Cowgirls in the Kitchen ~ Pam Crooks

 

When my girls were young, they loved these cookies.  They make a small batch, so they never lasted long.  The dough is sticky–thank goodness for that powdered sugar!  If you love lemon and want to add a little more zing, you could add 1/2 teaspoon or even a full teaspoon of lemon extract.

Of course, there are variations on the Internet (oil instead of Cool Whip), but this is the recipe that I’ve made again and again.

Easy Lemon Cookies

  • 1 pkg. lemon cake mix
  • 1 egg
  • 5 oz. Cool Whip, thawed
  • Powdered sugar

Mix the cake mix, egg, and Cool Whip.  (Remember, the dough will be sticky.)

Roll dough into balls.

Roll in powdered sugar.

Bake 350 degrees for 10 minutes.

Please enjoy!

The Age Old Holiday Question–Fruitcake Treat or Door Stop?

When I look back on my books, I can often tell something about what was going on with me. When I wrote To Tame a Texas Cowboy, transporting a lot of dogs from Corsicana, Texas. (For those who don’t know, my family fosters and transports dogs for Cody’s Friends Rescue.) I say that because of my heroine, Cheyenne’s comment describing her overprotective Mom. Despite the serious nature that brought about the scene (the mother reports her missing), I had a blast writing it. Here’s an excerpt.

“I’ve got to do something about Mom. I don’t care how worried she is, when she hurts other people she’s gone too far.” Cheyenne collapsed on the couch beside Aubrey.

If this was a sample of what Cheyenne was dealing with, no wonder she was desperate to move out. If a service dog could help her with that goal, how could he refuse to help? Wasn’t easing burdens like Cheyenne’s why he’d taken up Olivia’s cause with the SeizureReader?

Dog nails scraping against the glass patio door drew Cooper’s attention. After he let the dogs in, Penny trotted over to Cheyenne and curled up by her feet.

The wild idea that sprouted last night when he saw Penny with Cheyenne expanded. The idea could work.

“We should leave. I’ve caused Cooper enough trouble, and who knows what else will happen if I stay longer,” Cheyenne said to Aubrey.

Her friend shook her head. “Girl, I slept in my clothes and the officer showing up scared me so much I’m as sweaty as a teenager sneaking into the house after curfew. No way am I crawling in the car without a shower. Cooper, mind if I use yours?”

“Go ahead. That’ll give me time to talk to Cheyenne.”

After Aubrey left, Cheyenne stared at him wide-eyed. “Why would you want to talk to me? If I were you, I’d figure out how to get a restraining order.”

He smiled at her attempt at humor as he sank into his recliner. The woman had grit. Despite everything, she hadn’t buckled. “On your mom maybe, but this wasn’t your fault.”

Fatigue and vulnerability flashed in her green eyes, overwhelming the courage and toughness he admired a minute ago. “You’re wrong. This is my fault. I didn’t rein Mom in before this happened.”

“Has your mom always been so,” he paused. Would it be completely out of line to call her mom a nut case?

“Go ahead and say it. Crazy, wacko. Nuttier than a Collin Street Bakery fruitcake. Take your pick.”

He chuckled at her plain speaking. “I was trying to find a better way to phrase it.”

“That’s sweet, but unnecessary.” Cheyenne sighed. “She wasn’t as bad when my dad was alive.”

“You don’t have to talk about this.”

She shrugged. “You’ve seen my dirtiest laundry. Might as well know how it got so bad. My dad died in a freak rodeo accident when I was fifteen. A bull threw him and before the rodeo clowns got there, the bull stepped on his—” She shuddered, and horror flashed across her face. “There was nothing anyone could do. He was gone.”

“Saying I’m sorry is inadequate, but I am sorry.”

Cheyenne picked at the couch cushion. “That’s what started Mom’s overprotectiveness. Most people think things like that won’t happen to them or someone they love, but she knows they do. My diagnosis has dredged up that pain, along with her fear, and helplessness. She’s doing the only thing she can think of, trying to control everything, but she can’t fix this for me.”

