she uses in baking 100 pies each fall! Below that are more tips from other readers and another pie related question that was sent in to me.

I make up to 100 pies each fall. I give them to friends, family and use them for sick or grieving friends. Of course, my husband and I eat our share. I usually have at least 40 pies in my freezer to take out and bake through the winter. It has always been a pain to put something under them to catch the boiling over. I used cookie sheets, which sometimes were not wide enough, so didn't catch it all. I used foil that I had to try and fold up around the pan and it was hard to get it right. About a month ago, I found 12 inch pizza pans that have a slightly raised edge. I thought it was worth a try to see if they would work. I put the 9 inch pie on them, and there is a good amount of space for drippings. I can fit two on my oven shelf at a time. I absolutely love them. Even clean up is not that bad if I soak them in very hot soapy water for a couple of hours. Everything wipes right off with the dish cloth. I feel like so much work has been taken out of my pie baking. ~Hazel P.S. I bought the pans at WalMart.

I've also used the pizza pan idea to catch drips when baking. For really easy clean-up I also line the pizza pan with the No Stick foil that is out now. It is great! Parchment paper works well too. Happy Baking! ~Elizabeth

On Hazel's pizza pans for her pies; she won't have to soak those pans if she covers them with foil. I use the new release foil for just about everything that I put in the oven. The cleanup is so quick. ~Sheila

I have also used the pizza pans when pie baking. For easier clean upon no mess cleanup, cover the pan in aluminum foil and I sometimes just coat the pan with margarine or spay with Pam (cooking spray). Any spills will come off in soap water. No scrubbing or soaking for any period of time. ~Elayne

I bought 2 glass pie pans while I was at Goodwill yesterday. They are in mint shape. I've never used glass pie pans before. I am wondering , do I lower the oven temperature 25 degrees while using glass pans, like I do with other glass baking dishes? I am a little worried what this will do to my pumpkin pies since there are 2 different temperatures to use while baking these. ~Bonnie

Yes, you should always lower the temperature by 25 degrees when using glass pie pans, or dark metal pans. If a pan is a type that is shiny and bright it's recommended you actually bake a little longer. You should also place your pans in the lower third of the oven to brown the top and the bottom evenly. As far as your baking your pies together, it would probably be best to bake the ones in the glass pans separately.

We also have an article on making a cream pie with endless variations! Click here:

Enjoy the cool fall weather! ~Brenda

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Fall Garden Tips

Any night now frost may blacken the last crotalarias,
zinnias, marigolds, and chrysanthemums. But, when
the dead branches have been cleared away, there will
still be the green of the ivy, the grey of santolina, and
the scarlet fruit of the firethorn. ~Elizabeth Lawrence

Fall is one of the best times to plant spring and summer blooming perennials, trees and shrubs. Choices are abundant, including astilbe, coral bells, daylilies, bee balm, coneflowers, sedum, black-eyed Susans, hostas, veronicas, peonies, astilbe, bleeding hearts, Joe-Pye weed, euphorbia and phlox, plus deciduous trees and shrubs that drop their leaves in the fall.

The weather is getting cooler, but there is still plenty of time for the roots to settle in before the hard freezes. Plant at the same level your perennials were at in the pot, and keep them watered on a regular basis until the ground is frozen. Mulch 2-4 inches deep for extra protection and prepare your soil before planting as you would a new garden bed. Dig it well and add some compost or organic fertilizer. The mulching will help keep the soil from repeated freezing and thawing. Finish up your fall planting 5-6 weeks before hard freezes. If you're worried about the plants, cover with newspaper, plastic or cloth overnight when it's especially cold. During the winter, check the soil for "heaving" which means the plant could raise up out of the soil. Gently push it back into place.

If you have perennials in pots you want to do a little preparation before the hard freezes. Plastic pots seem to work better than clay or ceramic because they tend to dry out slower and usually won't crack as easily. During the cold season, gather all the pots together in a protected area, but still in an outside location. Cover each potted plant with mulch. If you have a space up near the house or another building, that would work well. Continue to water as mentioned for other perennials.

Be cautious not to cut back your perennials too close in the fall, or you may damage next year's buds--never trim down to the surface. Also, fall is not a good time for pruning trees and shrubs. Leave as much growth as possible, and prune in the spring. When looking at your garden this fall, consider what new perennials you may want to add, and think about the winter garden as well. Leave dry, sturdy stalks and grasses alone and they will add a lovely touch when the snow covers them. Leave plants that you want to reseed, and also those the birds might enjoy during the cold weather.

Those of you in warm climates like Florida can plant a new garden when it cools down-consider pansies and cool weather vegetables. Southern Florida residents can plant annuals in December! Cold hardy vegetables for those in Zones 9, 10 and 11 include collars, kale, leeks, lettuce, mustard, onions, peas, potatoes, radishes, spinach and turnips. Flowers that are cold hardy include cornflowers, ornamental cabbage, pansies, primroses, violets, bells of Ireland, calendula, coreopsis, rudbeckia, snapdragon, stock, and sweet peas.

~Enjoy the day. ~Brenda

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

The Witcheries of Halloween

The sweet calm sunshine of October, now
Warms the low spot; upon its grassy mold
The purple oak-leaf falls; the birchen bough
drops its bright spoil like arrow-heads of gold.
~William Cullen Bryant

The Modern Priscilla Magazine from October 1950 shared an article by Marion Harris Neil. She starts by going over deep-rooted superstitions that had gotten out of hand in times past, but now "Halloween assumed more the characteristics of a merrymaking festival". She advises that we only invite guests whom we are on "the terms of intimacy" with, so we won't be limited by restraints and will be able to have genuine fun and enjoyment. The article is very long, so I'm picking a few of the tips to share here. The language of the article tickles me more than anything.

Have your menu cards odd to suit this occasion, if you use them at all, and they should portray pictures of witches on broomsticks, owls, black kittens, or brownies (which are creatures from Scottish folklore- a little like gnomes. )

Decorations should be in autumn colors, mainly yellow and brown, with perhaps a little green thrown in the background. Jack-o-lantern faces should peer out of unexpected corners, and ears of dried corn, together with branches of red and brown leaves, should be suspended from the chandelier in the supper room. Use pumpkin shells for your jardinieres (*these are traditionally ceramics flower pot holders.).

There is no better place for the merrymaking than a barn. It may be decorated to your own wishes. Decorations may be elaborate and artistic, or they may be weird, and still the possibilities are all the greater when you can feel your gaiety may have its vent and do no damage to the pretty furnishings of a home.

I have more tips and recipes from this article on OFL:

Monday, October 13, 2008

Fearful & Wonderful Halloween Tips

I would rather sit on a pumpkin and have it all to myself than be crowded on a velvet cushion. ~Henry David Thoreau

The Home Comfort Cook Book from 1948 shares some neat Halloween tips and recipes for children.

Let the youngsters make fearful and wonderful pumpkin jack-o-lanterns, and cut-outs (of heavy black paper) of cats and witches, to trim the house and the table.

Instead of place cards use oranges with the name or initial of each guest spelled out with cloves (stuck in the oranges). The table could be covered with strips of orange and black paper.

Even the teen-agers love to bob for apples in a wash tub. After strenuous games they might like to serve the sandwiches below.

Tomato, Bacon and Cheese Sandwiches

Toast slices of bread on one side only. On the toasted side of each slice place a slice of cheese, slices of tomato and top them off with strips of bacon. Place the sandwiches on a cooky sheet or shallow baking pan in a hot oven (400 degrees F.). Bake them until the cheese is melted and the bacon cooked to the degree of doneness which you prefer.

I hope you have a lovely Monday. ~Brenda