Wednesday, October 20, 2021

Spice of Life Part VIII

Paprika comes from the Capsicum annuum family, which includes sweet and hot peppers as well as chili peppers, but the peppers used for paprika tend to be milder and have thinner flesh. The striking red peppers are dried and powdered, and range in taste from sweet and mild to hot. American Paprika is the blandest, while Hungarian Paprika has the greatest range of flavor.

The version you find in the spice aisle of your average supermarket is very mild in flavor, with a sweet taste and subtle touch of heat and is best used to sprinkle on a finished dish, such as deviled eggs, and to add color to grilled meat like in a rib spice rub. The stronger Hungarian paprika is very versatile and is good in egg dishes, meat and poultry stews, game, rabbit, fish, soups, boiled or steamed vegetables, rice, and cream based sauces.

Historians believe the peppers used in paprika were first cultivated in the area of South America that is now part of Brazil and Bolivia. They were discovered by Columbus on one of his voyages to the New World at the end of the 15th century. Though at first the pepper plants were used as a decorative plant, they spread from Spain through Europe. The Turks introduced the pepper plants to Hungary (which was under Turkish rule) in the 16th century. It was at first used as a cure for fever and typhus in Hungary before it was used as a main spice for Hungarian cuisine.

The Turks introduced paprika as a spice to the Balkan Peninsula in the 18th century, and it was not used in the west until the mid-1900s. The paprika from Europe was somewhat hot, but through careful cultivation and grafting, growers were able to produce a sweeter, milder paprika.

Medicinal Uses:
Paprika is loaded with vitamins A, E, and B6 as well as iron. It also contains antioxidants which help fight cell damage due to chronic ailments such as cancer and heart disease, and may help protect against inflammatory conditions like arthritis. It also contains nutrients that promote better eye health and lowers the risk of cataracts. As well as improving cholesterol levels, it may also improve blood sugar levels and stave off anemia.


Tomato Cocktail

16 oz tomato Juice
1 oz red wine vinegar
1/2 tsp salt
1/8 tsp paprika
1/2 tsp dried basil
1/2 tsp black pepper
1 cucumber - peeled and pureed
4 wedges lime - for garnish

Add all ingredients, except lime wedges, to a pitcher and stir well.
Chill for at least 2 hours.
Serve in highball glasses full of ice, garnished with a lime wedge each.

Hungarian Goulash

1 3/4 lb of stewing beef, cubed
4 red peppers
2 tbsp of flour
1 3/4 oz of butter
3 medium onions, thinly sliced
2 tsp smoked paprika
1 cup beef stock
1 pkg egg noodles
1 cup sour cream
1 tbsp of chives, chopped
3 pinches of salt
1 pinch of pepper
2 tbsp of olive oil

Preheat the oven to 350.
Peel the peppers, then cut them in half lengthways and de-seed. Lay in a roasting tray, cut-side down, then drizzle with a tablespoon of oil and season with a pinch of salt and pepper.
Cook in the oven until soft, approximately 10 minutes. Remove and allow to cool, then cut into 1/2 in slices and set aside - leaving the oven on.
Combine a pinch of salt with the flour in a bowl. Lightly coat the diced beef in the seasoned flour and brown in batches in the butter in a frying pan. Remove with a slotted spoon and set aside.
Add the onions to the same pan and cook for 4-5 minutes until golden. Stir in the paprika and peppers and cook for another minute.
Place meat, onions, and peppers in a casserole dish and add the beef stock. Cook in the oven for 1 ½ hours until the beef is tender and cooked through.
Once the meat is almost tender, cook the noodles in salted boiling.
Remove the casserole dish from the oven, season (if necessary) and skim off any fat that has risen to the surface. Stir in the sour cream.
Divide noodles into bowls. Spoon the goulash on top and sprinkle with the chives. Serve immediately.

Sunday, October 17, 2021

Spring Thaw Writescape Re-emerging Retreat

He who retreats lives longer.
— Michael Scott

I've decided to retreat to the spirit world where I feel appreciated and understood.
— Dov Davidoff

In order to understand the world, one has to turn away from it on occasion.
― Albert Camus, The Myth of Sisyphus and Other Essays

It only took a year and a half of waiting, but as I type this, I’m at my writer’s retreat. Woot! Whether you’re seeing this post at the regular time or much later today will depend on whether or not I can sign into the dashboard for my blog (I’m on my Lenovo here, not my MSI and I still switching back and forth between the two for some things, like blog posts).

