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Pumpkin Muffin Cakes With A Mascarpone Frosting

The clocks went back an hour last week and it really feels like Autumn is here.  There have been some beautiful sunny, crisp days this week and there have also been some rotten, wet days too:

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But the leaves are turning brown and falling and each day looks beautiful wether it is sunny or wet.

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This week I have been busy catching up in my home after last weeks decorating.  Someone asked me last week how I organise myself so that I do so much…..in truth, if I’m doing something like decorating, then the bare minimum gets done.  We have quick meals or freezer meals which I have cooked ahead of time and I keep on top of the washing, but everything else is put on hold…..as you can see from the mess in our kitchen in the photograph below:

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I have concentrated on finishing my daughter’s bedroom this week.  We had ordered some flat pack furniture that was delivered on Saturday.

The furniture is an early birthday and Christmas present for my daughter and she has also paid for some of it from her allowance too.

I have got to say that the instructions for assembling it were terrible and it took me ages to put it together and there was a small piece missing which the shop have promised they will post to us.

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But when they were finished they did look good and my daughter was very pleased:

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I also put her curtain pole back up after painting it, but found that the rings wouldn’t slide across the pole easily when I tried to shut the curtains.  So I used a wax candle to rub across the top of the pole and it now works well (this is something you can do with any curtain track that sticks).IMG_2739 IMG_2776

I am very pleased with the curtain pole, but it will look better when I get around to making the new curtains for her too.

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This week I also stained the old mirror from my youngest daughter’s bedroom, as she didn’t want it.

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As you can see in the photograph above, I used my very old tin of left over woodstain.

The mirror now sits in my eldest daughter’s bedroom, matching her furniture:

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Incidentally, my eldest daughter’s old mirror now sits in my bedroom, as the frame on my old mirror had final broken after twenty three years of use).

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As I still had some woodstain left, I used it to paint the shelves that again my youngest daughter didn’t want in her new bedroom.  The shelves now sit in my kitchen where the old chest freezer used to be before it broke.  These shelves will be great for both my daughters’ school work, to keep it tidy:

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Finally, we gave my daughters old desk to ‘Loros’ to resell and I put her old wardrobe onto ‘freecycle‘ and it was picked up by a lovely lady on Wednesday.  This wardrobe was given to us second hand, thirteen years ago and I think it still looked in good condition. So it was lovely to know that it will still be used, rather than ending up in a landfill site.

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Halloween

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Tomorrow is halloween and each year many pumpkins are carved and the insides are just thrown away and I so hate waste.  So I thought today I would share a few of my favourite pumpkin recipes with you:

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Pumpkin Recipes:

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Spicy Pumpkin Soup….the recipe is here.

 Pumpkin and Orange Cake….the recipe is here.

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Pumpkin and Apple Chutney….the recipe is here.

Pumpkin Lasange…the recipe is here.

Pumpkin, Raisin and Orange Muffins….the recipe is here.

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  Don’t forget you can freeze raw pumpkin.  In the photograph below you can see the frozen pumpkin that I used to make the cake recipe below…..this is raw pumpkin that had been in my freezer since January this year and I cooked it without defrosting it first.

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Also, most recipes ask for ‘pumpkin puree’…..to make this just cook the pumpkin in boiling water until it is soft and then drain the water and mash it.  I have found that you need approximately double the amount of raw pumpkin to make the pumpkin puree i.e 600g of raw pumpkin makes approx. 300g of pumpkin puree.

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Pumpkin puree can also be frozen in batches, ready weighted out for your favourite recipes.

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This year I decided to make a different pumpkin muffin with a mascarpone cheese frosting and it turned out well and tasted really nice:

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Pumpkin Muffins with a Mascarpone Frosting:

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Pumpkin Cakes:

230g self-raising flour

150g granulated sugar

100g soft brown sugar

100ml sunflower oil

3 eggs

170g of pumpkin puree

½ tsp vanilla extract

1 tsp baking powder

1 tsp ground cinnamon

¼ tsp ground ginger

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Mascarpone Icing:

250g mascarpone cheese

50g icing sugar

2 tablespoons of lemon juice

Extra bit of soft brown sugar for decoration (optional)

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Preheat your oven to 180C / Gas 4 /350F

Sieve the flour, baking powder, cinnamon and ginger into a bowl and set aside.