 

I know a lot of folks outside of Texas won’t get Cheyenne’s comment “nuttier than a Collin Street Bakery fruitcake” but I had a good laugh writing with it. Her comment refers to the Collin Street Bakery in Corsicana, Texas, famous for the fruitcake it’s made for over 125 years. I can see the looks of disbelief on your faces now. Hey, I’ve heard all the fruitcake jokes that abound this time of year, but the Collin Street Bakery’s been featured on a popular shows like Good Morning America.

I thought the same thing the first time I went to Corsicana to transport a dog. But when I saw the Collin Street Bakery on my way to the city shelter, I had to stop. After that, every time I drove to Corsicana, I stopped at the bakery first. I would get a cherry turnover to devour on the way home, peanut brittle for my hubby, cupcakes, and a sample of their fruitcake, which is by the way, pretty good.

While we don’t buy fruitcakes, every year at the holidays, my husband craves our family’s version which is more like a pound cake. It’s so good that if I don’t have time to bake it, he does! Today I’m sharing that recipe with you.

 

Philly Christmas Cake

 

Ingredients:

1 8 oz Philadelphia Cream Cheese

1 1/2 C sugar

1 C butter

1 1/2 tsp vanilla

4 eggs

2 1/4 cup flour

1 1/2 tsp baking powder

3/4 C each of candied red, green cherries, and pineapple

1 C chopped walnuts or pecans

Directions:

Place 1/4 C chopped walnuts in each of two loaf pans. Place 1/4 C of the flour in a small bowl. Add cut candied fruit and remaining nuts. Mix and set aside.

Cream softened cream cheese, sugar, butter and vanilla until combined well. Add eggs one a time. Mix until incorporated. Add remaining flour (2C) and baking powder. Combine. Add remaining walnuts (1/2) and candied (now floured) fruit. Mix. Pour into loaf pans. Bake at 325 degrees for 1 hour 20 min.

Giveaway–Today I have two holiday T-shirts to give away. Each one comes with a signed copy of To Tame A Texas Cowboy. To be entered in the giveaways, leave me a comment on your thoughts regarding fruitcake.

 

It’s time for soup!

I think I’ve mentioned before my parents are frugal. We always had a big garden and did a lot of cooking and canning, and we got meat from the farm. (Mom called it “over home.”)

I’m sure they bought food at the grocery store, but I don’t recall ever going as a kid. Pretty much everything we ate was homemade.

That didn’t change at all as we got married and left home. There’s really nothing my mom loves better than having the family over and cooking a big meal.

My husband and she didn’t really get along well before we were married (she taught school, and he was the kid that almost made her quit. : ) , but now she likes him better than she likes me. Seriously.

Anyway, one day back when the kids were younger, we were at their house for chili and mashed potatoes. Everything is homemade, of course.

You all have probably heard of bay leaves…my mom always told us they’re poisonous, although that’s not exactly true. They just break up into sharp pieces that can cut your mouth or pierce the lining of your stomach or intestines. It’s not likely to happen, but it’s possible.

People cook with them, using them for flavor, you just have to pick them out.

I never use them. I like the flavor okay, but it just seems weird to put something that you know could hurt you in the food that you’re serving your family. I’m funny that way.

But my mom uses them in chili, although she normally picks them out before she serves it. Still, she’ll set the pot down and announce, “I think I got all the bay leaves, but if you find any, don’t eat them—they’re poisonous.”

On this day, my children were little, and Nana had a band-aid on her finger, which caught their attention. “What happened to your finger?”

She put her spoon down and held the finger up—the tip of her pointer finger was wrapped in the band-aid, and I could see that blood had soaked into the pad. Whatever she did, it had bled for a while.

My mom held her finger close to my kids so they could ooh and aah over her boo-boo.

“I was chopping onions for the chili, and my finger got in the way,” she explained to my kids, who had stopped eating. It’s not every day that Nana wears a band-aid.

Chili is one of my husband’s favorite meals. He had a big bowl in front of him, and he wasn’t going to stop eating just to look at my mother’s finger.

My dad, sitting at the end of the table, said, “We’re going to have to call the plumber over that eventually.”

That didn’t make any sense. “What are you talking about?” I asked, nudging my husband who was still shoveling food into his mouth.