I gotta tell you, third time’s the charm.

The first retreat I went on, Winterfire, was pretty much a learning experience. And I don’t mean learning as in I learned a lot there, I mean learning as in learning to investigate a little more fully about what I want/don’t want out of a retreat. It had a beautiful setting – a big manor house up on Lake Simcoe – but was a little lacking in the amenities, and it was run by a Toronto Based writer’s group so naturally a lot of the participants were from that group. They seemed to be dabblers more than writers; only a couple of them were serious about their writing and they pretty much kept to themselves.

The second one, the Kingston Writersfest, was pretty good (really good compared to Winterfire). It was an urban setting, but set on the waterfront. It was more down to the brass tacks of writing with its lectures and masterclasses to pick and choose from to make your own schedule. There really weren’t many opportunities to socialize outside of the classes, but I did learn a lot.

This retreat is everything I was looking for in a retreat. It’s a picturesque setting, the cabins lined up along the north shore of Rice Lake. Each cabin has its own kitchen, fireplace, and deck, but it’s part of a resort so there’s also a restaurant and all kinds of stuff to do should you want to. We have group writing sessions, but lots of free time to do our own thing. The cabins are shared, but we each have our own room – one shared bathroom with a spa tub, one small bathroom with a closet sized shower attached to one of the bedrooms.

This retreat is for more serious-minded writers, or writers who are trying to take their writing more seriously. The cabins were supposed to have a writing desk in each bedroom, but the only “desk” in here is a table-like thing with a chair against the wall beside the fireplace. But that’s okay. There’s a long table in the kitchen that’s big enough for at least two of us (socially distant) to work on our laptops. Mostly we’ve been writing in notebooks.

These writers are friendly and more sociable, and the only bad thing about it is that I only signed up for three days, not the five or seven. It’s even worse when the moderators announced that this will be the last retreat they’ll be offering. *sigh*

Looks like it’s back to the drawing board to find a yearly (or more often) writing retreat to go to. However, if I feel the need to get away to write I can always book a cabin on my own. Maybe even talk a writer friend or two into going with me.

Can’t say as I got a lot of writing done last week, other than the blog posts. I seem to recall running a lot of errands, mostly in the morning which is when I’m supposed to be writing. I managed to get together with one of my writing friends and we had coffee down on the waterfront one cool and grey-looking day, and another of my writing friends and I have been unsuccessfully trying to connect by phone.

Of course I can feel the creative juices starting to ignite from being at the retreat. Let’s just hope I can keep fueling the fire once I get home.

I’m more than halfway through The Green Man, by Ellen Datlow and Terri Windling, and I probably don’t even have to say how much I’m enjoying it.

The Week Ahead . . .

I have no idea what this week’s spice is going to be. My big book of spices is at home. But rest assured there’s always room for more spice in your life.

Other than writing every day, I also have no idea what I’ll be doing this week. I’d like to try and nail down my mornings for writing in my office, but I suspect first I’ll have to clean it – again!

One thing I’d like to do for sure is nail down my idea for this year’s NaNo. Maybe I’ll have to write them on a list or something – I have several of them. Although the Kiranthus book isn’t out of the race yet.

I’ll let you know how it goes.

Friday, October 15, 2021

The Bone Moon

Seeing as this is the "spooky" month, I figured for the next couple of weeks I'd rerun a couple of my spookier stories for Fiction Friday.Hope you enjoy!

Moonlight glinted on the chain stretching from post to post across the laneway. The metal “Keep Out” sign clanked as the chain was jostled by the six shadow figures. The night was still, save for the crunch of gravel underfoot and a quickly muffled, nervous giggle. Not even a breeze stirred the leaves of the surrounding trees.

By the time the gravel gave way to dirt, the sound of the waves crashing on the shore could be heard.

“I don’t know about this Butch, maybe we should go back.”

“Don’t wimp out on us now, Lisa. It’s just a little further.” Butch pulled her along behind him, the trembling in her hand having nothing to do with the chill in the sea air and everything to do with an innate fear of the dark.