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In a separate bowl mix together the granulated sugar, brown sugar and oil until combined.

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Beat in the eggs one at a time.

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Mix in the pumpkin and vanilla.

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Fold in the flour from the separate bowl, a little bit at a time.

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Half fill muffin cases with the mixture and then bake for 20 minutes or until a skewer comes out clean.

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Put the cakes on a cooling tray.

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When the cakes have cooled down, mix the mascarpone cheese, icing sugar and lemon juice together and either pipe it or spread it on the cakes. I then put an extra pinch of soft brown sugar on each cake for decoration.

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Enjoy!

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Thank you for reading my blog today.

I will be back next Friday as usual.  Have a great week!

 

 

 

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Introducing Judy Thrift And Some Pumpkin Recipes…

Last week it was half term here and we all went to Portsihead, near Bristol for a few days.  We stayed in a Travelodge and just across the road was a lovely marina, full of boats of all different sizes.

We used Portsihead as a base and spent a day in Bristol and another day in Weston-super-mare and I have got to say we were really lucky with the weather as it was so dry and mild for this time of the year.

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The main reason for a visit to this area was so we could take a trip to a little place call ‘Clevedon’.

I had never heard of this place until a few months ago and it was a lovely, small seaside town with a wonderful pier.  You can read about the pier here if you are interested in finding out more about it.

There was a special reason we visited this pier and that was because my eldest daughter is a massive ‘One Direction’ fan and they recorded the video for one of their songs on this pier, so it made her very happy to tread on the same pier as they did.

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Clevedon really was a beautiful, quiet seaside town…just right for eating an ice cream whilst sitting watching the sailing boats on the sea…

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Introducing Judy:

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Our holiday was lovely but we all couldn’t wait to come home as we had a very special lady coming to live with us…….

I would like to introduce ‘Judy’, our wonderful rescue dog:

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We had been talking about getting a dog for a while now, but had decided to wait until after our October holiday.  However, a couple of weeks ago myself and Mr Thrift decided to go and ask the RSPCA what the proceedure was for re-homing a rescue dog and we both fell in love with this quiet, timid dog wagging it’s tail at us.

This is the photo that was displayed on the RSPCA website

This is the photo of Judy that was displayed on the RSPCA website

Poor Judy had been very frightened when she first came to the kennels at the beginning of October and was also very anxious.  All we know about her is she is a Jack Russell, Terrier Cross that is three years old and her previous owner was poorly and had to go into hospital, so I think the whole experience has been traumatic for her and she is a little bit underweight.

After we found her, I visited her twice a day at the RSPCA and took her for a walk and by day three I sat down and she jumped on my lap for a cuddle and I knew then that she was definately the right dog for us.

My daughters also visited her after school each day to make sure they took to her too.  She didn’t jump up or bark at my daughters when she first met them, she just wagged her tail which was great for my eldest daughter who has always been a bit scared of dogs.

So on the 22nd October we had a home visit from RSPCA (to make sure everything at home was as we said it would be) and last Thursday 23rd October, we brought her home and she has settled really well.

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She is still a bit anxious (especially of men), but she is having a great time with all the attention she is getting from the ‘Thrift’ family and she now jumps up all of us when she wants some ‘fuss’ and barks at passers by.

We all adore her!

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So I’m sorry to say that this week I haven’t been to my allotment, as I am only leaving Judy on her own for very short periods of time so she can get used to it.  But two things I did before our holiday was I added a new compost bin for my perrennial weeds at the back of my plot:

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As usual, I used strong string to tie the pallets together and lined it with old bits of weeds suppressant.

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I also managed to plant my winter onions which were sown in August.  I covered them in environmesh to stop the allium leaf miner laying their eggs at the base of the allium stems (the second generation lay their eggs between September and November).

