bourbon spice pumpkin whoopie pies

Every year pumpkin season starts for me on September 27 when, to commemorate her birthday, my mom gets out the Libby’s and puts together two pumpkin pies to share. My sister’s family came to celebrate this weekend, so I hunted down my pumpkin whoopie pie recipe to make for our get together. I changed up the original recipe from Baked: New Frontiers in Baking a bit with some bourbon, olive oil, allspice and extra cinnamon. The result was a less vanillan, more splendorous barrel spice pumpkin cake, sandwiching the lustrous cinnamon cream cheese sweetness. Looking forward to pie with Mom on Tuesday. Happy Fall!

Bourbon Spice Pumpkin Whoopie Pie Recipe (12 big ones or 24 lil’ ones)

Tops and Bottoms: 3 c all purpose flour / 1 t kosher salt / 1 t baking powder / 1 t baking soda / 2 T cinnamon / 1 T allspice / 1 T cloves / 2 c dark brown sugar / 1 c olive oil / 3 c chilled pumpkin purée / 2 large eggs / 1 t bourbon

Preheat oven to 350°F. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper – important!

1. In a large bowl, sift the flour, salt, baking powder, baking soda, and spices together and set aside.  2. In a separate bowl, whisk the brown sugar and oil together until combined.  3. Add the pumpkin and combine thoroughly.  4. Add the eggs and bourbon until combined.  5. Sprinkle the flour mixture over the pumpkin mixture and whisk until combined.

Drop heaping tablespoons of the dough onto prepared baking sheets, about one inch apart. Bake for 10 to 12 minutes.  Remove from the oven and let the cookies cool completely on the pan while you whip up the middle.

Middle: 3 c confectioners sugar / 2 t cinnamon / 1/2 c unsalted butter, softened / 8 oz cream cheese, softened / 1 t bourbon

1. Sift the confectioners sugar and cinnamon in a bowl.  2. In separate bowl, beat the butter until it’s completely smooth.  3. Add the cream cheese and beat until combined.  4. Add the confectioners sugar/cinnamon and bourbon and beat until smooth.

Assemble & Devour. Suggested beverage pairings: milk, Booker’s or Basil Hayden’s.

johnny appleseed

Prior to this weekend, my knowledge of John Chapman was merely a caricature image of a barefoot Lincoln-looking man carrying a seed sack and wearing a tin pot for a hat.  After traipsing around the festival named for him (eating fried and kettle-cooked things with the name petal attached to them and touching beads and bones and furs), I started to read Howard Means’ recent book about the folk hero.  In it, he “explores how our national past gets mythologized and hired out.”  From the book: “Johnny Appleseed, of course, does live on, but less as a whole person than as a barometer of the ever-shifting American ideal: by turns a pacifist, the White Noble Savage, a children’s book simpleton, a frontier bootlegger in the fanciful interpretation of Michael Pollan, patron saint of everything from cannabis to evangelical environmentalism and creation care–everything, that is, but the flesh-and-blood man he really was.”  This folk hero was a real guy with a seemingly steady moral compass and passion for the literal and figurative sweetness in life.  I wonder how he would navigate life on modern day Parnell Avenue as opposed to 19th century wilderness.  Would he find it all a bit too cloying?

applesauce donut clouds

I have wonderful memories of running around orchards in Indiana on days like today, when the clouds, white as apple blossoms, float in the sky like they are felt cutouts on a fictional flannelgraph board. The sun is warm on your face, though the air is cold enough that a sweater is wanted; the clouds sift through it, and the trees temper from stormy to golden and back in a matter of minutes.