“We should have at least brought a flashlight with us, man,” Jay said.

“What do we need a flashlight for? There’s a full moon tonight,” Butch told him.

“Yeah, where’s your sense of adventure?” Tiffany giggled, and clutched at Danny’s arm as she stumbled over a rock in the path. She’d obviously started the party early, as was her habit.

“Do you know what they call the moon that rises this time of the year? The Bone Moon.”

“C’mon Ashleigh, don’t start that mystic shit tonight,” Jay begged. He tightened his grip on the cooler he and Danny were carrying between them. A hard enough job without Tiffany clinging to Danny – ghost stories would just make her cling worse.

“Fine! But just remember I tried to warn you.” Ashleigh tossed her hair back and moved ahead on the path so she was directly behind Butch and Lisa. Jay just sighed in exasperation.

“Chill you guys,” Butch said. “We’re almost there.”

The trees thinned out completely and they found themselves at the top of a cliff.

“Watch your step now,” Butch said, and led the way downwards.

The rocks gave way to a fine, white sand. The moon cast more than enough light to see the empty crates Butch had dragged down earlier in the day to use for seating. He’d also gathered a respectable pile of firewood and dug a fire pit.

“Danny, you want to start the fire while Jay and I break out the beer?” Butch had just had his birthday, which took all the fun out of going on a beer run.

The driftwood was dry and caught fire easily. Jay handed Butch a beer and took his place in the semi circle around the fire pit, looking out over the ocean. “This is great, man,” he said. “The perfect way to celebrate the end of the summer.”

“I’m cold,” Lisa whined. She wasn’t really, but she didn’t like it when Butch’s attention wandered away from her for too long.

Butch put his arm around her. “Don’t worry, babe. I’ll keep you warm.”

“We’re not going to get into trouble for being here, are we?”

“Stop being such a drag, Lisa,” Tiffany told her. “No one ever comes here, so no one’s going to catch us.”

“I wonder why,” Danny said. “This place is great – nice and secluded, and just look at all that beach.”

“I think I can answer that, young fella,” a voice called out of the dark, startling the six trespassers.

“Jesus! Give a warning next time, would you?” Butch snapped. “Who the hell are you?”

An old man stepped closer to the fire. His face was lined and his bristly beard was white. The clothes he wore had definitely seen better days, as had the leather boots on his feet.

“Name’s Henry. I was beach combing down thataways earlier today and fell asleep when I went to take a break. Just on my way home. Sorry to have disturbed you.”

“Wait, Henry,” Danny called as the old man shambled past them and into the dark again. “You said you could tell us why no one comes here. Why don’t you join us for a beer, maybe tell us the story?”

“Well, I suppose a beer or two couldn’t hurt,” Henry said, shuffling back over. Jay and Danny made space between them for him to sit down and Butch handed him a beer. The girls looked at each other and Lisa shrugged.

Henry took a swig of his beer and then started his story. “Well, it would have been about fifty years ago this happened.” he glanced up at the moon and back down again. “Would have been fifty years ago exactly, on the night of the Bone Moon.”

“See?” Ashleigh dug her elbow into Jay’s ribs. “I told you it was the Bone Moon tonight.”

“Quiet,” he told her, earning a scowl from her. Lisa shivered and huddled closer to Butch, which suited Butch just fine.

“This was a popular spot back then, especially with the teenagers wanting to have a little privacy, if you get my drift.”

Butch tightened his hold on Lisa and grinned.

“There was this group of teenagers, not much younger than you lot, who decided to spend the night on the beach, celebrating the end of summer or some such nonsense. Next morning, the first ones arriving on the beach found what was left of them.”

“What was left of them?” Ashleigh asked, no longer as enthralled with being right.

“There was the bones of one of the boys, all tied up nice and neat with some twine, but all that was left of the others was their skulls.”

“Oh my God,” Tiffany said, inching closer to Danny. “What happened to them?”

Henry shrugged. “No one knows. There was no footprints, no blood, nothing. Not even a sign of a struggle. Just the tied up bones and skulls. But . . .” his voice trailed off.

“But what?” Danny asked.

“There was this legend . . .”

