Last night was our 2nd annual pumpkin carving party.  Here are a few pictures I snapped while I prepared everything. 

 

Since we’ve had a house guest for the last week and a half, the day of the party was a busy one.  I completed all of the preparations that day, from the cooking to the cleaning.  (I don’t recommend trying it!)  The kitchen was overflowing with supplies.
But, they were all used by the end of the day. 

Each family gets a carving kit, including a bowl for the seeds, carving tools, wipes, a sharpie, and a candle. 

 

This year we set up one table for the food and another table for appetizers, which we placed near the grill so the chef could mingle, too.  The remaining tables were used for both eating and carving. 

Casual Appetizers: Cayenne Cheese Spread and Crackers, Stuffed Jalapenos, Sausage Mummies, Cheese, Vegetables/Dip. 

 

The pumpkin station included sticky notes so guests could select their pumpkins as they arrived.  The kids loved picking out the pumpkins!

See you next year!

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The gym seems to inspire strange things for me….like thoughts of cookies.  As I was walking out earlier this week, I spotted a pumpkin cookie recipe on the bulletin board and thought I’d give it a try.  It was good, but it was a bit too healthy for everyday use.  So, I set off to come up with a more indulgent cookie.

After pouring through piles of recipes, combining ideas, and a bit of taste testing, I came up with one that reminds me of home yet meets some of Beachboys daily needs: lemon and pecans. 

This is our pecan tree’s nonproducing year, but I have  a freezer filled with nuts from last season, which are deliciously fresh and tender.  It really does make all the difference.

A quick-reference recipe appears below the step-by-step photos. 

 

The Flavors
A few notes:
-I know immitation vanilla is cheaper, and I’m the queen of generic brands.  But, please….please…use real vanilla extract.  It really does improve the taste of your cookies. 
-There is simply no substitute for fresh lemon juice. Trust me.
 
Wet Ingredients:
Cream 1/2 Cup of butter with 1 cup of brown sugar and 1/2 cup of granulated sugar.  Slowly beat in 2 eggs. Then, add 1 tsp. of lemon zest and 1-1/2 tsp of fresh lemon juice. 
 
This is my favorite kitchen tool.  Not only is it easier to collect the zest from the zester than a grater, but it’s also great for stripping peels for dressing up your dishes. 
 
In a small sauce pan, cook 1 cup of pumpkin with 2 tsp. of vanilla extract and 1/2 tsp. of cinnamon.   Now, here’s where I have to get honest.  You don’t reallyhave to cook these ingredients before adding them.  In fact, you don’t even have to have the cinnamon.  However, my sister always insists that I leave out special steps when giving her recipes, so I’m sharing this step.  Don’t tell her, but I do this just as much to make my house smell nice as to take the metallic edge off the canned pumpin.  What can I say, I just like the smell of cinnamon and vanilla.  Regardless, be careful not to burn or dry out your pumpkin. 
 
After the pumpkin mix has cooled, you can add it to the sugar blend. 
 
Dry Ingredients:
 
 
Now on to a pet peeve: flour.  I can still remember my home economics teacher insisting that we not level our flour, and to this day, I disagree.  I like to know I have the exact amount, and if I’m risking compacting it, so what! So, get your finger ready to level off 2-1/2 cups (exactly!) of flour.
 
To the flour, add 2 tsp. of baking powder, 1 tsp. of baking soda, and 1 tsp. of salt.  For a bit of flavor, mix in 1-1/2 tsp of pumpkin pie spice (yum!) and 1/4 tsp. of ginger. 
 
Unlike my mother, I insist on mixing my dry ingredients in a separate bowl.  Listen to me carefully: It’s worth washing an extra bowl.  I repeat, it’s worth washing an extra bowl. 
 
Slowly add the dry ingredients to the pumkin-sugar mixture.
 
Finally, add in 1-1/3 cups of chopped pecans. (I strongly recommend the ones from my backyard, but do what you have to do.)
Isn’t that just divine.  I can hear it screaming my name.  Eat me! Eat me!
 