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At home I had been drying a heritiage bean called ‘Carters Bean’ that I grew this year and this week I took all the dried seeds out of the pods and popped them into an envelope to store / share them ready for next year:

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Halloween

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I couldn’t finish today without mentioning Halloween.  So many pumpkins are carved and the insides are just thrown away, so I thought I would share a few of my favourite pumpkin recipes here with you:

***Don’t forget the pumpkin flesh can be frozen to use another day****

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Spicy Pumpkin Soup….the recipe is here.

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 Pumpkin and Orange Cake….the recipe is here.

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Pumpkin and Apple Chutney….the recipe is here.

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Pumpkin Lasange…the recipe is here.

 

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And Finally……

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A Pumpkin, Raisin and Orange Muffins Recipe:

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600g self-raising flour

220g soft brown sugar

3 teaspoons baking powder

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1 teaspoon ground ginger

300g raisins

2 eggs

400g pumpkin puree

150ml sunflower oil

The zest of 3 oranges

200ml of orange juice

A sprinkling of muscovado sugar for the top of each muffin

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Preheat your oven Gas mark 5 / 375F / 190C

Sift the flour, baking powder, cinnamon, ginger and sugar into large bowl and stir in the raisins.

In a separate bowl beat the eggs and then mix in the pumpkin, oil, orange zest and juice.

Add the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients and stir just until there is no flour visible. There will be still lots of lumps left (this is the secret of good sized muffins.

 

Half fill muffin cases with the mixture and sprinkle each muffin with a little muscavado sugar.

 

Bake for 25 minutes until the cakes are firm to the touch and golden brown.

 

Enjoy!

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And don’t forget, with a little bit of imagination you can make some spooky treats for your children and grandchildren:

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I hope you enjoy some spooky Halloween treats tonight.

Thank you for reading my blog today.

Completing Planting And A Bumper Harvest

I have so much to write about today, as I have been working so hard at my allotment this week.  I wanted to finish planting all my crops before the long school holidays begin, in exactly one weeks time.  The schools here in Leicestershire break up earlier than the rest of the country.

I started by planted some more perpetual spinach:

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….And some more spring onions.  I sow my spring onions in modules as I always had a very bad germination rate when I sowed them straight into the ground (though I don’t know why as they are supposed to be an easy plant to grow).  By sowing a few seeds in each module, I find it almost guarantees a high germination rate.  I don’t thin the spring onions either, I just plant them as they are when they are ready:

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In the right hand photograph above, you can just see the newly planted spring onions and you can see the ones I planted out three or four weeks ago growing nicely behind.

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I also planted out my spring broccoli, curly kale and some more khol rabi.  All of the brassicas were planted in firm soil which I had dug and manured last autumn.  I also walked over the area before planting.

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As the ground was dry when I planted the brassicas out, I dug a hole for each plant and filled it with water.  When the water had drained away, I then planted them.  This allows the water to go deep into the ground to encourage the roots to also grow deep to find the water.  It also helps to stop the water from evaporating quickly after planting.

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I also planted some quick growing turnips too, but you may have to enlarge the photograph below to see them:

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All my brassicas have nets over, to stop the dreaded pigeons eating them.

While I was working in my brassica patch, I removed any yellowing leaves from my remaining spring cabbages. This will help to stop the build up of any pests or diseases lurking in them.  These cabbages were planted a month after my first spring cabbages and they are now starting to heart up nicely, so I will start to use these now.

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I have now officially ran out of room in my brassica beds and so I can finally say I have finished my summer brassica planting:

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This week I cut my comfrey down.  I prefer to cut my comfrey down before it flowers, but I just wasn’t quick enough this month.  If you have been reading regularly, you will know that I have already made comfrey tea this year (which incidentally is a wonderful high potash fertiliser used for all fruit and flowers e.g. it is a great tomato feed).  You can read how to make comfrey tea here.

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I have also added a vast amount of comfrey to my compost bins already this year.  So when I cut it down at this time of the year, I lay it down between my main crop potatoes instead.  This acts as a mulch to help to stop water evapourating from the ground and also helps to stop annual weeds from germinating.  When the comfrey breaks down, I just dig it into the ground to add nutrients to the soil.

I think comfrey is a wonderful plant!

