Socially speaking, difficult times (i.e., during a pandemic) call for extra effort. Not only do we seek safe, careful, small gatherings to feel we are part of the community, we now are super determined to make the best of what we can do for family and friends. We see that effort in cooking and in kindnesses to others.

This past week the cooking and the kindness unexpectedly dropped in my lap. A friend I met at a small social group hosted by the Monroeville Winery, gifted her well-worn, vintage paperback of the Fannie Farmer Cookbook (1959 edition) as a present for no reason except she knew I did a cooking column.

It is a lovely surprise that I am already using for inspiration (The Thanksgiving pie is from the book.)  This classic Fannie Farmer reminds us that good cooking is rooted (for eons probably) in the successive steps of learning to mix, match, blend, and brew. Recipes are the way we share that knowledge.

So I want to thank Andrea Hutchison for continuing in this era of uncertainty, the custom of helping a friend and freely sharing both knowledge and kindness. Maybe at this Thanksgiving, when we might have to forego extended family/friends at the table, we can take a cue from Andrea and exchange favorite old or new recipes via phone, video, or text. It will be our contribution to the gathering we cannot attend.

May your Thanksgiving be blessed with health and happiness.


The perfect Thanksgiving first course

2 medium onions, chopped

3 large garlic cloves, chopped

1 tbsp coconut or avocado oil

2 cups of any broth

2 1/4 cups pumpkin puree, fresh or canned, but NOT pumpkin pie canned.

1/2 cup canned coconut milk, full fat

1 tsp salt

Ground black pepper, to taste

1 tsp soy sauce

1/4 tsp pumpkin pie spice (see recipe below)

1/2 cup roasted pumpkin seeds (see recipe below), optional

Preheat a medium-size pot on low-medium heat and swirl oil to coat. Add onions and garlic, cover and cook until translucent, stirring occasionally. Add pumpkin pie spice and cook for another 30 seconds, stirring frequently.

Add broth, pumpkin puree, coconut milk, salt and pepper. Bring to a boil, cover and cook on low heat for 15-20 minutes.

Turn off the heat and using an immersion blender, blend until smooth and creamy. Serve hot, topped with roasted pumpkin seeds if desired. Makes 4 servings.

Soup may be refrigerated, covered, for up to 5 days or freeze in a glass airtight container for up to 3 months.

TIP: If you don’t have pumpkin seeds to roast, use sliced almonds instead. They are available at the grocers.


Preheat a medium-size skillet on low heat. Add 1/2 cup pumpkin seeds and cook until toasted, stirring occasionally. Add soy sauce and quickly stir to coat and toast for a few more seconds. Remove from heat. To prevent sticking, stir once or twice while seeds are cooling. These versatile roasted seeds can garnish or add to more than a soup. Experiment with ice cream, puddings, pancake batter, etc, your choice of adventures.


A modern day favorite spice that makes practically anything taste happier, the mix is a mere 4 or 5 simple spices you likely have on hand in the cupboard. Measure two to three tablespoons each of the following spices:

 Cinnamon: A warm, comforting taste.

 Nutmeg: Complex with a sweet, earthy and peppery flavor.

 Ginger:  Adds a spicy, yet gentle, bite.

 Cloves: A tiny bit bitter but mostly a full, pungent flavor.

Optional: Add allspice, if you have it. Gives mix a strong spicy aroma.

There are two easy ways to make pumpkin pie spice:

In a small bowl, add the spices and stir thoroughly, but gently, with a fork or small whisk.

Or add the spices to a glass jar with a lid that you will be storing the pumpkin pie spice in. Shake well to mix.


Old-fashioned holiday pie, a treat to eat, finishes the meal.

Pastry dough for 9-inch two-crust pie

1/2 cup sugar

1/4 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon nutmeg

1/4 teaspoon cinnamon

3 tablespoons flour

1 cup cranberries

1/2 cup raisins (black or golden raisins)

grated lemon rind (or orange rind)

4 to 5 large tart apples

2 tablespoons flour

2 tablespoons butter

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees.  Line a 9-inch pie plate with half the pastry dough.  Stir the sugar, salt, nutmeg, cinnamon, flour, and lemon or orange zest together in a large bowl.  Peel, if desired, then core and slice the apples and toss them in the mixture of sugar, flour, etc. Spoon the filling into the dough-lined pie plate and dot with the butter. Reserve about 2 to 3 tablespoons of the sugar mixture for the next step. 

Roll out the top crust and drape it over the pie.  Crimp the edges together and cut several small vents in the top. Lightly brush the top crust with a little milk to aid browning, if desired.

Sprinkle pie top evenly with the remaining sugar/cinnamon mix and bake for 10 minutes. Lower the heat to 350 degrees and continue to bake for 30-40 minutes or until the apples are tender when pierced with a skewer or knife and the crust is browned. Let cool 20 or so minutes. Serve with whipped cream topping for extra “Oooh’s and Aaahh’s” of delight.

by Jean Redstone

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Swedesboro NJ
June 4, 2023, 12:54 am
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