Curried Spaghetti Squash Bisque at The Hermitage

Curried Spaghetti Squash Bisque At The Hermitage

Spaghetti Squash Bisque / Food Loves Writing

Quick! Before the leaves are all gone! Make some soup and pack yourself a picnic! At least that’s what we did on Saturday, right in the middle of a day when we should have been getting ahead with work projects and, I don’t know, balancing the checkbook. Even though it was raining and the skies were gray, we practiced hope by loading up a picnic basket, hopping in the car, and driving 20 minutes east where, miraculously, we found ourselves in the crisp fall day that was The Hermitage.

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10 Things + Pumpkin Pie You Can Drink

10 Things + Pumpkin Pie You Can Drink

Pumpkin Pie Smoothie

A few notes from here in Nashville, here in this first week of October:

1 / An autumn that’s all big mums and our neighbors’ porches filled with pumpkins, right alongside bare feet and sundresses.

2 / A few blog updates, some obvious (design changes) and some not (new hosting). If anything seems wonky when you stop by this space, it probably relates to one of the things we’ve changed, and we probably don’t know—so please tell us.

3 / A a new library book I’ve been waiting for, an interview with its author (posted here) and my favorite quote from that interview: “My description of this room will differ from your description of this room will differ from everybody else’s description of this room because we are limited and graced by our own pair of eyes, the things that we notice in the foreground versus the background—That’s the beauty of creative work.”

4 / A good chunk of time thinking about this story, especially because of one line about always wanting everyone to understand what you do, and why you can’t and they can’t, so just stop: “For several years I felt this overwhelming need to explain ourselves and the decisions we made as a family to other people. I hated that I lived in that trap, and yet I couldn’t seem to get out of it. But God slowly freed me of that in Oklahoma.”

5 / Constant nostalgia about this and sometimes this and disbelief that they happened almost two full years ago.

6 / Extra work hours, new projects, more social activities and several upcoming trips—and how all of these things, with the tighter schedules they bring, are good things we are being given right now.

7 / Remembering August, when I cried in the middle of Wal-Mart, by myself, walking the aisles to buy copy paper so we could print out paperwork to try to get back earnest money from a house we thought we’d buy, but lost.

8 / Remembering last night, when I cried in a Goodwill parking lot, next to Tim, out of sheer and overwhelming joy at how shockingly we have been comforted and encouraged since then.

9 / Words like these, from Naomi Shihab Nye : “I want to be famous to shuffling men who smile while crossing streets, sticky children in grocery lines, famous as the one who smiled back. I want to be famous in the way a pulley is famous, or a buttonhole, not because it did anything spectacular, but because it never forgot what it could do.”

10 / A mug filled with creamy, frothy pumpkin pie you can drink—recipe below.

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Harvest Einkorn Pound Cake

Harvest Einkorn Pound Cake

A few days ago, Tim and I rearranged our work hours to go to the pumpkin patch in the middle of the day. We never found the pumpkin patch. Instead, where the map said the patch should be, we found a sweet little house and a lot of open land and, well, this:

cows

Sometimes I forget how close you live to the country when you live in Nashville. The entire time we drove those sunny back roads, we never saw another human being. We saw the friendly guys above, some horses, a dog I thought was a llama and a large parcel of land with a big “for sale” sign, but there were no signs marked “pumpkins,” no arrows directing us a different way, so we drove the winding trail back to town, just us and the animals and the blue sky.

hayonhills
TNstreets
RuralTN
countryside

Back in town—Watertown, that is, population 1500—We found an antique store where the shopkeeper not only welcomed us in, but also told us about her daughter, talked about Maine, invited us back (“Wednesdays and Thursdays are the best days”) and recommended another shop to check out. “Just before that old brick building, you see it? The open sign?” We visited a roadside stand with mums as big as toddlers, two of which now grace our front porch. We passed a high school marching band, practicing off Main Street. Then, I listened to Tim tell me about growing up in a small Ohio town where he and his brother would ride their bikes to the grocery store for their mom and where, when a person wanted Chinese food, he’d have only one place to pick.

So we didn’t come home with a pumpkin, but we did come home refreshed, which was essentially the point of the midday errand. Also, as everybody knows, you don’t have to visit a pumpkin patch to find pumpkin. And that brings me to today’s pound cake.