My mom said, “I cut my finger, so I stopped chopping the onions and put a band-aid on it to stop the bleeding.” She waved her finger around. “That thing really bled a lot.”

My husband was still eating embarrassingly fast, and since nudging him wasn’t working, I figured I’d join him. I picked my spoon up.

Mom kept talking. “I finished chopping the onions and put them in the chili and went to rinse off my hands and the cutting board. I guess I must have lost the band-aid in the sink. But I couldn’t find it, so it must have gone down the drain.”

Just then, my husband nudged me. I thought he was being smart, since I’d been nudging him about his lack of table manners, but when I looked up, he was holding his spoon in midair and staring at it.

HIs spoon was full of chili, but something looked odd. I thought at first it was a bay leaf that Mom had missed. I reached over (when you’re married, you can do this, right?) and went to pick it off the spoon.

It wasn’t a bay leaf.

I held up what was in my fingers. “I don’t think you need to worry about a plumber, Dad.”

So, yeah. “Onions in the Stew” or my mom’s version: “Band-aids in the Chili.” : )

Ha. That story happened years ago, but our family still jokes about finding a Band-Aid in my mom’s chili.

This is the time of year, here in the Northern Hemisphere at least, when we start craving warm, comfort food like chili and soup.

My youngest daughter loves chicken noodle and vegetable soups. (I always cook a roast in the crock pot and put it in with the veggies, so the name is a little deceiving.) Julia loves sausage tortellini soup, and my all-time favorite is a tie between roasted eggplant, tomato and quinoa soup and mushroom pumpkin soup. : )

What’s your favorite kind of soup?

Groceries, Jobs, and a Give Away!

As everyone knows, the cost of groceries has gone up. The cost of eating out has gone up too. So while researching a few things for an upcoming book, I ran across some interesting tidbits of information about what things cost back in the day. My book takes place in 1903 and the charts I found are from the same. All I can say is, my how things have changed!

Victorians did love their food. And they ate some weird stuff to boot. How would you like some spinach ice cream? Or maybe you’d prefer some jellied eels or cayenne pepper ice cream? No? Well, then lets go grocery shopping and see what we can find.

My book takes place in Denver, Colorado. As my heroine owns a bakery, she’s going to need some eggs and can get herself a dozen for .23 cents. Next she’ll need flour. She can pick that up for .55 cents for a half barrel bag. Yep. Barrel.

How about some sugar? She’ll need that for all those cookies, cakes and pastries. She can get a pound for .49 cents. If she was in the restaurant business and needed some Irish potatoes, she could get a hundred pounds for twenty five dollars. Otherwise, a pound of Irish potatoes was .25 cents. A woman with a bakery needs some molasses. How about a gallon for .25 cents? The rest of her list might look like this:

A quart of milk .62 cents. If she got 16 quarts at a time, she could get it delivered for a dollar. One pound bacon was .25 cents. Leg of lamb .20 cents a pound. Pork chops               .12 cents a pound. Lard, (for a 3lb. can) was a $1.00. 1 lb. Rice .83 cents. English Breakfast tea  .60 cents a pound. Chuck Roast .88 cents a pound. Bread 1 lb. loaf .50 cents. Butter 1 lb. .31 cents. Big difference compared to today.

And we can’t forget about coffee, which ran from .17 – .35 cents per pound depending on what kind it was. I could go on but you get the idea. Fruit and vegetables were a different ball game and it also depended on what part of the country you were in. Needless to say, they were a lot cheaper than today. Still, back then wages were different too. If you worked for my bakery owner, you could make a whopping .21 cents an hour. A blacksmith out west made .32 cents an hour. Someone who laid bricks could make as much as .69 cents an hour in the west. If you were on the east coast, you’d make .54 cents an hour. Makes you wonder how many brick layers headed west. A furniture maker could make .43 cents an hour. If you were an unskilled laborer, you made about a dollar a day. This was the average wage for an unskilled worker from around 1700 to World War I. Thus the saying, “another day, another dollar.”

