Pumpkin Pie

This recipe comes from one of my then-high school students when I was teaching in Nagoya. Best made in a heart-shaped pie-pan, if you happen to have one or two lying around, although, yes, any shape will do.

1.jpegI have to find borrowed The Maestro’s camera so that I can show just how amazingly the student wrote out and illustrated this recipe for me. (Click on that picture there.) Must be a typical thing, though: every time I ask for a recipe here, my Japanese friends return with beautiful mini-illustrations that make my basic handy 3×5 index cards look embarrassingly bland by comparison.

Here’s the recipe as she wrote it. Omit the brandy, and it’s happily kid-friendly.


Pumpkin Pie


pie crust – 1

pumpkin – 400g

sugar – 100g

butter – 20g

egg yolk – 3

seasoning of nutmeg

seasoning of vanilla essence

brandy – 2 tablespoons

apricot jam to taste

icing: powdered sugar (25g) + egg white (5cc)

1) Used canned pumpkin or cut raw pumpkin in pieces, peel, steam, drain, mash and put through a strainer.

2) Add sugar, butter, egg yolks and mix. Then add nutmeg, vanilla, brandy.

3) Roll pie crust forming a circle. Ease pastry into pie plate, being careful not to stretch pastry. Trim to ½ inch beyond edge of pie plate; fold under extra pastry.

4) Pour the pumpkin mixture into the crust, place on the middle rack in the oven and bake at 190° C – 200° C for about 15 minutes. Then reduce heat to 180° C and continue to bake for 10-15 minutes.

5) Using leftover pie crust, roll pie crust to a thickness of 3mm and cut out eyes, nose, and mouth and bake at 190° C for 10 minutes. Reduce heat to 170° C and bake for 5 more minutes.

6) Mix together the egg white and the powdered sugar to make the icing. Put jam around rim of pie and place eyes, nose and mouth on pie. Write letters [Happy Halloween, for example] with icing [where eyebrows might be].

Cinnamon Rolls

Years ago, during my first Tour de Japan (nope, that can’t be how you’d write that…), a co-worker raved about her regular bakefests with the neighborhood kids, in particular the cinnamon rolls. I’d never been a huge fan of cinnamon rolls, having only been exposed to the sugary sticky sweet kind that cause dental damage of the worst degree.

But her enthusiasm was contagious, and a few years later, when I got a copy of the Congerville Mennonite Church Cookbook and lived in a kitchen large enough for the experiment, I woke up my housemates and we got to work.

We also had to call in all of our friends at the ridiculous hour of 9 something in the morning on a Sunday (hey, we were grad school students) to help eat. And we froze the extras and ate them for brunch over the next few weeks.

Always always always be alert with the recipe that doesn’t specify just how much flour you’ll need. I’ve made this recipe numerous times since and still don’t know how much I use, I must confess.

Boy am I glad I didn’t automatically double the recipe as I ordinarily do. Makes 50. Yes indeed.


Cinnamon Rollssubmitted by Ruth Birky

3 cups milk

2 sticks butter (ooh, I can’t remember the metricable conversion for that – 1 cup, I think)

1 cup sugar

3 teaspoon salt

3 Tablespoons yeast

1 cup very warm water


3 eggs

3 Tablespoons brown sugar

1 teaspoon cinnamon

My fun additions: walnuts, rasins (soak them first in hot water), lemon juice

Heat the milk, then pour milk, sugar, salt and 1 stick butter into mixer and beat. Add 1 cup of flour at a time until dough is stiff. Dissolve yeast in the warm water, then add to batter while mixer is running. Add more flour as needed. Beat eggs and add to batter. When it is too stiff for mixer, stir in more flour until you can knead it by hand.

Put dough in large – LARGE! (emphasis mine all mine I kid you not) – lidded Tupperware container and put in very warm place until doubled.

Punch down and divide into 3 parts. Roll each out in rectangles. (‘Nuther tip: slice a garbage bag open and tape it to the largest table/workspace you have.)

Melt the other stick of butter and spread over rectangles. Sprinkle with brown sugar and cinnamon mixture. Roll rectangles, jellyroll fashion, and cut in 1-inch sections. Bake at 375° until lightly brown. Baking too long will dry them out.

Note: Adding too much flour will make the rolls tough. Makes 50 rolls (oh yes indeedy it does make 50 oh goodness).


More bready than sugary cake, these go great with a large mug of your favorite morning hot drink. And yes, your kids will love the big fun mess this recipe makes, plus the oohs and ahhs at seeing these turn into rolls are so worth it. You? You’ll love the smell and taste. Close your eyes to the rest.

Trick or age-appropriate treats

If you’ve already bought your goodies to hand out on Halloween, take a moment to think about your trick-or-treaters before you rip the bags open.  Specifically, consider dividing your goodies into age-appropriate bowls, one bowl for little ones and one bowl for older kids.