“What legend?” Lisa asked, fascinated in spite of herself.

“This here,” Henry gestured in a wide arc around them, “is called Imp’s Cove, ‘cause there was said to be an imp bound to it. You know what an imp is, one of the devil’s minions. Every fifty years, under the light of the Bone Moon, the imp needs to feed.”

“And they think it ate those people?” Tiffany asked, eyes wide in the moonlight. “All of them?”

“Bones and all,” Henry nodded. “Except for the skulls. You’d be mighty hungry too if you only ate once every fifty years.”

“Yuck! That story is just creepy – if it’s even true,” Ashleigh said with a shiver.

“But why didn’t he eat the bones of the last one,” Danny asked. “Why leave the bones all tied up?”

“The imp feeds on fear just as much as he feeds on flesh,” Henry said, looking at each one of them in turn. “He ties up the strongest of the lot, ‘cause their fear is the richest, and lets them watch while he feasts on the others. Then he sucks the fear filled flesh off the bones.”

“I don’t get it,” Butch said. He took a long pull on his bottle of beer. “Why wouldn’t the others just run away?”

“They couldn’t,” Henry said, the moonlight reflecting off his eyes. At least Butch thought it was the moonlight. But the moon was behind the old man.

There was no sound from the others. Butch tried to move his head to look at them, but it was like he was frozen in place. Horrified understanding filled him as Henry’s form began to elongate, to morph into something inhuman, something with slick, grey/green skin.

“It’s all right if you want to scream,” the creature said in Henry’s voice. “There’s no one else to hear, and I quite enjoy a little music with my dinner.”

Wednesday, October 13, 2021

Spice of Life Part VII

Cloves are the reddish brown flower buds of the clove tree [syzygium aromaticum], a tropical evergreen tree of the myrtle [myrtaceae] family. In stores it can be found in both whole and ground forms. The flavour is strong, hot, and pungent.

It goes well with allspice, bay, cardamom, cinnamon, fennel, ginger, and nutmeg and is used in recipes around the world, particularly in Middle Eastern, Indian, and North American cooking. Because of its strong flavour a little goes a long way and should be used sparingly. It’s delicious in baked goods and pies, and also pairs well in savory foods, particularly rice dishes, spicy meat dishes, and curries.

Archaeological evidence has the first appearance of cloves dating back to 1721 BC, where cloves were found in a ceramic vessel from Syria. In 200 BC emissaries from Java are recorded having brought cloves to the courts of China, where it was used to freshen the breath of those seeking audience with the emperor. There is evidence that cloves were found in Rome in 1 AD, Egypt in 176 AD, and Sri Lanka in 900 AD.

Native to the Indonesian Spice Islands, during the Middle Ages cloves were traded by Arabs in the Indian Ocean trade. Late in the 15th century, Portugal took over the trade and brought cloves to Europe where it became a valuable commodity. The Dutch took over the spice trade in the 17th century and kept a tight control over the production of the spice to keep it rare and therefore profitable. In the 18th century the French managed to introduce the clove tree to Guiana, Brazil, the West Indies, and Zanzibar, thus breaking the Dutch monopoly. Today, Indonesia is still the world’s largest producer of cloves.

Medicinal Uses:
Like many of the warmer spices, cloves contain eugenol, which is a natural antioxidant. Antioxidants help prevent diseases such as heart disease, diabetes, and even cancer. The eugenol found in oil of cloves is also a natural analgesic and antiseptic, and is used for relief from a toothache or as a remedy for colds coughs, fever, and sore throat. Topically, oil of cloves is used on acne, warts, and scars. It may can help lower blood sugar and supports liver health.

Other Uses:
Clove cigarettes, often to be considered more of a cigar, are smoked throughout Europe, Asia, and the United States. The bioactive chemicals of cloves make it an effective an ant repellent – my aunt used to scatter cloves throughout her trailer when she was winterizing it to keep pests away. The effective component of cloves, eugenol, is often used in germicides, perfumes, and mouthwashes. An orange, studded with cloves, was often given as a yuletide gift and even now is used as a seasonal decoration


Hot Toddy

1 ½ tsp honey
1 ½ tsp lemon juice
1 tsp sugar syrup
1 ½ ounces scotch whiskey
3 cloves
boiling water

Warm a mug or heatproof glass. Add the whisky, lemon juice, syrup, cloves and honey. Top up with boiling water and garnish with a lemon skewered with cloves and a cinnamon stick. Give it a quick stir and serve immediately.