Now, after a quick taste test  greasing your baking sheet, drop the dough on by the heaping teaspoonful.
 
Bake your yummy goodness at 350 degrees for 12-14 minutes, and try to pass the time productively with a bowl of ice cream or something, for goodness’ sake.
 
Pull out those bad boys and grab the frosting!
I like to top them with a dollop of homemade butter-cream frosting and a pecan…but that’s just the girl in me.  I can’t resist a cute gooey cookie.  Beachboy prefers his plain so he can savor the pecans.
 I think I’ll go have a cookie in his honor.
 

Pecan Pumpkin Cookies

Cream Together:

  • 1/2 Cup Unsalted Butter
  • 1 Cup Brown Sugar
  • 1/2 Cup Granulated Sugar

Add:

  • 2 Eggs
  • 1 tsp. Lemon Zest
  • 1-1/2 tsp. Fresh Lemon Juice

On the Stove top, Cook:

  • 1 Cup of Canned Pumpkin
  • 2 tsp. Vanilla Extract
  • 1/2 tsp. Cinnamon

Let the pumpkin mixture cool, then add it to the sugar mix.

Meanwhile, in a separate bowl, mix:

  • 2-1/2 Cups All Purpose Flour
  • 2 tsp. Baking Powder
  • 1 tsp. Baking Soda
  • 1 tsp. Salt
  • 1-1/2 tsp. Pumpkin Pie Spice
  • 1/4 tsp. Ginger

Slowly add the dry mix to the pumpkin-sugar blend. 

Stir In:

  • 1-1/3 Cups Chopped Fresh Pecans

 

Drop cookies onto a greased baking sheet and bake at 350 degrees for 12-14 minutes.

 

Frosting:

  • 1/2 Cup Butter
  • 2 Cups Powdered Sugar
  • 1-2 tsp. Fresh Lemon Juice (to taste)
  • 3 Tb. Milk or Cream
  • Small Splash of Vanilla Extract

If you don’t like the texture created by the lemon juice, try extract or zest.

I love to plan parties, but when it comes down to it, I’m quite shy. So, playing the role of hostess can be a challenge.

However, last year was our first fall as residents of our new town, and we decided to make it a home by starting a family tradition.  And so, the annual Pumpkin Carving Party was born. 

Now,  I’m planning the current year’s party, which is just two short weeks away. In only its second year, our annual event has tripled in size.  This presents both planning challenges and the opportunity to try out some new tricks.

Here are some ideas I’ve been pondering.

Wreath of Pumpkins

Every party needs a welcoming entry.  This one is sure to set the mood for our event. 

 

A monogram carved pumpkin lets new guests know they have found the right house.

This year will require many more pumpkins than last and will involve a host of new guests.  To introduce them to the set up and to encourage them to settle in, I’m going to fill a wheel barrow with pumpkins, along with a sign inviting them to select their pumpkin for carving. 

 

Mulled Cranberry-Apple Cider

The house smells delicious when guests arrive to the scent of mulling cider.  This year, I want to come up with an interesting way to serve the warm treat after dark.

Mummy Dogs

On-the-move treats for the kids are a must.

 

   Jack-o'-Lantern Candy Bowl

I love the idea of pumpkins serving as bowls.

 

A peppery centerpiece greets guests who move inside to escape the chill.

 

Who says pumpkins can’t be elegant?

 

Apple Votives

As the yard darkens, candles will light the area.

 

Gift Bags

Bags of carving tools (carver, sharpie, candle, matches, personal garbage bag) worked well last year when it came time to begin carving.  Guests simply picked up a bag, grabbed their pumpkin, and went to work.  They will definitely be used again this  year! 

 

Other must haves:

  • Wipe-friendly or disposable table cloths (This makes clean up much easier!)
  • Increased table space (We bumped elbows last year.)
  • Family friendly party music
  • Torches (for added light after dark)
  • Wipies for sticky fingers
  • Large spoons for scooping