See, if you have one communal cauldron from which everyone gets whatever you grab, little ones are very likely to get gobs of candies which are nifty little choking hazards.  Don’t want that.  Divide everything before the festivities begin, so you won’t have to rummage through your stash with antsy trick-or-treaters waiting on your doorstep.

Of course, you don’t have to hand out candy at all.  The Mighty Mommy, which gave me this whole idea of separate bowls, lists numerous alternatives to the sugar fest.  I’m liking the idea of temporary tattoos.  Be creative, and go check out her podcasts for more great ideas.

Pumpkin muffins version 1

These are my favorite pumpkin muffins. I had to stop making them last year, because I wouldn’t share with anyone.

I got the recipe from here, where you’ll find a far better description and photo of them than I can put together. In fact, keep looking around Rae’s blog, because those recipes and her writing style will make you want to take the next few months off to just cook and bake.

The recipe may look daunting at first read, but the fun thing about this one – and most muffin recipes – is that you can mix and match and omit and still come up with really yummy concoctions. Best part? If you start off with just the basics, your little ones can help you do much of the work.

Give it a try.


Preheat oven to 375° F (190° C). Spray and lightly flour the muffin tins.

Dry ingredients

  1. 1¾ cup flour
  2. 1¼ cup sugar
  3. 1 tablespoon baking powder
  4. ¼ teaspoon salt
  5. 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  6. ½ teaspoon nutmeg
  7. ½ teaspoon ginger
  8. ½ teaspoon allspice
  9. 1/8 teaspoon cloves

Wet ingredients

  1. 1 cup pureed pumpkin
  2. ½ cup soy milk
  3. ½ cup vegetable oil
  4. 2 tablespoons molasses


1) Sift together all the dry ingredients in one bowl.

2) Mix together all the wet ingredients in another bowl.

3) Add the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients, and combine with a fork just until moist. Don’t overmix.

4) Pour the batter into the muffin cups (lightly spray paper muffin cups if you use them – these can be sticky muffins).

5) Bake for 18-20 minutes, allow to cool as much as you can, then devour.

Happy haunting Halloween

If you celebrated Halloween as a kid, dust off the cobwebs from that corner of your brain. Pick your favorite question(s) or add a question, then email me or comment below. Go!

1) List all the Halloween costumes you had. Which was your favorite? Did you buy your costumes? Or did you make them?

2) What did your family usually hand out to trick-or-treaters? Non-candy stuff, such as boxes of raisins and pencils? Or everything candy?

3) Whose house on your block was usually known for having the best Halloween decorations?

4) What was your favorite candy? What was your least favorite candy, the one you would trade to get something else? What was your best candy-trading bargaining deal?

5) How long did your Halloween stash of candy usually last?

6) How old were you when you officially stopped trick or treating? (Unofficially: managing to go anyway by suddenly being happy to escort all the little kids you could find.) What was the cool teenager-y thing to do for Halloween?

7) Did your family carve pumpkins?

8) How did your family usually decorate your home for Halloween? Did you go all out, complete with the fake witch slamming into the tree?

9) Since you technically offer a choice, did you ever trick people/homes?

10) The ha in Halloween: do you pronounce it as the ha in happy? Or closer to the ho in hot? (Helpful: where did you grow up?)


Can you set the table?

I eat my peas with honey;

I’ve done it all my life.

It makes the peas taste funny,

But it keeps them on the knife.


Teach your little one how to set the table for meals.

Make the whole event sound sophisticated by explaining that he is continuing a long tradition: historically, setting the table was always the youngest child’s job. (I know I read that somewhere.) If your child doesn’t buy the tradition story and/or is not the youngest, big bear hug him anyway and tell him that he is being a terrific helper. Many little ones love being terrific helpers.

Of course, it’s an educational activity, too. Your little one will have to count plates, spoons, knives, chopsticks, bowls, glasses, napkins and everything else you require to eat. Even if you have only 2 in your family, encourage counting and naming of the objects. No doubt you vary your meals: this will naturally lead to variations in table settings, keeping the activity entertaining. (And you know: don’t correct everything. Lift an eyebrow only when you notice that all the dessert spoons are at your little one’s place.)

By all means, invite other family and friends over regularly: not only will this instantly increase the numbers to count, your little one will most likely love showing how well he can set the table.

One more thing: it wouldn’t hurt to teach your little one to take his plate back to the kitchen sink (or as near to the sink as he can reach) when he’s finished eating. Yes, eventually you can work up to convincing him that washing dishes is amazing, too. One excitement at a time, though.

Eet smakelijk!


Table decorating tip I’m about to incorporate: use an obi – the sash used to tie kimono – as a table runner. Just roll it the length of your table and let the edges drape over. Simple and beautiful.

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