HARVEST pound cake

I like the idea of pound cake. It’s a name that sounds like what it means! According to What’s Cooking America, pound cake became popular in an era when many people couldn’t read and so being able to say “Use a pound of everything!” made a lot more sense than telling someone to memorize a series of steps you couldn’t write down.

harvest pound cake
Harvest Pound Cake

The concept got me wondering about using flours besides all-purpose in a pound cake. Would einkorn still maintain the same proportions true to pound cake, provided I weighed it to measure rather than scooping out cups?

harvest pound cake on plate

I am pleased to report it did. What’s more, incorporating a little fall flavor into the basic formula only took things up a notch. Below, a recipe for a true (half-)pound cake, based on a method that’s been used since the days when all towns were small towns and all cakes were baked at home.

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Pumpkin Cinnamon Ice Cream

Pumpkin Cinnamon Ice Cream

Cinnamon Hill Ceylon Cinnamon

As the last post pointed out, fall is here and we are welcoming it with open arms. Shanna and I love this time of year (we got married in it!) and always look forward to the changes and reminders it brings.

Cinnamon Hill Ceylon Cinnamon | Food Loves Writing

Pumpkin Cinnamon Ice Cream | Food Loves Writing

Pumpkin Cinnamon Ice Cream | FoodLovesWriting.com
Yet even though it may be the season to be breaking out hot drinks and jackets, we have an ice cream recipe for you today that we really enjoyed. (Let’s be honest, we will be enjoying ice cream year round, even in the dead of winter, so don’t be surprised if you see another ice cream recipe from me then.) This ice cream is a great taste of fall though, with its mild pumpkin flavor that sneaks up on the finish. Enjoy!

Pumpkin Cinnamon Ice Cream
PUMPKIN CINNAMON ICE CREAM | FOOD LOVES WRITING

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Pumpkin Cake + Pumpkin Trifle

Exactly one year ago today, Tim and I were up in the Chicago suburbs, driving out to the DuPage County courthouse to lift up our hands and solemnly swear that we were who we said we were and get the nice lady in the sea of cubicles to hand us our marriage license, our marriage license! I remember walking out of that building, into the crowded parking lot, hand in hand with Tim and thinking, our marriage license! It’s official now! Not just in terms of a giant dress in the closet and a chalkboard seating chart, but, as in, according to the government, we’re actually about to do this thing. Three days from now, we’re getting hitched!

day before wedding | foodloveswriting.com

I know I’ve said this here before, but, seriously, there are so many more details involved with planning a wedding than I ever would have imagined, and, when you plan your wedding fast, like we did in six months, you learn to scrap a lot of those details in the name of staying sane—like a wedding cake maybe. We had pretty much ruled it out, thinking that there’d already be a full meal and a full spread of a cookie table, so who needed a cake?

My mom, that’s who.

Listen, she’d been a champ about a lot of wedding things she’d originally seen a different way: my not having a veil, my seeing Tim before the wedding, no little boxes of Jordan almonds. But the one thing she violently disagreed on was not having a wedding cake. Cake is tradition. Cake tastes good. Plus, and this is where she hit my soft spot, cakes are the thing my grandma used to make for weddings as a caterer. We have these amazing black-and-white photos of her tall, tiered versions, usually with one of those vintage bride-and-groom sets on top, and oh, you guys, I can’t tell you how much I wish she could have still been alive to make mine last October.

Caroline

So we talked about it and we talked about it, and we agreed: the next best thing to having your grandma, the one who taught you how to bake and love food, make your wedding cake is having your mom, who fed you before you knew she was feeding you, do it, especially when your mom is the kind of person who takes such intense pleasure in being the one to provide a meal.

It would be my gift to her to have one, her gift to me to make it, and, in the process, everyone would have some cake.

 

So months beforehand, Mom tested pumpkin cake recipes, almost giving up the idea once or twice. Turns out there are several truly bad cake recipes out there in the world and, not every recipe translates into three or four tiers.

But come our wedding day, her work was a thing of beauty. And that afternoon, she let the caterers transport the tall, dark, spiced cake topped with homemade cream cheese frosting down to the tent. It was simple, like us, no frills or iced flowers, and it was sweet and, honestly, I liked it quite a lot—partly because it tasted good, mostly because she made it for me.

Last week, remembering that cake and the work Mom put into it, I emailed her and asked for the recipe.

cake topper | FoodLovesWriting.com

She sent ingredients.

Do you have directions, too? I wrote back.

She said cream the wet with sugar; mix the dry; combine it all.

Baking times? I wrote back. Size of pan? Oven temp?

