Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Cozy Fall Recipes

Let the fall leaves fall
And the cold snow snow
And the rain rain rain ‘til April:
Our coats are warm

And the pantry’s full
And there’s cake upon the table.

-Clyde Watson

I often recite this poem to myself this time of year. This is how fall feels to me. These days we have a fire every day in the old wood cookstove in our kitchen and painted dolls dry in the warming oven. The freezer is full of fresh local meat and berries, the winter squash are picked and stored away and the winter vegetables wait to be picked at our convenience. Fruitcakes are made and aging to their best. I like to be stocked up. I like to cook hearty dishes and soups this time of year. The house is cozy, the orchard is bare and the air is brisk. Lovely! Let the cold wind blow!

When Autumn rolls around I often make the following recipes. They are favorites of ours and I hope you enjoy them too.

Winter Squash Custard (aka-”Pumpkin Pudding”)
This is like the inside of a pumpkin pie yet not quite so rich and sweet. Yet it’s certainly rich and sweet enough for my family to think it a great treat. The fall we harvested too many butternut squash from our garden I developed this recipe to help use them up. I modified my favorite pumpkin pie recipe to made a dessert that wasn’t quite so rich and sweet. I really prefer winter squash in this recipe as it’s much richer and sweeter than pumpkin . A butternut squash a little on the large side should give you plenty for this recipe. Hubbard squash would also be great.

To cook a butternut squash: Cut squash down the middle and scrape out the seeds. Place cut side down in a 9x13 pan. Add about 1 inch of water and bake in a 350 degree oven until the thickest part of the squash is soft when pierced with a knife. Let cool and scoop out the orange flesh.

3 c cooked winter squash
1/2 c pure maple syrup
1 c heavy cream
4 eggs
1 1/2 TB flour
3/4 tsp each cinnamon and vanilla
1/2 tsp ground ginger
1/4 tsp nutmeg
-pinch of salt
1 TB fresh ginger juice (optional-but I always add some fresh ginger of some kind!)

Combine all ingredients except heavy cream in a large bowl and puree with a hand blender until well blended. Add cream. Alternatively, mash the winter squash with a potato masher then add rest of ingredients. Pour into buttered over proof dish (I like a 9in round casserole) and bake in a 325 oven until a knife inserted in the center comes out clean-a little over an hour...

Triple Ginger Gingerbread
This is my favorite gingerbread. It’s dense and spicy. Best to bake it in a bundt pan or some other type of pan which you will turn over and serve bottom side up as the gingerbread tends to fall in the middle. This has never bothered me, however, or anyone else who has tried it. I think it improves by sitting for a day (even two!) tightly wrapped on the kitchen counter so it’s a good dessert to make ahead of time. It also freezes well. The day you want to serve it just whip the cream and serve!
I’ll give you the original recipe (from an old Bon Appitite magazine) then my healthier variation below. The variation really is wonderful and you won’t feel deprived at all. The variation would almost work well for muffins.

Pour 1/2 c boiling water over 1/2 c finely chopped crystallized ginger. Let sit while you prepare the rest of the ingredients.

3c all-purpose flour
2 tsp baking soda’
1TB cinnamon
1 1/2 tsp ground cloves
1 tsp ground ginger
1 tsp salt

Whisk together in large bowl:
1 1/2 c sugar
1 c oil
1 c molasses
2 eggs
1 TB grated fresh ginger

Add the warm water/crystallized ginger to the wet ingredients and whisk to combine. Now add the dry ingredients to the wets and mix until just combined. Pour into a greased and floured bundt pan and bake about 1 hr at 350.

Healthier variation:
Substitute whole wheat pastry flour for the all-purpose, increase eggs to 3, warm water to 3/4 c, reduce oil to 1/2 c and use unrefined cane sugar (such as Rapadura) instead of white sugar. Healthier yet still delicious!

(Wow-two posts in two days?)

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Folk Dolls, Mr. and Mrs. Apple

When I tell people I like dolls many of them proudly haul out a Madame Alexander or a fashion doll still in the box. While these dolls can be lovely they really don't excite me. What I want to see is the doll your grandmother made for your mother during the depression when money was tight. I want to see a doll that was made with more love and ingenuity than money and materials. I want to see a doll that was made to be loved by a specific child. I want to see a folk doll.
If you too like these kind of dolls then you will love Wendy Lavitt's book American Folk Dolls. I was fortunate to snag this book at a rummage sale this summer and I read it cover to cover, not missing a word. For the most part the chapters are arranged according to the material the doll (more specifically, the head) is made from (i.e.-Cloth Dolls, Wooden Dolls, Apple Nut and Bean Dolls, etc.) but there also are chapters on native American dolls and black dolls. Real life stories and historical accounts abound in this text making it very interesting and at times heart rending. Plus there are lots of great color photos!
I thought I'd share my very own folk dolls with you. Every year when I get Mr. and Mrs. Apple out of the box marked "Autumn" I appreciate them more. I think they're wonderful. This is an apple-headed doll couple busy in the act of pressing cider. These were made by a friend of my grandmothers and given to her probably 40 years ago. (I need to find out her name and give her credit.) My grandparents had a farm and pressed cider every year so I think the friend thought this a very appropriate gift. These dolls and their accessories were displayed in my grandmother's china cabinet for years and I remember as a child looking at their wrinkled faces, amazed these heads were actually apples. When I was young the faces were golden brown. Now (I'm almost 40) they're quite black and it's hard to see their little black eyes shining out.

My grandmother gave these to me a few years ago because she knew I liked dolls. Since then I've had plenty of time to study the lovely couple and their accessories and I never cease to be amazed at the ingenuity shown by their maker. This is not a dollmaker who ran down to WalMart's craft section to get what she needed. Let me tell you what she used. The details are amazing:

First of all the couple has wire bodies wrapped in old nylon panty hose, covered with homemade clothes. Hair is sheep's wool. Hands are wool stuffed felt, boots are hand stitched naugahyde. Mrs. Apple has lace-trimmed bloomers.

The basket holding the apples is a painted styrofoam cup with wire handles. The apples inside include painted salt-dough apples with toothpick stems.The cider jug is a painted medicine jar one would stick a needle into. Its handle is a piece of elbow macaroni! (I didn't realize this until I dropped it last year and broke off the handle. I was heartbroken until I took a closer look at it. Then I laughed and went to my pantry for another
"handle" to glue on. I still need to paint it.)

The apple press is made from entirely scavenged materials-
styrofoam, a plastic plant pot, etc:

The "apples" in the press are torn foam cushion.

The fancy looking black brackets holding up the bar are plastic, department store sock hangers!

The only things I can see that are specifically store bought are Mr. Apple's hat and the cat. I try to store them in very dry conditions but I'm sure even with the best of care these apple heads won't last forever. Maybe someday I'll have to carve new heads for them. I hope I can pass these along to my grandkids as I really think they're wonderful and true folk dolls. I hope you like them too. Thanks for letting me share about them!