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This week  I also cleared my old perpetual spinach that had ran to seed and planted my french beans in it’s place:

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I cleared my broad beans in my polytunnel that had finished producing beans:

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And I cleared my poached egg plants that had finally finished flowering either side of my path.  I transplanted some self seeded calendula plants in it’s place, though it looks quite bare at the moment it will soon grow and look pretty and be a bonus for the bees:

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Another thing I have started to do is to ‘nip’ the tops of my runnerbeans off as they reach the top of their supports.  This helps the plants to ‘bush out’ further down and produce more beans:

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This week’s harvest:

Plants have been growing slowly due to the cold spring we have had.  However, the plants are finally now producing and I seem to be having a bumper harvest.

I’ve started to pick my outdoor broadbeans this week and I have needed to pick them every other day:

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I have found my peas are just great, even though they a month behind.  My back has ached just picking them:

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So too is the mangetout (even though some are a little larger than I would have liked, as I didn’t notice they were ready):

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My potatoes taste delicious (especially with a knob of butter) and we are eating lots of lettuces, watercress and spring onions….I love summer so much.

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And my strawberries…well what can I say other than it really is a bumper crop and I’m picking carrier bags full every two days:

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Of course the down side is that I had to defrost my freezer ready for all the fruit and vegetables that I have been bringing home….

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.,….but it will be worth it when we are still tasting ‘summer’ in the long cold winter months.

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I hope you enjoyed reading my blog today.

I will be back on Monday with some Jam making tips.

Hope you have a good weekend.

Things To Do In The Kitchen Garden In November & Pumpkin Week

When I first started to grow vegetables I really needed information to be in one place, so I could look it up easily. However, I found I had to search for lots of little bits of information, scattered between internet sites and books. It used to take me a long time to find the information I needed.

I thought it would be useful to have this information altogether in one place. So for the benefit of the UK gardeners, I write a list of things to be done each month and any useful information I can think of.

It is worth remembering that different parts of the UK have different weather conditions e.g. the last frost is expected earlier in the south than the north. Therefore, this is a general guide.

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November:

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Vegetables and salads to harvest:

Kale, celeriac, parsnips (parsnips taste sweeter after a good hard frost though), swede, carrots, red and white cabbages, Brussels tops, Jerusalem artichokes, winter spinach, kohl rabi’s, oriental salads (if they have been given protection), cauliflowers, turnips, Swiss chard, celery, leeks, radish, land cress, corn salad, rocket.

Fruit to harvest:

Autumn raspberries may still be producing if there haven’t been any hard frosts. There may still be time to pick the last of your late season apples too.

Vegetables and salads to sow:

Over wintering broad beans e.g. Aquadulce.

Things to plant:

Garlic. Rhubarb, bare-rooted fruit trees and fruit bushes before the ground becomes too wet.

Jobs to do:

Remove old plant debris and weeds and dig in compost, manure or leaf mould if your ground needs it.  If you operate a ‘no-dig’ system, just spread it over the top so the worms will do the work for you.

Cover late crops with cloches, i.e. oriental leaves.

Add lime to your soil if it needs it, before the ground becomes too wet (to increase the PH of your soil).  Don’t add lime at the same time as your manure, as they will chemically react with each other.

Add all the old plant debris to your compost heap as long as it’s not diseased.

Cover areas that have been cleared if you can, to stop the rain from leaching the nutrients out of your soil over the winter.

Mulch celeriac and globe artichokes with straw to stop any frost damage.

Bend a few leaves over on your cauliflowers to protect them from frost.

Weed around your fruit trees and bushes and remove fruit cages so the birds can pick off any insects or eggs on them.

As the fruit trees and fruit bushes become dormant, it is time to start to prune them (except cherries and plums).  Remove any dead or diseased branches first.

Catch up with jobs that you didn’t get time to do in the summer e.g. painting your shed, making a new compost heap etc.

Collect leaves to make leaf mould.

Continue to fill a trench with all your old peelings, where you will be planting runner beans next year.  This will help retain the moisture in those long hot summers  (the ones we dream of).

Plant remaining daffodil bulbs and start to plant tulip bulbs.

Plan what you will be growing next year and enjoy reading through seed catalogues and ordering your seeds.

November pests and diseases:

Remove yellow leaves from brassica’s as this can encourage grey mould.