You can also simmer whole cloves in boiling water for 5–10 minutes to make a soothing cup of clove tea.

Spiced Pork Tenderloin

1 1/2 pounds pok tenderloin
1 tablespoon fine sea salt
1 tablespoon ground black pepper
2 teaspoons nutmeg
2 teaspoons ground cloves
Zest of one orange
Cooking Spray

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Coat a baking dish with cooking spray, making sure that the dish is large enough to allow room around the tenderloin.
In a small bowl, combine sea salt, pepper, nutmeg, cloves ,and orange zest. Rub all over pork tenderloin and place in the baking dish.
Bake uncovered for 35-40 minutes or until thickest portion registers are 155-160 degrees. Allow to rest for 5 minutes before slicing into 1-inch pieces.

Sunday, October 10, 2021

Depressing Thoughts

Depression isn’t a straightforward response to a bad situation; depression just is, like the weather.Try to understand the blackness, lethargy, hopelessness, and loneliness they’re going through. Be there for them when they come through the other side. It’s hard to be a friend to someone who’s depressed, but it is one of the kindest, noblest, and best things you will ever do.
― Stephen Fry

That's the thing about depression: A human being can survive almost anything, as long as she sees the end in sight. But depression is so insidious, and it compounds daily, that it's impossible to ever see the end.
― Elizabeth Wurtzel

I’ve often said I’m weather driven. The last couple of weeks haven’t always been rainy, but they have been grey and dismal. And too much grey and dismal weather tends to kick my depression into high gear, which makes it hard to get anything done, let alone anything creative.

A couple of days are okay, but more than three in a row and my mood starts to tank. Then my energy goes as the depression hits. Sometimes all you can do is just hunker down, acknowledge you’re not going to have a productive time, and hope that it passes quickly.

But this has been dragging on for a while now, and it’s like slogging through mud to get anything done. Basic things, like getting up in the morning, having a shower, doing something with my day other than sitting in my recliner playing games on the lap top.

This weekend is a little different because it’s the holiday weekend and I’m expecting family for dinner tonight. Not a huge number of guests, but a huge dinner. So I’ve had to suck it up to get things ready – do it whether I feel like it or not. And you know what? I still felt like crap, but the things that needed to get done got done. I just wish this would translate to creative endeavours.

Add to this it’s allergy season. A really bad season for allergies. So I’ve been taking allergy medicine which not only makes me tired, but I have a hard time focusing on the computer screen too. But it’s a catch 22, because if I don’t take the allergy medicine I get wicked headaches as my sinuses fill up.

Are you feeling sorry for me yet? LOL

Nevertheless, I may not have done any writing, but editing was another matter. I finished the read through (with minor edits) on Magickal Mayhem and it is now in the hands of my first reader/editor/word wizard.

I wrote no poetry this week – it seems to be feast or famine with me where poetry is concerned, doesn’t it? Then again, it’s not surprising seeing as the creative black hole I’m in seems to be getting deeper by the day.

I haven’t even been doing a lot of reading. I finished Blackbird House, by Alice Hoffman and it was a really cool concept for an anthology. I managed to track down a used copy of The Green Man, another anthology by Ellen Datlow and Terri Windling, but I’ve barely cracked it open.

The Week Ahead . . .

If I hadn’t started my spice series with Turmeric, I would have been right on track doing all of the ingredients for Pumpkin Spice before Thanksgiving. Cloves aren’t always used in it though, so I don’t feel too bad saving it for this week.

Despite my distinct lack of creative mojo, I’m still determined to start writing every day – a one word prompt, a flash prompt,something. Or maybe, at long last, I can pick one of my unfinished projects and . . . finish it.

It’s even more important to get back into the writing habit now – next week I’m going to a writing retreat. It started out as the Spring Thaw when I paid for it at the beginning of 2020, but now it’s Writescape. I can’t tell you how much I’m looking forward to it. If nothing else, maybe it will give my creativity a kick start.