And then the correspondence became a confusing, winding email chain of 9X13 pans and guessing on oven temperatures and the promise of a different, much better pumpkin cake recipe, which, if she had it to do over again, is the one she would have used for the wedding last year.

pumpkin trifle | foodloveswriting.com

She had me laughing, and frustrated, and aware that when I talk to her I am looking at my future, and so an hour or two later, there I was, mixing ingredients in the kitchen like my mother’s daughter who was her mother’s daughter, according to a recipe she got from a Chicago news reporter or a lady at her old church or somewhere else, it’s still unclear, pouring it all into a greased and floured rectangle pan, letting the warm and autumn smell of it fill our kitchen.

Pumpkin Trifle | FoodLovesWriting.com

I may not have wanted a wedding cake, but I’m glad we had one anyway, and I’m glad I made a version of it last week—moist and pumpkiny and wonderful layered with homemade whipped cream and nuts—so that when I looked at it, like I looked at my mom’s in a big white tent, I could think, heart full, that more than anything else?

pumpkin trifle | foodloveswriting.com

my grandma would have loved this.

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Pumpkin Pie + Homemade Pie Crust

pumpkin pie

OK, I know what you’re thinking: pumpkin pie in December? Why don’t I just put on a Halloween costume and sing the Star-Spangled Banner while I’m at it? Listen, I know. Pumpkin pie is traditionally associated with Thanksgiving, and I know, here we are, a few days from Christmas—a time decidedly post-Thanksgiving.

But I’ve thought this one through, and I’m bringing it to you today, anyway, despite the backwards holiday timing and seeming ignorance of appropriate blog content. I’m doing it for two reasons:

  1. This is the best pumpkin pie I’ve ever had.
  2. I can’t stop making it.

(Oh and PS: pie pumpkins are currently on sale at my grocery store, so hello?)

homemade pumpkin pie

I’m also posting this now because it includes a pie crust recipe! for a homemade crust! (Once you start making excuses, it’s hard to stop.) I’ve posted this dough recipe before, with a quiche in early November, but I’ve since made it with all my pumpkin pies, as well as another version of that creamy pear pie, and I’ll be darned if it hasn’t been flaky, buttery goodness every. single. time.

If you remember nothing else from this post, remember this: if you have a cup of flour and a stick of butter, you have a pie crust. No kidding.

homemade pumpkin pie

And the final thing, the one that really sends this post over the top, is that it comes with a story. See, once upon a time, a year and a half ago, my friend Wendi made a pumpkin pie for a party. She said it was based on this five-star (and 258 reviews) version from AllRecipes, with just a few tweaks that she was happy to pass along. Shortly after that, my brother made the pie. I made the pie. It couldn’t turn out bad. The key seems to be that creamy, spiced, custard-like filling—made with real pumpkin, not the kind from a can—and even though the original is supposed to be best after sitting overnight, I think there’s nothing like a hot, steaming piece fresh out of the oven.

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Pumpkin Cheesecake Bars

pumpkin cheesecake bars

I’ve always liked pumpkin. I like the way it tastes. I like the way it looks. Mostly, I like the season it comes in, fall.

The world just looks better this time of year, you know? The colors, the weather, the way you can see your breath in the morning but take your sweater off in the afternoon. This October, I’ve seen leaves fall in Seattle and Ohio and then back again in Illinois; I’ve sipped hot apple cider and walked on piles of crunchy leaves; I’ve felt crisp air and slept with the windows open. It’s been beautiful. And even though the days are darker as we edge closer to winter, I have to tell you: I love fall.

fall in chicagoland
crunching fall leaves
leaves wet on sidewalk

All that autumnal affection has to get channeled somewhere, and I’m happy to tell you I’ve found the place: pumpkin. Because listen, pumpkin is to recipes what fall is to the calendar. When I make something with pumpkin, it’s like I’m eating pure fall, and I like that. That’s why when the people behind The Old Farmer’s Almanac Everyday Recipes sent me a copy of their cookbook recently, complete with little sticky tabs signaling the best recipes with pumpkin, I was an easy sell.

Beginning with pumpkin cheesecake bars.

everyday recipes farmer's almanac

Velvety and creamy, these bars start with a thick graham cracker crust and finish with a pumpkin filling as rich as cheesecake. You’re supposed to let them chill before slicing, but between us, I had a piece right out of the oven, warm and golden, and it was quite nice. The next day, I ate another piece, chilled, for breakfast—because it’s October after all, and I might as well eat the most of it.

pumpkin cheesecake bars

And if you too find yourself indoors one of these beautiful evenings, away from the colors and the leaves and the chill in the air, I sincerely hope it’s because you’re making this or something like it, with pumpkin, in the season I wish wouldn’t end.

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