I love this time of year. The days are short and the light bends low around the earth. We reap the final rewards of the season and hopefully take a moment to celebrate while, maybe, thinking how we might do it differently when we have the chance to do it again – and usually, in the garden, we do.
Pumpkins. There are so many beautiful pumpkins, squashes and gourds that are easy to grow. If you didn’t plant some yourself, make friends with someone who did or, better yet, buy plenty at your local farmers market. If you don’t carve them for Halloween, most will keep well through the winter. The trick will be deciding if you want to eat them for Thanksgiving or wait till Christmas or the New Year.
Pumpkin Spiced Latte Cookies.The recipe for my yummy attempt at turning this classic combo into a just-sweet-enough finger-food is at the end of this post. Unlike the PSL from your favorite coffee shop, these treats actually contain pumpkin, as well as a nice spice mix and optional caffeine. You can make them with persimmons or carrots too.
Easy Cold-Weather Dessert. Another fall and winter favorite is my spiced trifle, a variation on the English treat; usually layers of cake, fruit and cream. My version is a rustic mashup, inspired when I needed a quick dessert for a holiday dinner. You can certainly start from zero and make each of the ingredients from scratch. But the best thing about this dessert is assembling previously made (or store bought) ingredients into a crowd pleasing dish that frees up your last minute prep time for other parts of the meal.
Joy’s Winter Trifle Recipe. Ingredients; spice cake, pear preserves and/or pumpkin butter, creme fraiche, chopped nuts, whipping cream, optional bourbon. To make; Layer the first four ingredients into individual serving bowls. Top off with the last three ingredients. Serve immediately. Variations and substitutions; any fruit cake (or the pumpkin cookies below) subs well for the spice cake. Any fruit preserves work instead of the pear and/or pumpkin butter (try apple sauce). Sour cream or whole fat yogurt works beautifully in place of the creme fraiche (sweeten it a little if you like). Use your imagination to assemble and consider serving the bourbon on the side.
Cool Weather Veg. If you remembered to plant kale, cabbage and chard, congratulations and enjoy how the mature plants sweeten up in cold weather. If you forgot, and you live where it doesn’t freeze, try germinating seeds of cool weather vegetables when you expect to have a week or more of rainy weather. You can do quick harvests of micro-greens in most mild-winter climates.
Seasonal Garden Color. People sometimes say that we don’t have “seasons” here in the west. But they just don’t know where to look or how to appreciate the subtleties. For inspiration regarding where to go or what to look for in fall color check this out. (link)
Wild Flowers. If you love the beauty of California Poppies, don’t make the mistake of waiting till spring to plant the seeds. If you need inspiration for why you should put down that PSL and the pumpkin cookie and go out and plant some seeds, go here (link).
Flower Bulbs. Just like poppies, spring bulbs need to be considered now, for a beautiful show later. If you are in a non-freezing climate, be sure and pre-chill your tulips before planting and put them in pots or gopher baskets to keep them from being eaten. Daffodils can go right in the ground. Here’s a pre-view and a little inspiration (link)
More. Of course, you already know that most winter squash can be subbed for pumpkin in almost any recipe, including my PSL Cookies below. Although water content, sugar levels and texture will vary according to the variety. No need to be in a hurry, just keep your pumps out of the rain and cool but not frosty, and they will last for months. This gives you plenty of time to plan for spring…or take a nap…or both.
Recipe; Pumpkin Spice Latte Cookies
1 cup brown sugar
½ cup butter (softened)
¾ cup pumpkin puree
2 ¾ cups flour
½ t. salt
½ t. baking soda
2 t. baking powder
1/2 t. cinnamon
1 t. fine grind Dark Roast coffee beans
1/2 t. each; Ground ginger, ground cloves and ground nutmeg
Blend sugar and butter together. Add eggs. Add pumpkin puree. Mix all dry ingredients in a separate bowl, then add to wet mix. Stir until flour is incorporated. Drop by large spoonfuls onto ungreased cookie sheet. (note: if your batter is too “wet” to hold some shape, add 3 T of flour or more, until they are the desired consistency). Bake for 10-12 minutes at 375. Top with latte frosting (below)when cool.
For frosting; 1 cup powdered sugar, 1 t vanilla, 1 t half-and-half. Mix frosting ingredients, add more half-and-half, if needed, to get a spreadable consistency.
Dust finished cookies with more ground coffee and fresh ground spice