Whitefly can still be a problem on brassica’s, so either squash them between your fingers or spray them.

Pigeons get hungry at this time of year, so make sure you net your brassica’s.

Watch out for mice as they like to eat your newly planted broad bean seeds, garlic and over wintering onion sets.

Check your stored produce for rot, so it doesn’t spread.

Remove rotten fruit that may still be hanging on your fruit trees.

Fit grease bands or paint on fruit tree grease, if you didn’t do it last month, to stop the winter moth climbing up and laying its eggs.

I hope this information has been helpful.

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It’s the last day of my ‘Pumpkin week’ and today is the last of my recipes to use up the pumpkin that you scooped out of your halloween lanterns:

Pumpkin, Raisin and Orange Muffins

600g self-raising flour

220g soft brown sugar

3 teaspoons baking powder

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1 teaspoon ground ginger

300g raisins

2 eggs

400g pumpkin puree

150ml sunflower oil

The zest of 3 oranges

200ml of orange juice

A sprinkling of muscovado sugar for the top of each muffin

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Preheat your oven Gas mark 5 / 375F / 190C

Sift the flour, baking powder, cinnamon, ginger and sugar into large bowl and stir in the raisins.

In a separate bowl beat the eggs and then mix in the pumpkin, oil, orange zest and juice.

Add the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients and stir just until there is no flour visible. There will be still lots of lumps left (this is the secret of good sized muffins.

 

Half fill muffin cases with the mixture and sprinkle each muffin with a little muscavado sugar.

 

Bake for 25 minutes until the cakes are firm to the touch and golden brown.

 

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Thank you for reading my blog today.

How We Celebrated Halloween and Pumpkin Week Continued

I’m really pleased as the BBC has published my recipes on their website.  The recipes are the ones I cooked in their kitchen, live on air, on Tuesday.

You can read them here  (below the picture of Jim Davis).

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Yesterday (Halloween), I spent the whole day preparing for the evening.

I decorated our front room and hallway and put our pumpkin on the doorstep ready for later.

I also made one hundred cupcakes ready for the children that would come ‘Trick or Treating’.

I managed to get some cheap Halloween cake cases and I made fairy cakes and decorated them with icing that had food colouring mixed in.  I used sprinkles and plastic spiders, etc to decorate them.

We all dressed up for the evening and used our face paints to paint our faces.

I bought these face paints when the girls were toddlers and they have lasted all these years and they are still good.

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We had a lovely Halloween meal of Pumpkin lasagne, salad and potato wedges.

I then followed this with Pumpkin and Orange muffins (the recipe will be on my blog tomorrow), Halloween cup cakes,

And finally ‘Witches Fingers’ Jelly.

The children that knocked at our door, all seemed impressed with the cakes.  However, we were absolutely amazed, as all of the one hundred cakes went in just one hour!  I just can’t believe how many children knocked at our door in such a short time.  They were all polite and grateful for them though.

After this, we brought our pumpkin in and switched off the lights at the front of the house, to let people know not to knock.

My youngest daughter had prepared a Halloween quiz for us and some Halloween games for us to play.  One of which was bobbing apples.

Just in case some readers from abroad haven’t heard of bobbing apples, this is where you have to pick up an apple from a bowl of water using just your mouth.  We had fun doing this.

We finished off the evening with a ‘spooky story’ that I had downloaded from the internet for free.

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Pumpkin Week Continued:

To continue with our ‘Pumpkin Week’, below I’ve written another recipe to use up the pumpkin that you have scooped out of your Halloween pumpkin.

Don’t forget that your pumpkin can be frozen to use later on in the year.

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Pumpkin Lasagne Recipe

Spaghetti Bolognaise sauce (you can find the recipe here)

6-8 sheets of lasagne

600 grams raw pumpkin

Half a pint of white sauce (make the same sauce as here, but omit the parsley)

Enough cheese to sprinkle on top.

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Preheat the oven Gas 6 / 204C / 400F

Pre-cook the lasagne in boiling water for 10 minutes.

Cook the pumpkin for a few minutes until soft and drain all the water.  Gently press some of the water out with a fork.

Make a white sauce.

