Monday, September 29, 2008

Pumpkin Pies & More

Pumpkin pie has been associated with autumn menus since the 17th century. It's believed the the early settlers made the first pies by scooping out the seeds from the center of the pumpkin and then filling it with milk, seasonings, maple syrup or molasses. Then they baked the pumpkin until tender.

Poet John Greenleaf Whittier wrote about pumpkin pies. Mention of pumpkin pie, pudding, and other dishes is found in other writings and diaries.

Many Varieties of Pumpkin Pie

Pumpkin pies come in many varieties today. Some cooks like to use the fresh pumpkins, cutting them up, cooking and mashing them for a pie filling. Others use canned pumpkin. When I was a child, we generally used the pumpkins we grew in garden and field.

You also can mix pumpkin with other ingredients for pie variations.

  • This includes stirring a package of mincemeat into your pie recipe.
  • Or you can create a chiffon pumpkin pie by making a gelatin custard mixture and stirring cooked pumpkin into it. Then turn into baked pie shell and top with whipped cream or whipped topping.
  • Add vanilla ice cream to the pumpkin pie.

FROZEN PUMPKIN PIE is one variation.

Stir 1 pint vanilla ice cream to soften. Spread in a baked 9-inch pie shell. Freeze ice cream in shell until firm.

Mix together 1 cup canned or fresh cooked pumpkin, 3/4 cup sugar (1/2 cup if you don't want it so sweet), 1/2 teaspoon salt, 1 teaspoon ginger, 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon, 1/8 teaspoon nutmeg. (Spice amounts may vary depending on individual taste.) Fold in 1 1/2 cups miniature marshmallows and 1 cup heavy cream, whipped (or use whipped topping).

Spoon onto ice cream layer. Sprinkle with chopped nuts, if desired. Freeze until firm.

When serving, take from freezer and let stand in the refrigerator for 10 to 15 minutes. Top with more whipped topping, if desired.

(c)2008 Mary Emma Allen

Pumpkin Time of Year

These orange globes of autumn dot the fields and garden. They're stacked in piles around farm stands. They cover fields. My husband and I drove by a church yard colored orange by the multitudes of pumpkins for a fund raising sale.

My nieces used to raise and sell pumpkins at a stand in front of their home. The contrasts between the orange of pumpkins, dried cornstalks, and colorful leaves on the trees present a perfect country autumn picture.

Children carve or paint laughing and scary faces on pumpkins to display for Halloween. That was a high point of my childhood and for my daughter and grandchildren, too.

It's also time for pumpkin recipes. What are some of your favorites?

(c)2008 Mary Emma Allen

Friday, September 19, 2008

Traveling, Meeting Authors & Finding New Food Ideas

My love of traveling translates into discovering new places (or revisiting old ones), meeting new people (or seeing friends again), learning about new foods and collecting recipes. On a recent trip to Wisconsin and the Upper Peninsula of Michigan, I experienced all of these.

I met in person for the first time, two authors I’d been corresponding with via an Internet group and e-mail. Janet Elaine Smith and Billie Williams live side-by-side on a street they call Authors’ Row, in a small town in northeastern Wisconsin. Their homes were right on Jim’s and my route to Iron Mountain, Michigan, on the Wisconsin/Michigan border.

Inspiration for Novel

Having tea with Janet and Billie and chatting with them, inspired me to get going again on my Civil War era novel for youngsters, Papa Goes to War ( ). Janet has written one for youngsters, My Dear Phebe, based on letters from this period connected with her family.

My novel, still in draft form, centers around ancestors (my grandmother’s uncles) who fought in this war. In researching more about them and their lives, I discovered the Mandy of my novel, whose mother had died. Her father felt he needed to fight for the Union. So his new wife took care of the children. In my story, Mandy experiences the turmoil of a father away, a new stepmother, and a world (the world she knew) at war.

Foods of the Area

As I began thinking again of getting back to work on this novel, we traveled further north to Iron Mountain, where we had business meetings. However, while there, friends introduced us to new recipes.

Food in this area is influenced by the Scandinavians who settled here to work in the lumber camps. Lumbering still is a big part of the economy of the region.

