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another sunday day of baking and cooking. and tasting. quality control– it is an essential piece in a well prepared item of food. without it, how can any chef/baker/farmer/grower know if their product is up to code? oh the delightful benefits of working with food…


today, hamtramck’s calling me. my friend jamila invited me to her casa for a pre-thanksgiving feast. i’m bringing those most beautiful basics–cranberry sauce and pumpkin cookies–from my mama’s thanksgiving kitchen. easy as these recipes are, the memories their smells call back are pretty impressive. the crazy part is, i hated both of these as a child.

the cranberry sauce is more of a relish than a sauce: chunky, tart and boldly strutting its vivid ruby on the plate. i think it was the color that made me a little nervous as a child. or rather, the texture. texture was the name of my game: anything too lumpy, too chewy, or too slimy and i was not interested. i even chewed my applesauce as a kid.

the pumpkin cookies, well that was a flavor thing. i hated pumpkin– it was for carving, not eating! and the nuts. my mom learned to make half batches with and half without: my brother and i were never afraid to be vocal about our dislike of nuts… i think i would have made them all with nuts if i were my mom, and then enjoy that autumnal bliss all to myself. but my mom was graceful and kind.

the icing of these cookies always got me. the browned butter and brown sugar adds a maple-y warmth to each bite, delicately blanketing the soft, spongy cookies. truly, they are the taste of fall. as a kid, i would “suffer” through eating the cookie solely for the icing’s sake! and as a treat, we would save the extra icing (how there was ever extra i am not sure) in the fridge and smeared it on honeyed pretzels or cinnamon graham crackers. oh so rich! so warm! so great!

onto the recipe:

mama’s pumpkin cookies

COOKIES:
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 egg
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup sugar
1 cup butter or margarine
1 cup pumpkin
2 cups flour (i used whole wheat pastry flour)
3/4 cups nuts (i put nuts in half the batch: pecans)

1. preheat oven to 350
2. in a bowl, mix all ingredients but nuts with a hand blender till smooth
3. stir in nuts, if using
4. spoon 1-2 tablespoon-sized dollops onto a lightly greased cookie sheet, or use parchment paper.
5. bake for 10-12 minutes, until raised and just starting to brown on the edges. actually, if you can get them before they start to brown, that’s the best time.
6. cool on cooling rack. once cooled, spread with icing! (THE ICING MAKES THESE COOKIES!)


ICING!
1/4 cup milk
1/2 cup brown sugar
3 tablespoons butter
1 1/2-2 cups powdered sugar

1. combine milk, brown sugar and butter in a pan on medium heat. stir as you bring to a boil, and watch for the color to deepen and for the liquid to thicken.
2. add powdered sugar, starting with 1 1/2 cups, until you reach the desired consistency for icing cookies! spread the love all around those pockets o’ pumpkin! and, if you’ve got leftovers, save them in the fridge and spread on graham crackers for a lovely treat!

enjoy!

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sunday was my day. it was all mine. it was one of those gray-turned-sunny, cooking and raking kind of fall days i dream about with fondness in the depths of the humid heat of the midwest summers.

we have had a lot, i mean a lot, of produce in our house as of late. not so much produce ready to eat, but produce ready to be prepared. and fruits that are just not preferable raw. those delicious apples-golden and red- they sat in our fruit basket for a week at least, first waiting with delicate patience, then their skins softening and dulling to a more aggressive form of protest, ready to be used in a sauce, a crisp, a… muffin! but of course!

i have a great love for muffins. i do believe this is the second muffin posted–they are truly the perfect marriage of whole grains and ripe produce that gives birth to such moist, tasty delights! especially when you make them with roasted pumpkin. enveloped in the arms of grainy goodness, the pumpkin’s nestled in, hidden, like the bright bits of sun that tease you on a cloudy fall day. i think those pumpkins sucked their color out of all of the vivid, fiery leaves that once hung on our front trees. the muffins happily accepted these deposits of bold orange, tucking them into their little pockets.

after a lovely halloween full of music and dancing and beehives and birds nests, a sunday steeped with jiving in the kitchen to ann delisi’s essential music while concocting the latest of the muffin installments was exactly what the doctor (or this gastronomically obsessed muffin enthusiast) ordered.

roasted pumpkin and apple muffins (with cranberries and pecans…)

pie pumpkin
butter

2 cups flour: whole wheat pastry flour, oat flour, cornmeal,
sunflower seed meal, and sesame seed flour. i like to mix
what’s laying around.
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
pinch all spice
pinch cardamom
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup dried cranberries (optional, could throw some more in)
1/4 cup chopped pecans (optional, could throw some more in)
2 eggs
3/4 cup brown sugar
3/4 cup yogurt, plain
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
1 cup apples (about 3 apples) cored and chopped or grated
(i used golden delicious as they were near spoilage and i don’t
like them for eating).
1 cup pumpkin canned or roasted
roast pumpkin:

1. preheat oven to 425
2. cut pie pumpkin in half, remove seeds with spoon, then cut into quarters. put a dollop of butter on each piece. place quarters in a pan and add enough water so that it just covers the bottom of the pan (don’t drown our pumpkins!)
3. roast pumpkins for 45 minutes to an hour, check and test with a fork.

for muffins:
1. preheat oven to 350 and butter/line a muffin tin
2. mix dry ingredients together (flour through cranberries/pecans) in a medium bowl. set aside.
3. beat eggs in bowl until pale yellow. add brown sugar yogurt and vanilla extract, mix.
4. gently fold apples and pumpkin into batter.
5. slowly add dry ingredients to wet. fold and mix until just combined– do not over mix.
6. using a 1/3 cup as a scoop, spoon muffin mixture into pie tins.
7. bake for 15 minutes, then turn in oven for even baking. continue to bake for another 10- 15 minutes, until a toothpick comes out clean.
8. let cool 5 minutes in pan, then transfer to cooling rack.