Put half of the pre-made spaghetti bolognaise sauce in the bottom of a dish.

Put half the pumpkin over the bolognaise sauce.

Layer half of the lasagne sheets over the pumpkin and then cover with half of the white sauce.

Repeat the above three steps.

Sprinkle with cheese.

Cook in the oven for 25 minutes.

Enjoy!

Thank you for reading my blog.

Halloween Trivia and Pumpkin Recipe Week

Why do we celebrate Halloween?

Halloween originated back in the 5th century BC.  The Celts celebrated the end of summer and the gathering in of the harvest with a festival called ‘Samhain’, which took place on the night of 31 October.  It was believed that on this night the boundaries between the living and the dead became blurred, and that the ghosts of the dead returned to earth in search of living bodies to possess for the following year.

A large part of the celebration involved the building of huge bonfires, which were thought to welcome friendly spirits and ancestors, but ward off those considered dangerous. People would dress up in animal heads and skins and noisily parade around the neighborhood, being as destructive as possible in order to frighten away spirits looking for bodies to possess.

The name ‘Halloween’ came from All Saints Day on 1 November, named by Pope Boniface IV in the seventh century.  It was a day given in honour of saints and martyrs. It is believed that it was the Pope’s attempt to replace the Celtic festival of the dead with a related, but church-sanctioned holiday. The celebration was also called All-hallows, All-hallows Eve and, eventually, Halloween.

The custom of trick-or-treating is thought to have originated from a ninth-century European custom called ‘souling’. On November 2 (All Souls Day), Christians would walk from village to village begging for ‘soul cakes’, made out of square pieces of bread with currants.  The more soul cakes the beggars would receive, the more prayers they would promise to say on behalf of the dead relatives of the donors.  At the time, it was believed that the dead remained in limbo for a time after death, and that prayer, even by strangers, could help a soul’s passage to heaven.

Now a days, children go trick-or-treating, which means dressing up and knocking at doors shouting “trick or treat”.  If you do not give a treat then the children will play a trick on you.  In actual fact, in England, it’s polite for children to only knock on a door that obviously welcomes ‘trick or treaters’.

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Interesting facts:

About 99% of pumpkins marketed domestically are  ‘Jack O’Lanterns’ used at Halloween.

In the United States, 86% of Americans decorate their homes for Halloween.

Magician Harry Houdini died in 1926 on the 31st October.

The record for the fastest pumpkin carver in the world is held by Jerry Ayers of Baltimore, Ohio. He carved a pumpkin in just 37 seconds!

People have believed for centuries that light keeps away ghosts and ghouls. Making a pumpkin lantern with a candle inside may keep you safe from all the spooky spirits flying around on Halloween.

The record for the heaviest pumpkin grown is 2009 lbs.!  You can see the pumpkin here.

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Thanks to Mrs Yub, one of my regular readers, I have a link here to a website that shows some wonderful carved pumpkins.  Some of them are absolutely brilliant.

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Now I’ll continue with my ‘Pumpkin Recipe Week’, so you can use up the pumpkin flesh that you scoop out of your halloween pumpkins.  Don’t forget you can put your chopped up pumpkin flesh straight into a freezer bag (without blanching) and put it into your freezer, to use at a later date.

Today’s recipe is:

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Spicy Pumpkin Soup

1.4kg Raw pumpkin cut into chunks

2 Medium potatoes, peeled and diced

2 garlic cloves, chopped finely

2 onions, chopped

1 ½ pints of vegetable stock

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1 teaspoon mild chilli powder

A tablespoon olive oil

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Heat the olive oil in a large pan and then slowly fry the onion and potato until they are nearly soft.

 

Add the garlic and pumpkin and continue frying for 1 minute.

Add all the other ingredients and bring them to the boil.

 

Simmer for approximately 25-30 minutes until the ingredients are soft.

 

Blend the soup in a liquidiser or by using a stick blender.

 

Bring the soup back to the boil and serve with some nice homemade bread.

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I freeze this soup in one bowl portions, which I defrost and reheat. I take it in a flask to the allotment and it’s very warming on a cold autumn day.

Enjoy your ‘Halloween’.

Thank you for reading my blog today.