I’ll let you know how it goes.

Friday, October 8, 2021

Magickal Mayhem

In honour of finishing the edits on Magickal Mayhem (AKA Blood Ties, AKA Wandering Wizards) I thought I’d post an excerpt from it today. It’s still a mess, and it’s still too long, but it’s getting there.

Now that I won’t be so single minded about editing, I’m hoping to get back to my daily prompts – it’s been a while since I’ve done any of them and I kind of miss them. The best part about that would be I can start posting something fresh here each week.

Anyway, to set this scene up . . . Howard figured out a way to transport himself to the magickal realm, accidentally pulling Ellen along with them. They ended up in the Darkwood Elven Realm and, along with the bard Sebastian and the elven guard Kaelan, are on their way to meet up with Jessica and Dominic. As you’ll see from this scene (I hope) Ellen and Kaelan are developing a bit of a mutual crush.

Stretching upwards, she whispered to Epona, “Do you think you could move up beside Kaelan please?”

Epona’s ear twitched and she whickered, but her stride lengthened.

“Thank you,” Ellen whispered.

Kaelan looked over at her in surprise. “Is anything wrong?”

“No,” Ellen said, trying to control her blush response. “I was just curious about the Wild Woods Realm. Is it like the Darkwood Forest Realm?”

“No,” he shook his head. “For one thing it is much smaller and there is no city as there is in Darkwood, just a handful of villages and a town in the center. Truthfully, it has been a long time since I have been there.”

“You don’t visit your family there?”

“The visits became fewer as I became older. There never seemed to be time.”

Ellen was trying to picture Kaelan as a child. She’d bet he was just as cute as a little kid. Elf. Whatever.

“Didn’t your mother’s family ever visit you in Darkwood?”

“My mother’s family did not wish her to marry my father, despite the fact he would be able to provide well for her. To marry meant she would leave them.”

“But love will out,” Ellen guessed.

He glanced over at her. “It did indeed. They have been very happy and my mother never regretted her decision to follow her heart.” Smiling, he faced forward again. “My father says they met when he was delivering a set of silver gauntlets to the lord of the Wild Woods Realm. There was a festival and he was invited to stay over for it. Mother was with a group of young women who kept fawning over him, supposedly because he was from outside the realm. Mother was the worst of the lot and wouldn’t leave him alone until he danced with her. After that she was determined to make him hers and chased off every other woman who approached. Apparently the magic was strong in her blood. By the end of the evening he truly was hers, heart and soul.”

Ellen laughed. “And what does your mother say?”

“Ah. Mother claims this cheeky apprentice silversmith noticed the setting up for the festival and wheedled an invitation from the lord of the realm, who gave it to him only because he was so impressed by the quality of his work. He was making such a nuisance of himself, pestering all the young women for dances, that she took pity on her friends and made the supreme sacrifice of dancing with him herself. By the end of the festival he proved his way with silver also included a silver tongue, because he sweet-talked her into running away with him.”

“And which story do you believe to be true?”

“The one that my grandmother tells, that my mother noticed my father lurking on the fringes of the merry-makers and, feeling sorry for him, went over to see if she could convince him to join in. From the moment their eyes met they were lost to each other, and my grandmother knew she had lost her daughter, but gained a son.”

“I think I like your grandmother’s version best,” Ellen said with a smile.

“And your parents?” Kaelan asked, genuinely interested. “You said they were from very different cultures, how did they meet?”

“Now that’s a story in itself,” she said. “They were friends growing up – their parents lived next door to each other.”

Kaelan nodded. “Ah. So they knew from the beginning they were meant to be together.”

“Actually, no. My father spent his senior year in Japan, studying the martial arts with one of his uncles. My mother went off to university where she became involved with one of her professors. She was very young, and far away from home, and he swept her off her feet. They had an affair and when she ended up pregnant he married her.”

“Your father is not your mother’s husband?”

“He is, but it happened later.” Ellen had to smile at his confused look. “Mom finished school right before she gave birth to twin boys. There was a lot of friction between her and George, her first husband. He wanted her to stay home and look after the boys, she wanted to put her degree to good use. Before she could find a job in her field – art restoration – she found out she was pregnant again.”

“How many siblings do you have?” he asked in surprise.

