‘Tis the Season

I know, without the slightest doubt, that autumn is upon us. No, the calendar has not officially deemed it so, nor have the leaves even started to turn color yet…how is it that I have developed such keen meteorological powers?

In the past week, I have reached for two pumpkin-flavored products.

Fall is here. Bring on the pumpkin, clove, nutmeg and fiery, smokey scent of a fireplace. The first reach was for a pumpkin spice latte at Dunkin’ Donuts. I thought I’d try it as I’m a big fan of pumpkin AND spice and, well, I was in the mood for something beyond the regular joe. Epic fail. That was the most terrible, artificial-tasting “drink”. Blech. I took one big sip and it went down the drain.

Second attempt. Yesterday, as a little Sunday dessert treat for the family, I bought a pumpkin pie. My younger daughter and I picked it out at a good store nearby. Apple? Strawberry Rhubarb? Nope, she wanted pumpkin and I have to say that it sounded good. This was the first time I’ve ever actually bought a pumpkin pie for my own family’s consumption. No, this isn’t for some whacked-out-Martha reason, it’s just that I have THE best recipe for one (which I will be sure to share with you later in the season) so why buy when you have that? Seeing as I wasn’t in a pie-baking mood, though, and this was a last-minute purchase, we decided to live on the edge. It was pretty good. It tasted much more “squashy” than “pumpkiny” and the spices just weren’t up to snuff in my humble o-pie-nion, but it was passable. Enough so that I’ll probably partake of another piece tonight (spontaneous movie reference folks…”I’d like to partake of a piece of your pecan piiiiiiiiiiee”….anyone?…Answer tomorrow)

Got me wondering as I reached for that pie, why do I hardly ever buy (or make) pumpkin pie when it’s not Thanksgiving? Our whole family loves it-we vie for the last piece and grumble at the one who got it. Funny how we get pigeon-holed into these culinary traditions. For instance, the Thanksgiving meal is probably one of the most-loved meals of the year…not too many kids can nit-pick that one to death as they can with most any other meal. YET, we rarely cook a turkey and all the fixin’s at any other time of the year. Ok, turkey is an all-day event and it certainly is a “seasonal” meal in it’s flavors-I certainly don’t see myself whipping out a turkey dinner on an evening in June. But, cook just a breast and some of the accompaniments and call it a nice October (or even snowy night in January) meal.

Or the other meal that falls into this category that is one of my favorites-corned beef and cabbage. The traditional New England boiled dinner that is usually enjoyed on St. Patrick’s Day. Bizarrely enough, it’s also one of the easiest, virtually no-effort meals on the planet. Corned beef is available year ’round, so why is it relegated to March? I’ve started making that one periodically in the winter because it’s filling, delish and my whole family gobbles it down. I just make sure to dance a little jig as I serve it.

After all of this seasonal food talk, I MUST share a delightful, delicious, winner of a recipe with you today to start of your week and quell any pumpkin cravings you might. This is my Grandma Lydia’s Choco-Dot Pumpkin Cake recipe. Total Grandma name to it, too…Choco-dot? Loved by one husband, three daughters and sons-in-laws, five granddaughters and now great-grandchildren. You’d be a fool to not whip this up one of these cool evenings. By the way, it transports well (when does a Bundt cake ever move an inch?) and it’s perfect for bake sales at school. Get your pumpkin on and enjoy!

Choco-Dot Pumpkin Cake, courtesy of Grandma Lydia

2 cups flour
2 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. salt
1.5 tsp. cinnamon
1/2 tsp. ground cloves
1/4 tsp. allspice
1/4 tsp. ginger
2 cups sugar
4 eggs
2 cups canned pumpkin (1 lb. can)
1 cup vegetable oil
1 cup Kellogg’s Bran Buds cereal (The Grandma of All Cereal flavors. And yes, they still make it)
1 cup semi-sweet chocolate morsels
1 cups coarsely chopped nuts (optional)
*confectioners’ sugar glaze for top is optional but highly recommended*

Sift together flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, spices and sugar. Set aside. In large bowl, beat eggs until foamy. Add pumpkin, vegetable oil and cereal. Mix well. Add sifted dry ingredients. Mix only until combined. Stir in chocolate and nuts, if using. Spread evenly in ungreased bundt pan. Bake at 350 for about 1 hour and 10 minutes. Cool completely before turning out of pan. Finish with confectioners’ sugar glaze (confectioner’s sugar and milk, mixed together …don’t make it too runny).


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