Harvest Tree

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Little Harvest Tree
somehow knowing
that we craved
your glow
on this darkest
of November days,
you responded
to your sensor
that calls
for light
at night
and blinked on
to add a bit
of sparkle
to our day.

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Timely Repeat

 

77d9391235fe90b80cadddb47184f78a1I posted this recipe three years ago. Since I plan to make it again this week, I decided that a repeat would be appropriate.

This recipe for pumpkin squares, that all but sings fall and harvest, is an adaptation of a Paula Deen recipe. It’s cake-like and moist and really delicious. It’s also simple to make, which is always a bonus. I’ve cut the butter in the cream cheese frosting in half from the original recipe and used 1/3 less fat cream cheese. It honestly doesn’t make a bit of difference in the taste.

Pumpkin Squares

4 eggs
1 2/3 C sugar
1 C vegetable oil
15 oz can pumpkin
2 C sifted flour
2 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. salt
2 tsp. cinnamon

Cream Cheese Frosting

8 oz. package cream cheese ( 1/3 less fat works just fine), softened
4 oz. butter (half stick), softened
2 to 2 1/2 C confectioners’ sugar
1 tsp. vanilla

Instructions

1. Preheat oven to 350. Grease a 9 by 13 inch pan. A quarter sheet pan also works.
2. With an electric mixer, combine the eggs, sugar, oil and pumpkin until smooth.
3. Sift the flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and cinnamon together.
4. Add the dry ingredients to the pumpkin mixture, and mix at low speed until fully combined.
5. Spread in the greased pan. Bake for 30 minutes.
6. Cool completely before frosting.
7. Cut into bars or squares.

Frosting
1. Make sure both the cream cheese and butter are softened to room temperature.
2. Combine the cream cheese and butter in a medium bowl with an electric mixer until smooth.
3. Add the sugar. Mix at low speed until combined.
4. Add the vanilla and mix again.
5. Spread on cooled pumpkin squares

 

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The Cocooning Season

November chill
making its presence felt
outside our doors.
Cold wind
coaxing dry leaves
into a choreographed dance. 
 Listless gray skies
casting dim light
over an increasingly
colorless landscape.
But inside
there is a cloak
of warmth and light.
A dog with crossed paws
sleeps soundly on the couch,
emitting an occasional
contented snore.
Fresh loaves of bread
perfume the air. 
The cocooning season
has arrived.

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Sunrise, Sunset

Captured memory
from the deck
of a cruise ship.
Simple wonders
of nature
occur every day.
Sun rises; sun sets.
Luxury of time
to notice.

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Slow Down

 

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And the seasons change.
Daylight no longer saved.
Darkness shrouds late afternoon.
Illuminated pumpkins guard the door.
Replacing geraniums and mums
of summer and early fall.
Taking their turn to shine
before being replaced by the trees
and wreaths that herald Christmas.
All happening at warp speed.
Our focus shifting inward,
both  physically and mentally.  
Calendar filling with seasonal events.
Lists being made. Menus being  planned.
“Slow down,” I want to say.
Let this be the year to savor
rather than streak to the finish line.
One event. One gathering of friends.
One special day at a time.

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Parmesan Rind Added to Lentil Soup

Adding the rind of a wedge of Parmesan cheese to tomato sauce really enhances the flavor. I’ve discovered another use recently. Tossing that rind into lentil soup adds richness and flavor. Definitely worth doing.

This is the basic recipe that I follow for lentil soup. I’ve cut back on the amount of kielbasa that I add these days (Weight Watcher’s Fairies influence!) The addition of the Parmesan rind more than makes up for the lack of sausage.

Ingredients

1 cup of dry lentils
4 cups onions (diced)
2 cloves garlic (minced)
1 1/2 cups carrots (diced)
1 1/2 cups celery (diced)
2 TBS olive oil
1 1/2 tsp salt
3/4 tsp pepper
1/4 tsp dry thyme
6 cups chicken broth
2 to 3 TBS tomato paste
1/2 pound kielbasa (small dice)
2 TBS vinegar (red wine or sherry)
Parmesan rind (optional)

Method

1. Start softening the lentils by putting them in a bowl and covering them with boiling water. Let them sit while you sauté the veggies.
2. Heat the olive oil in a soup pan and saute the onions, garlic, carrots and celery over medium heat until they soften. Season with the salt, pepper and thyme while they’re cooking. This should take about ten minutes.
3. Drain the lentils and add them to the pot, along with the broth and the tomato paste. Stir well.
4. Bring the soup to a boil. Then lower the heat to maintain an active simmer. Cook, uncovered, for about 45 minutes until the lentils and vegetables are soft. Add a Parmesan rind if you have one.
5. Add the kielbasa and a splash of vinegar. Simmer for another few minutes until the kielbasa has been heated and the flavors have blended. Remove the rind.

Some recipes suggest topping with shaved or grated Parmesan cheese. Don’t neglect the vinegar. It really brightens the flavor.

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One Pot or Pan Meals

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I’m a huge fan of one pot meals. That becomes even more true as the cooler weather sets in and the grill loses its appeal. Braises rank high on my list, along with soups and stews. Paella has been a recent addition. But the simple sturdy half sheet pan has been playing a starring role recently.

There are a few tricks to sheet pan cooking that make for ease of use and great results. First of all, things cook at different rates. Avoid any recipe that tells you to put meat and vegetables on the pan at the same time and put it in the oven. Rarely, if ever, works.

Another tip is to cook at a high temperature (425) and start with a hot pan. Put the sheet pan in the oven while you’re pre-heating and prepping your meat. Obviously, be careful and remember that it’s hot, but putting meat or vegetables on a hot pan starts the cooking immediately. I like to rub a little olive oil on the hot pan before placing the meat. Tongs and a paper towel work well to spread a light layer of oil.

Pictured is a meal of breaded boneless chicken thighs, sweet potatoes and broccoli. I dipped the thighs in an egg wash and coated them with seasoned Panko crumbs. They went on the hot pan first, drizzled with a bit of olive oil.

After about 10 minutes, I tuned the chicken over and added a sweet potato that I had peeled and cut into wedges. I also tossed the pieces with a tiny amount of olive oil, salt and pepper, and some garlic powder. You can use any additional herbs that you like.

After about 10 more minutes, I tossed the sweet potatoes around and added the broccoli. Same deal. A bit of olive oil, salt and pepper.

In about a half hour, we had a complete meal for two on one half sheet pan. Timing would have to be increased if you were cooking chicken on the bone.

 

 

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