Pumpkins on my mind

Keep exploring.
When I lived in Seattle, 4 years in a row I had an October tradition:  a pumpkin carving party.  It was always on the last Sunday of October, and somehow, the weather always cooperated:  Beautiful, gorgeous, sunny weather - warm enough for us to open the French doors from the kitchen to the deck so that we could cover the kitchen table with food inside and everyone could eat outside.

It was a potluck of sorts:  I'd make a huge pot of turkey chili and a pumpkin cheesecake, and friends would fill in the gaps from there until the table was covered with all kinds of good stuff ranging from fresh-baked bread to bacon egg salad with lemon poppy seed dressing and Caesar salad; cornbread, apple pie... great food for a Fall day

What I remember most was how much I loved having a pile people over - friends of varying ages, all armed with pumpkins as different from each other as the people were, ready to carve in the pumpkin faces, share good food, stories, laughter.  The kids and the adults would run around the yard, playing ball or tag or whatever made them happy at any given moment.  We always took a "family picture" - I'll have to go and find some.  (Maaret probably has a few!)  The pictures always featured the pumpkins with their funny grins and scowls.  Good times.

Pumpkin orange poppies
I am really sporadic about taking pictures.  Maaret was horrified when she discovered that I had pictures ranging from Easter to Christmas....from different years!  And when I do find time to take pictures, it's usually of food, yet the pictures I most enjoy are those of people.  How many times have you gone back through old albums and been taken back to places you'd nearly forgotten and times with people whose lives have parted ways, temporarily or permanently, with yours, and had that bittersweet ping of remembrance:  the smile of joy inside you for the good times you've shared, but equally often it seems, as we get older and our lives take us to new places - there is that twinge of sadness at the distance between you and some of those dear friends now.

But life is beautiful in the way that it brings new friends - not to replace the old, but to fill a new and important place that speaks to what we are now, while the old pals remind of us of who we were and are, and sometimes...how far we've come.  As Maaret says - we need both.
Ready to Ride:  Suomenlinna

Maaret seems to be surfacing a lot in my blog today!  Perhaps it's because she is one of those who seems to understand best how much this season means to me.  Always ready for a stomp through the Autumn leaves, a trek down an unknown trail, a flight across the country to Boston after 9/11 or to a new country because that was the right move for that time in her life, or, way back when, a ride on a bike at the Seattle Center - on a narrow track suspended out over open air - she is one of those people who's spontaneity inspires me.

Maaret - these Pumpkin Muffins are for you!

Pumpkin Muffins
for those who might be interested - these are low fat and reduced sugar.  The applesauce retains the moist crumb as butter does, and the reduced sugar lets the pumpkin flavor shine.

Preheat oven to 350 F/175 C

Combine in a bowl:
1 1/2 c flour
1 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon salt
1teaspoon ground ginger
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
1/4 teaspoon baking powder

In a small bowl combine:
1/3 cup milk
1/2 teaspoon vanilla

In another bowl combine:
2 Tablespoons vegetable or olive oil
1/4 cup applesauce, unsweetened preferably but any kind will work
3/4 cup sugar
2 whole, large eggs

Beat well to combine and add
1 cup pumpkin puree (not pumpkin pie filling)

Beat just until blended.  Add flour mixture in two parts alternating with the milk mixture in two parts.  Beat until just combined.

If desired, stir in with a spatula or wooden spoon:
1/3 cup chopped nuts (pecans or walnuts recommended, in that order)
1/3 cup chopped golden raisins

Divide batter into 12 muffin cups and bake 20-25 minutes until a toothpick inserted comes out clean.  Cool on a wire rack at least 10 minutes before eating.

Makes 12.

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