So, if you lived at the turn of the century, what would your job be? Would you want to be a baker, a blacksmith, a sheriff or a deputy?What about a mill worker or ship builder? I’m giving away one free e-copy of my upcoming book, A Match for the Spinster, to one lucky commenter.

FOOD IN THE VICTORIAN ERA by CHERYL WRIGHT

I don’t know about you, but I love to bake.

I hate cooking meals with a vengeance. But baking is something I love, and do well, and include  in most of my books.

When I was very young, no more than eight, I began to bake. My parents were both into cooking, as well as my grandfather. He had a wood stove, and taught me to bake on it. That was over fifty years ago, and unfortunately, he is long gone. Home cooking was big in the Victorian era since takeaway food did not exist.

I write historical small town romance, and most small towns of that era had stores such as bakeries, diners, cake shops and even candy stores. I have featured all of these in my books, but also have my homebody heroines baking as well.

For me, baking and cooking is part of normal life, and so it is for my heroines. As a young mother, I would spend one day a week making bread, pies, cookies, and other delicacies. All made from scratch, and by hand. (No machines involved.) This has given me the knowledge needed when writing my westerns. In turn, it helps make the stories more realistic and believable.

 

 

I’m extremely lucky that I was gifted recipes passed down through generations of both sides of the family. I have a wedding cake recipe that has served generations, and also doubles as a Christmas cake. I have pastry recipes that put frozen pastries to shame, and are relatively easy to make.

Soups were a mainstay for many of our pioneers, especially those with little money. Vegetables were mostly home-grown, and stock taken from other foods they cooked. Even gravy was made differently from how we make it today; they used the juices of roast meat combined with flour, and cooked on the stove until thick.

Even today, I make recipes that were used over fifty years ago – my daughter uses many of them as well. It is very satisfying to make food from scratch, even if it is sometimes more time consuming than buying packet foods. Our ancestors didn’t have such luxury afforded to them, and I often wonder how they coped without the appliances we use today.

All these years down the track, I can still recall my grandmother whipping cream using only a fork. We had an electric mixer, but she refused to use it, since she’d always made it without one.

My heroines are tough – they had to be, being born into the Victorian era was not an easy task. In A Bride for Noah, (Book One, Brides of Broken Arrow), the heroine has come from a life of poverty. I created that character on a great-aunt from my childhood. Her husband was a goldminer, their home had a dirt floor, and they had very little, but she made the most of what was afforded to her.

Okay… onto the fun stuff!

As a special treat, I am offering readers of this blog, a copy of my personal collection of Christmas recipes at absolutely no charge. Nor will you be asked to join my newsletter.

Download your free copy here: https://dl.bookfunnel.com/dlwj4wgbcq

If you wish to join my newsletter and grab your complimentary copy of Miserable in Montana, you can do that here: https://cheryl-wright.com/newsletter/

Keeping within the theme of cooking in the Victorian era, you may be interested in my current series, Brides of Montana. You can check out the series here:

https://www.amazon.com/dp/B084BVHXTT?tag=pettpist-20

 

Contest: I am giving a way a kindle copy of Maggie, Book Four, Brides of Montana (released only days ago) to two lucky readers. To be in the draw, please leave a comment mentioning a food that might have been consumed in the Victorian era.

Thank you for having me, and good luck in the competition!

 


Bio:

 

Award-winning and best-selling Australian author, Cheryl Wright, former secretary, debt collector, account manager, writing instructor, and shopping tour hostess, loves reading. She writes historical and contemporary western romance, and has over fifty published books.

She lives in Melbourne, Australia, and is married with two adult children and has six adult grandchildren. When she’s not writing, she can be found in her craft room making greeting cards.

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Garden Fresh Recipes or What To Do with all Your Home-Grown Tomatoes

Howdy!

Welcome to my “Home-Grown,” fresh from the garden recipes.  These are tomato recipes.  Easy catsup recipe and easy spaghetti sauce for meatballs or hamburger recipe.

For years now, my husband and I have bought 100 lbs of tomatoes from a local farmer, but when he stopped planting and selling the tomatoes, we took to gardening ourselves, and last year our small little garden in our backyard got us almost 100 lbs. of tomatoes.

