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

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!)

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!