Baking on the Grill

Since our friends’ oven wasn’t working, they were doing much of their baking on the grill. I was amazed at how much can be cooked this way.

She purchased pizza that needed baking. It turned out delicious on the grill. Her son made chocolate chip oatmeal cookie bars and baked them on the grill, too. Another tasty treat.

Potatoes in Foil – Combine thinly sliced potatoes, cut-up green beans fresh from the garden, and diced onion. Sprinkle with salt and pepper and dot with butter. You can add sliced or julienne carrots. Wrap mixture in foil and cook over the grill until done. (This dish also could be baked in an oven, preferably in a dish but covered with foil.)

KRUPSUA, a recipe with Norwegian origins, is a family favorite they wanted to make for us for supper. Wisk briskly together in a medium bowl – 3 eggs, 2 cups milk, 1 cup flour, ½ cup sugar. Slice ½ stick butter into cast iron skillet . (Our friend used an 8-9-inch one. You also can use a round cake pan.)

Put pan in oven preheated to 400 degrees F. (She used her toaster oven.) Remove pan when butter is melted. Pour the krupsua batter into it. Put back into oven and bake 20 minutes until set in the middle. (It will rise something like a soufflé.)

Slice into wedges and serve warm or cold. We enjoyed it with mashed strawberries and whipped topping, although you can eat it without. Delicious!

©2008 Mary Emma Allen

(Mary Emma Allen enjoys traveling, collecting new recipes, and meeting with friends. Visit her new travel blog, .)

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Glove Boxes & Tea Parties


“Those were glove boxes,” the gentleman remarked when I showed him two wooden boxes (about 5 x9x2-inches) connected by a 24-inch piece of wood.

They had set on the dresser in the guest room of the farmhouse where I grew up. I’d always thought they had been used for storing jewelry and handkerchiefs.

Apparently ladies stored their several pairs of gloves in these boxes. Probably the ladies also placed hankies here, too, as my aunt did when she visited and used the guest room.

Why Mention Glove Boxes?

Why am I writing about gloves boxes in Country Kitchen? This reminded me of Victorian tea parties when ladies and young girls wore gloves and hats if they visited someone’s home. When I was a girl, we weren’t considered well-dressed for church and formal occasions unless we wore gloves and hats.

No, I’m not of the Victorian tea party era, but I grew up with a tea tradition in my family. It was a sign of hospitality to offer a cup of tea. Even after Mother lived in the nursing home with Alzheimer’s, she enjoyed the tea parties when my grandchildren (her great grands) and I visited her.

So…when the gentleman, who was looking at some of my other old furniture, noticed the glove boxes and told me about their use, I was reminded of tea parties and tea time traditions.

Tea Parties Popular Topic

I’ve also discovered that tea and tea parties and accompanying recipes are popular topics here at Country Kitchen. One lady remarked that reading my column was like sitting down and chatting with me over a cup of tea. I hope I make you feel welcome and that you enjoy our weekly “chats” on the many and diverse topics I discover to share with you.

Tea party foods are varied. There are traditional English teas. Then Americanized versions. My grandmother and aunt might have freshly baked bread with churned butter and homemade jelly. Auntie usually had cookies, too.

At the nursing home, Mother enjoyed muffins we picked up at a fast food restaurant. The grandchildren liked them or cookies we might bring with us.

CRAZY QUILT BREAD might be a fun recipe to try for serving with tea. Mix together ½ cup sugar, 1 egg, 1 ¼ cups milk, 3 cups biscuit mix; beat quickly for 30 seconds. Batter should be somewhat lumpy.

Stir in ½ cup mixed candied fruit and ½ cup chopped nuts. Pour into a greased and floured 9 x 5 x 3-inch loaf pan. Bake at 350 degrees F. for 45-50 minutes or until inserted toothpick comes out clean. There probably will be a crack on the top. Cool before slicing.

(Variation; You may want to bake it in a 9-inch square pan at same temperature but for less time.)

©2008 Mary Emma Allen

Mary Emma Allen researches and writes from her NH home or during her travels. Visit her latest blog The “Green” Vagabond Traveler (