Red ripe tomatoes growing in a greenhouse. Ripe and unripe tomatoes in the background.

So here we go:  What to do with all those tomatoes.

**  We freeze ours.  This requires a large pot of boiling water, a lot of ice and either some plastic bags for storage or mason jars.

** Preparing the tomatoes.  Probably you already know this, but I didn’t and so let me go through the process of getting the tomatoes ready for storage.  You’ll need:  a) a large pot to boil water in; b) a large pan of ice which usually becomes ice water.

Steps:

  1.  Boil the water
  2.  Cut off any bad spots on the tomatoes and them plop them in the boiling water for about 40 seconds to 1 minute only.
  3.  Scoop out the tomatoes and put them at once into the ice water.  Wait a minute or two.
  4.  skin the tomato (the skin comes off easily this way).
  5.  We seed our tomatoes and an easy way to do this is: once the tomato is boiled and then cooled, squeeze the tomato in the middle so the seeds come out the top or bottom.  This is the easiest way I’ve found to seed tomatoes.
  6.  Put the tomatoes in a bag for storage or if you want, you can put them in a blender and blend them for tomato sauce and put them in a mason jar for storage.
  7. Freeze until needed.

Steps for making easy catsup:

  1. Take out a bag of tomatoes — a large enough bag to make 2-3 cups of tomato juice — or –the mason jar of tomato juice
  2.  Defrost the bag of tomatoes or the jar of tomato juice
  3.  Blend the tomatoes if they aren’t already blended and put in a large pot
  4.  Boil the tomatoes and turn the heat down to simmering —
  5.  Then add:
    1.  1/2 – 3/4 cup red or white wine
    2.   1 teaspoon onion powder
    3.   1 teaspoon garlic powder
    4.   1-2 teaspoons cinnamon powder
    5.   1 teaspoon paprika
    6.   1/2 – 1 teaspoon powdered cloves
    7.   1/4 – 1/2 cup sugar
    8.   1 teaspoon salt
    9.   Boil down until it is a consistency you like and also boil 1 or perhaps 2 – 1 pint mason jar(s) for 5 minutes or so
    10.   Let cool in the 1 pint mason jar(s)and refrigerate while still warm and keep it under refrigeration
    11.   Be aware that mold might develop on it if it is kept for longer than a couple of months in the refrigerator.  If so, discard.

Recipe for making easy spaghetti sauce for meatballs or meat sauce from home-grown tomatoes:

  1. Take out a bag of tomatoes — a large enough bag to make 3-4 cups of tomato juice — or — the jar of tomato juice
  2. Defrost the bag of tomatoes or the jar of tomato juice
  3. Blend the tomatoes if they aren’t already blended and put in a large pot
  4. Boil the tomatoes and turn the heat down to simmering —
  5.  Add:
    1. 1 teaspoon sugar
    2.  1 tablespoon basil (dried)
    3.  5 tablespoons butter
    4.  1 teaspoon garlic powder
    5.   Boil down to desired consistency

Boiling down the tomatoes makes it into tomato sauce — I usually don’t boil it down too far because I make this for my grandchildren and they like the taste of the tomatoes straight from the garden and so don’t like it too thick.

Hope you’ll enjoy!

I’d love to hear from you.  Do you freeze, dry or can your produce from your garden?

SHE STEALS MY BREATH:

Amazon:  https://www.amazon.com/She-Steals-Breath-Medicine-Book-ebook/dp/B09TNDS67H/ref=sr_1_1?crid=16FWYIK2CWW9P&keywords=she+steals+my+breath+by+karen+kay&qid=1656284999&sprefix=she+steals+my+breath+by+karen+kay%2Caps%2C62&sr=8&tag=pettpist-20-

 

A Recipe From My Childhood

How they wrapped my finger up at the ER.

I don’t think I’ve shared this fact before, but I’m super clumsy. My father used to tease me and say they should’ve named me Grace. I always joke that even if there was only one piece of furniture in a room, I’d manage to bump into it and end up with a bruise.

