“Mom! Mom! Wait for me!” His shoes slip ever so slightly on the gravel. His backpack, almost half his size, swings from side to side. Up the hill he scrambles. “Mom, wait! I have a treasure for you.” In his tightly closed fist he holds four dandelions. All in various stages of blooming. He gallantly presents then to me, smiles and then, runs off to catch up with his older brother.
Not before long, he stops again. A twig. A heart shaped stone. A 3-leaf clover. Queen Anne’s Lace. “Do you like when I give you treasures Mom?”, he asks, this littlest one of mine. “I love when you give me treasures.” And then, having asked hundreds of times before and already knowing the answer, the same answer I gave his brother before him, he asks again, “What do you do with the treasures?” “I tuck them in my pocket to keep them safe and then, when I’m missing you, I pull one out…and think of you.” He smiles again. Pleased with his good deed, he runs off in search of more tiny treasures.
Not but 3 weeks ago, I dropped this littlest one of mine off for his first day of Kindergarten. I’m still not sure how I feel about it. A little happy. A little sad. While his older sister is always representative of firsts, he represents, lasts. Last diaper. Last binky. Last sippy cup. Last one to entertain all day. Last one to curl up on my lap. Last one to be at home with me. Last one to hold my hand.
“How was your first day of Kindergarten?” I had asked him when I picked him up. “Good.”, he replied. “And what did you do?” Like a true boy, he responded, “I did recess and PE.” Then, letting go of my hand, he ran off hollering, “Can I play on the playground?” Apparently taking the whole thing in stride. Not knowing that this “first” for him was a monumental “last” for me.
With backpacks stowed beneath the bench and lunch boxes emptied, I place a slice of pumpkin pie and a mug of warm chocolate milk down for each boy. Our annual fall ritual. Pumpkin pie to mark the beginning of October. The midst of fall. The countdown to the holidays. Eating pumpkin pie when it can truly be enjoyed. Savoured for the seasonal treat that it is. Not shoved in after a long, heavy meal.
I get up to clear my plate and I feel my throat catch as I glimpse the Queen Anne’s Lace hanging out of my pocket. Myriad of “lasts” start flooding my mind….last pumpkin pie to mark the Kindergarten year, last one to ask me to come closer so he can whisper in my ear, last one to throw stones in the stream wishing for his kitty to come back…but then, I shake my head and tell myself, “Don’t do this.” Concentrate on the firsts.
First one to go to Kindergarten without tears. First one to make his own breakfast before the age of 10. First one to organize his own social life before Junior High.
First one to watch PG-13 movies before the age of….6. First one to know that if the Lego store or Santa doesn’t have it….eBay will. First one whose first day of Kindergarten marked my first day to reacquaint myself…with myself. Who am I now? What will I do now? Where will this new chapter in my life take me now? And that first…is kind of exciting.
You probably have a “go to” recipe for Pumpkin Pie but in the off chance that you don’t, keep this one handy for the upcoming holidays or like me, keep it handy to make one…just because. Every Thanksgiving, my daughter is in charge of pumpkin pie and a few years ago she and I did a pie bake-off to try-out different crusts….all butter, all shortening, half and half…and we decided an all-butter recipe was the best. Not only does it taste delicious but you can make it in advance which means less time in the kitchen on the big day. The filling recipe I’ve been using since the pre-kid San Francisco years. It was passed on to me by my friend, Karna, and I tinkered ever-so-slightly with her spice amounts to arrive at the recipe I use today. In terms of using real pumpkin versus canned pumpkin, I’ve done both and I feel that the difference in taste is barely perceptible so I say, keep it simple and use canned.
All-Butter Pie Dough Crust
3 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 tsp kosher salt
1 1/2 tsp sugar
1 1/2 c chilled, unsalted butter (3 sticks), cut into cubes
1/2 to 3/4 c ice water
Now, the following directions are for making this dough in a food processor and as much as I don’t care for washing a food processor, I highly recommend one for making this pie dough. That being said you could use a pastry cutter, two knives or your fingers but if I were you, I’d go with the food processor.
First, put your flour, salt and sugar in the bowl of the food processor and process for a few seconds to combine. Next, add you butter and process until the mixture resembles coarse meal, about 10 seconds. Then, with the machine running, add your water in a slow and steady stream through the feed tube, just until it starts to hold together. About 30 seconds max.
Even if there are a few bits that haven’t been completely incorporated, go ahead and pour your dough out onto a lightly floured work surface. Quickly gather it into a large ball. Then, divide it in two. Flatten each half into a rounded disk. Wrap in plastic wrap or wax paper and place in the refrigerator for an hour before using. You can also put the dough in a ziploc bag and then, put it in the freezer for up to a month. If you’ve frozen it, you can defrost it in the refrigerator overnight or by letting it stand at room temperature for an hour.
Right before mixing up your pie filling, roll out your dough on a lightly floured surface to about 13 inches in diameter and 1/8 inch thick or so. Gently place it on your pie plate. Using kitchen scissors, trim the dough so it hangs over the edge about 1/2 inch. Tuck that extra dough under the dough around the rim. Then using your thumb and pointer finger on one hand and your thumb on the other, push those fingers toward each other, crimping the dough, around the entire circumference.
Pumpkin Pie Filling
3/4 c sugar
1 1/2 c pumpkin or 1 15-oz can pumpkin (organic is fine to use)
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp cinnamon (heaping is fine)
1/4 tsp ginger
1/2 tsp nutmeg
1/4 tsp cloves
1 12-oz can evaporated milk
Preheat your oven to 450 degrees.
Beat the eggs, sugar, pumpkin and spices together. Then, blend in your milk. Pour your mixture into your waiting pie shell. I always put unbaked pie on a cookie sheet before putting it in the oven in case it spills over.
Bake at 450 degrees for 10 minutes and then at 350 degrees for 50 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean.
Allow pie to cool completely before serving. I always serve my pumpkin pie with vanilla ice cream but keep on hand a can of whipping cream since my kids find it necessary to do the little squirty thing whenever we have pie. I also tend to serve this to my kids for breakfast. Pumpkin is a vegetable after all. Enjoy….
Yield: One pie
All original text and photographs copyright: Carrie Minns 2009-2010