“Four – two sets of twin brothers.”

He shook his head in disbelief. “Elves bear only one child at a time, and we are not a prolific race. My mother is considered a wonder for having three children.”

“I don’t think mom was really happy having the boys so close together. In fact, from what I can gather it wasn’t a happy marriage at all. But it didn’t last long. She was still pregnant with the second set of twins when her husband died unexpectedly. She ended up moving back home with her parents – who were thrilled to have a houseful of children.”

“Children are a blessing,” Kaelan murmured, “no matter the circumstances.”

“That’s exactly what my grandparents believed,” she said with a smile. “My father returned from Japan just after the second set of twins were born, fell in love with her all over again, and they were married a year later.”

“He must be quite the man, to take on four children not his own.”

“He is,” she said proudly. She couldn’t help but wonder what he’d think if he could see her now. Would he be proud? Or appalled?

Wednesday, October 6, 2021

Spice of Life Part VI
Pumpkin Spice

This fragrant spice blends together cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, cloves, and allspice. In the beginning it was used pretty much exclusively to give flavor to the somewhat bland pumpkin being used in pies, but when McCormick’s began selling it commercially in the early 1950s the name got shortened to pumpkin spice and it began to see a wider range of uses.

With the blend made more convenient, people began to put it into other foods as well as beverages. As well as pies, you can use pumpkin spice in cookies, cakes, vegetables, stews, and fall soups, such as squash soup. It’s delicious sprinkled on oatmeal, or used in pancakes.

To make your own pumpkin spice, combine ¼ cup of ground cinnamon with 2 tablespoons of ground ginger, 2 teaspoons of ground nutmeg, 2 teaspoons of ground cloves, and 2 teaspoons of ground allspice.

Like the spices used in this blend, pumpkin spice got its start with the Dutch East India company when it was known simply as “mixed spice.” Cookbooks from the late 1700s included it as an ingredient for pumpkin pie.

In 1934, McComick introduced the blend as “pumpkin pie spice” since it was intended to enhance the flavour of pumpkin pie. In the 1960s the name was shortened to pumpkin spice. In the 1990s, other coffee companies began to experiment with adding pumpkin spice to their coffees, but it wasn’t until 2002, when Starbucks created their Pumpkin Spice Latte that pumpkin spice hit its stride.

By 2015 people had become obsessed with pumpkin spice and it began to dominate the fall season in everything from scented candles to take-out coffees. By 2018, pumpkin spice was a $600 million industry.

Medicinal Uses:
The spices that make up pumpkin spice have been shown to be beneficial to your health: cinnamon is excellent for balancing blood sugar levels; ginger is highly anti-inflammatory and supports immune health; nutmeg and cloves are rich in antioxidants, plus they have anti-viral and anti-microbial actions; and allspice has anti-bacterial and anti-cancer properties. However, when pumpkin spice is used as flavoring in lattes or processed foods there are often artificial flavors, sugars, and fats that are added.


Pumpkin Spice Latte


1 1/2 tablespoons sugar
2 tablespoons pumpkin puree
1/2 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice
1/2 cup (4oz / 115g) strong brewed coffee
1/2 cups (4oz / 115g) milk

Add all ingredients to a saucepan.
Stir and bring to a simmer.
Pour into a mug.
Decorate with freshly whipped cream and a sprinkles of pumpkin pie spice or cinnamon.

Libby’s Pumpkin Pie

3/4 cup granulated sugar
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
2 large eggs
1 can (15 ounces) LIBBY'S® 100% Pure Pumpkin
1 can (12 fluid ounces) evaporated milk
1 unbaked 9-inch (4-cup volume) deep-dish pie shell

Step 1 Mix sugar, cinnamon, salt, ginger and cloves in small bowl. Beat eggs in large bowl. Stir in pumpkin and sugar-spice mixture. Gradually stir in evaporated milk.
Step 2
Pour into pie shell.
Step 3
Bake in preheated 425° F oven for 15 minutes. Reduce temperature to 350° F; bake for 40 minutes or until knife inserted near center comes out clean. Cool on wire rack for 2 hours. Serve immediately or refrigerate.
This is the recipe my family traditionally uses, taken right off the back of the can’s label.