My sister, who does Fall Cleaning instead of Spring Cleaning, and cannot get to sleep on “September Eve” like it is Christmas Eve, shares my giddiness for the upcoming season. Last weekend her family picked 20+ lbs of apples, and she went nuts making appley goodies, including an applesauce spice drop donut that I had to try for myself.  The recipe I started with is from All Recipes (I like this site, because they do math for you if you want to make less/more).  She used her homemade applesauce, but I just used a little cup of Motts. Instead of buttermilk, I used milk and apple cider vinegar. Instead of dropping them I rolled them out, because I thought it was the perfect excuse to use my handmade cloud cookie cutter from the enchanting Herriott Grace.  Applesauce donut clouds have the taste of an apple fritter without the chunky texture.  You bite into them and they scream, “Get Thee to a Fall Festival!” Good thing Johnny Appleseed is this weekend.

pasta & pancakes over the campfire

It’s probably not a surprise that one of my favorite parts of camping is eating food made over the fire. Pinot Basil Pasta and Pecan Pancakes with Fruit Compote were two such meals enjoyed this weekend at Van Buren State Park with a dear old friend of mine. We chopped goodness from her garden and began cooking the thickest and hardest veggies first in a bit of olive oil.  Afterwhile we added the softer veggies to the skillet along with some basil and Pinot Grigio. Once the wine reduces, everything is ready to mix in with the pasta and be consumed!  The pancake combo was another winner from Backpacker Magazine. These pancakes did not miss usual syrup.  The woodsy cinnamon and smoky dark cherry was my favorite flavor combination, but since I cannot resist a toasted marshmallow at any given opportunity, I topped off my pancakes with one goldened from the embers.  Corn syrup made it on the pancakes after all.

rail to trail havenside

Biking through cornfields, blueberry farms and forests was a weekend highlight. The air seemed so clean and oftentimes smelled like Welch’s Grape Juice. We did about 15 miles on the bike, which is probably why I thought a pre-ride double coffee cinnamon roll from Julia’s and post-ride kettle chips and raspberry stout from Round Barn were acceptable. Other indulgent sustenance included a packable tasty Chicken Curry lunch recipe courtesy of Backpacker Magazine and fresh apple cider from Paul & Ethel’s Farm. I really should find myself a good used bike.

last day for blueberries

Before hopping on the Kal-Haven bike trail Saturday morning, I got to enjoy the South Haven Farmers Market. Kind and generous farmers and artisans were as abundant as the produce. There is still plenty of gorgeous fruit for picking up there, though the woolen mittens remind everyone that Southwestern Michigan fully embraces all of the seasons.

no bakes yes

I never knew Vola Simpson, but she is dear to me for one reason: the no bake cookie recipe in her compiled text stands the test of time. She was a professor of Home Economics at Ball State Teacher’s College, and her book of recipes was required when my mom studied Journalism and Home Ec. there in the 70’s. I have never passed up a no bake, whether from Crestview Middle School’s Cafeteria or Indiana University’s Student Union, but I grew up eating the best ones at home courtesy of Professor Simpson and my mom. Perfect for a cold and rainy night or on an autumn camping trip – they are warm, fudgy, hearty and quick to make. Thank you to Ms. Simpson and my mom for passing on the love to generations.

Here’s the 1/4ed recipe: Boil together 1/4 cup butter, 2 tablespoons cocoa, 1 cup sugar and 1/4 cup milk in a saucepan for 3 minutes. Take off stove and add 1/4 cup peanut butter, 1 1/2 cups oatmeal, and 1/4 tsp. vanilla. Optional: 1/4 cup coconut. Stir well and drop by spoon on waxed paper. Have milk on hand and save at least two for breakfast in the morning.

Yearbook image from The Orient 1956 Vol. 38. Also note that what no bakes lack in appearance they far surpass in taste. Let’s face it; they look just like the patties left by our horse Sunshine that were great for fertilizing the strawberry patch but not for looking at. I found my new tea towel and parchment paper to be more photogenic in this instance.

three is magical

My sister does such a good job at making occasions magical and so do her relatives.  She sewed my niece a new dress, Great Grandma made a special princess blanket and “Aunt Bef” sent her the sweetest fairy outfit that she had to change into right away.  Also ethereal was the surprise Oreo in the middle of that chocolate cupcake topped with raspberry marshmallow fluff buttercream frosting (another genius recipe from Everyday Food that was well executed).  What’s all the fuss?  This little girl inspires us all with her giant heart and zest for life.  She makes our lives magical by just being her.