Friday, November 7, 2008

A Holiday Jumpstart

If the season's first pumpkin pies come out of the oven before Halloween, I know I'm in trouble.
This season I must be in real trouble because they came out almost a week early. The afternoon I get the bug to make pumpkin pies is officially the day I have ushered in the upcoming Holiday Season. What triggers it is sometimes difficult to detect, but it is usually a combination of cooler weather and some external marketing ploy. Cool weather in combination with a rainy grey day is certain pumpkin pie making stimulus, but there are others. A visit to the Fresh Market when the Fall displays are up will get me every time, as will the timely arrival of the November issues of a few magazines. It seems a different periodical is the culprit every year and this year it was La Vie Claire. A pumpkin pie was just mentioned to have genuine Vermont maple syrup and it sent me running for The Mystic Pie Company website. It turned out to be the very best pumpkin pie I have ever made, and I have made a lot of pumpkin pies. The one periodical I read religiously is British Country Living- thank God it is meant for a European audience and the American custom of Thanksgiving is luckily not observed in the English Isles. This one would most definitely be the one to send me into a mania. The fact that British Country Living's arrival is a month late here, however, would be beneficial. Needless to say, when the Holiday Fever hits me, it hits hard, and more so now that we live at Hawks Run. It is not so much our property that is conducive to the holidays, but the entire southern region of Ohio known as the Ohio River Valley. This is a region of incredibly good cooks who have at their hands an incredibly great array of locally produced foods. Some years it is recipes for sweet potato dishes that I particularly find worthy, others it is recipes for stuffing, and still others might be variations on fall themed desserts. All I know is that when that first pumpkin pie comes out of the oven my culinary senses go into overdrive and I can't get enough of everything holiday. Halloween was barely a week ago and we have already accomplished the first banana bread, chocolate cookies, autumn cupcakes, corned beef casserole, taffy apples, and of course, the pies. The corned beef casserole is a maternal family tradition on that first cold day of Fall. This year it was enhanced with Portobello mushrooms and Italian cheeses instead of the usual plain buttons and cheddar. It was amazingly tasty. We varied the taffy apples this season as well using only the largest Honey crisps we could find. I thought for sure that I was going to need to see a dentist after that indulgence. Today was Autumn cupcakes in honor of my husband's birthday. These are a sinful concoction of rich butter cream fudge batter and cream cheese icing. The icing is dyed yellow, orange, and red then dolloped out in three drops on the cupcake top. My daughter delights in making the three colors swirl together to mimic Fall leaves. We have at least eight weeks to go in this Holiday Season and I think it is going to be a busy one for our oven. It may also require a daily extended hike outdoors in order to work off all the extra calories. Well worth it!

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