Well, I’ve done it again. I got tangled up with my dogs, fell, and broke my left ring finger. As it is hard to type, I’m doing a simple recipe post today. My family has made this Strawberry Dessert as we call it, for years. It’s light and refreshing, a perfect dessert for a big easter dinner. As it’s best made the day before to be completely set, it leaves you time on Easter for church, preparing the meal, and having fun with family. If you’re like me, unless I make dessert ahead of time whenever, we go without because by the time we’re done cooking, eating, and cleaning up, I’m too tired to make dessert!

 

Strawberry Dessert

Ingredients:

1 angel food cake

2 packages of # ounce strawberry Jell-O

2 Cups boiling water

2 10 oz (approximately) frozen strawberries in syrup, not the unsweetened kind

1 pint whipped cream

Directions:

  1. Tear angel food cake into bite size pieces and place in a 9×13 pan.
  2. In a bowl, stir boiling water and Jell-O until dissolved. Add frozen strawberries. Stir until strawberries are separated and mixture has started to thicken. Place in refrigerator for fifteen or so minutes until much thicker but not set.
  3. Whip cream to a thick but not stiff stage. Remove strawberry and Jell-O mixture from refrigerator. Fold in whipped cream until mixture is well combined and smooth.
  4. Pour over angel food cake. Refrigerate until firm.

Growing up Lutheran in the Midwest, Jell-O was a staple at family events and church potlucks. I can’t even count how many salad and dessert recipes I have that require this ingredient. This one is one of my spring and summer favorites. I hope you enjoy this blast from my past.

To be entered in my random giveaway for the Hanging With My Peeps T-shirt and a signed copy of Family Ties leave a comment about your favorite Jell-O recipe or the oddest one someone you know has made.

Mom’s Turkey Soup Tradition

Happy mid week between Christmas and New Years. I’m sorry to be late with this post. The holidays have been rather hectic this year. Then again, when aren’t they 🙂

I hate to admit it, but holiday traditions were something I paid little attention to until I grew up and had a family of my own. Only then, when making the holidays special for my own children, did I fully appreciate all the wonderful things my parents did for me and my brother. It’s really amazing, but whenever I get together with one of my cousins, we always talk about the great times we spent at each other’s houses while growing up and what fun we had doing the simple things like singing songs, crafting homemade Christmas tree ornaments, and, of course, eating incredible meals that included Auntie June’s secret recipe cranberry sauce and Grandpa’s spiced tomato soup cake.

My mom was a great cook. I often wish I’d inherited her skill. One of her many talents was taking leftovers and turning them into something different for the next meal. She didn’t just reheat all the various food containers, she created brand new and delicious meals. One of my favorites was her turkey soup. The secret, as she told me many times, was to have no specific recipe. Just put in some of this and a little of that. Whatever is in the refrigerator. I’ve been told that’s often what the best cooks do.

 

 

So, here’s how I make my mom’s turkey soup. As best I can put it down in writing. And don’t forget to add a little love all during the cooking process. Oh, and a heads up. This is entire afternoon project for me, so allow yourself plenty of time.

Ingredients:

1 turkey carcass
Chicken or vegetable stock (two cans or one box)
1 small to medium onion (white is best)
1 green pepper (or red or yellow or orange, it doesn’t matter)
1 large or two medium tomatoes
1-1/2 cup chopped celery
1-1/2 cup diced carrots

Any other vegetables you have around. Some nice additions are corn, peas, diced mushrooms, broccoli or spinach (both will disappear in the cooking but add flavor), diced green beans and cubed zucchini.
Egg noodles – as much or little as you want. I use about 2 cups. Can also substitute other pasta, like elbow macaroni or broken up spaghetti. Rice is another option, I use about a cup. Also, cube potatoes or barley for a different starch. Or, you can leave out the starch altogether for a low-carb version.

Seasonings to taste. Some examples are salt and pepper, garlic powder, poultry seasoning, a bay leaf, parsley, sage, rosemary, thyme, and oregano. Be creative and always taste as you go.

Cook the turkey carcass fully submerged in a large pot of stock and water. Add the finely chopped onion about thirty minutes in. Continue cooking the carcass until the meat is falling off the bone. At that point, remove the carcass and set it aside on the counter to cool. Remove any bits of bone, gristle, etc. from your pot of stock until what’s left is clear. Small bits of meat are fine. Some people let the stock cool and blot off the fat for a healthier version. I don’t, preferring the flavor added by the fat.

Add all the remaining chopped vegetables that you sliced and diced and chopped while the carcass was cooking to the stock. Start seasoning, slowing at first as seasonings will become stronger during the cooking process. Bring to a simmer (small bubbles). When the carcass is cooled, remove all the meat. Separate good meat from the bad and being careful to avoid small bones. Add the all the lovely choice meat back into the vegetables and stock.

At this point, add your pasta or rice and continue cooking for another hour or so until everything is super tender. Continue to taste and season.

I can still picture my mom standing over the stove, stirring the turkey soup, taking a taste, and adding a dash of something. I never make a pot without thinking of her and appreciating the traditions she lovingly passed down.

What are your holiday cooking traditions? I would love to hear them. Sharing a meal is such a lovely way to bring people together.

Pumpkin Palooza

This year the release of the PSL (pumpkin spice latte—a new acronym I learned this week—) was August 24. As I sat writing in Starbucks, I wondered how we went from my childhood of pumpkin pie and pumpkin bread around the holidays to the pumpkin/pumpkin spice frenzy of today. That made me curious about the history of pumpkins, and to the internet I went.

To my surprise, pumpkins are fruit. (Sidebar, so are all squash, eggplants, avocados, and cucumbers. And, so you can answer the why question, it’s because those plant have seeds and the items we eat develop from the flower-producing part of the plant. Botanically that makes them fruit.) Archaeologists believe pumpkins originated in Central America 7,500 years ago, but unlike todays, those were small and had a bitter taste. (Which again makes me wonder how they caught on for food!)

Despite that beginning, a recipe for a side dish with diced pumpkin was published in New-England’s Rarities Discovered, in America in the 1670s. After that, women developed more pumpkin recipes. Serving sweet pumpkin dishes during the holidays didn’t start until the 1800s. However, the first pies were scooped out pumpkins filled with a ginger-spiced milk, then roasted by the fire. Hmmm, an early PSL?

Fun pumpkin facts:

  • Antarctica is the only content where pumpkins aren’t grown.
  • Pumpkin seeds (each pumpkin has around 500) can be roasted, then salted and eaten. The flowers are also edible.
  • Pumpkin, which are 90% water, contains carotenoids which are good for eyes and neutralizes free radicals that can attack cells.
  • Pumpkins are also high in lutein and zeaxanthin which could reduce cataract formation and risk of macular degeneration. They also contain potassium, vitamin A, iron, zinc, and fiber.
  • Irish immigrant brought the tradition of Jack-O’-Lanterns to the U.S., but instead of using turnips or potatoes, they used the American pumpkins.
  • In the United States, the heaviest pumpkin was grown in New Hampshire (2018) and weighed 2,528 pounds.
  • In 2010 a pumpkin pie was baked in Ohio weighing 3,699 pounds and over 20 feet in diameter.
  • Early American settlers cut pumpkin shells into strips, dried them, and wove them into mats.
  • Morton, Illinois is called the ‘Pumpkin Capital of the World’ and the home to Libby’s pumpkin industry. Illinois also grows the most pumpkins.
  • Pumpkins were once a remedy for freckles and snakebites.

Large pumpkins are usually used for feed for livestock.

Yesterday my Pinterest feed was filled with pumpkin recipes. My research didn’t really explain how we went from the first pumpkins to the craze we see today. But maybe the answer has something to do with the following Pilgrim verse, circa 1633.

For pottage and puddings and custards and pies
Our pumpkins and parsnips are common supplies,
We have pumpkins at morning and pumpkins at noon,
If it were not for pumpkins we should be undoon.”

I may not have satisfied my original curiosity, but at least now you can astound and stun your friend and family with your amazing pumpkin knowledge this Thanksgiving!

To be entered in today’s random drawing for Howdy Fall T-shirt, tell me what’s your favorite pumpkin recipe or what fun fact surprised you the most. Happy (almost) Fall, Y’all!