Yes, I understand that the grammar police out there will cringe when they see my three exclamation points, but I'm really just that excited.
Usually, I'm a summer man; all about sunshine and pool parties and BBQing... But this summer seemed to be summer in name only. I went through some really crazy, depressing, stressful stuff and I've been so ready for this change of seasons.
With the Autumnal Equinox tomorrow (thought the calendar specifies today as the first day of the fall season since the equinox will happen today for those living in EST and further west), I envision a clean slate. The change in season will help me bring change
in my life, a change for the better.
All of my friends really enjoyed the summer movie nights I hosted for two and a half months, so I've decided to do something similar once October hits.
I don't know about you guys, but I just LOVE Halloween. I do costuming (known as cosplaying) at anime, sci-fi, fantasy and comic book conventions throughout the year as my other main hobby from cooking and gardening. I've met so many great friends doing it,
and it stems from a childhood love of Halloween that's stuck with me.
My mom always used to help me make costumes in the weeks leading up to the holiday, then we would dress up, gather the neighbor kids and make a trek through the whole neighborhood collecting candies and treats and enjoying a night of playful mischief.
As I got older, I continued making my own costumes and started also making custom Halloween decorations and partnering up with friends to throw HUGE Halloween parties.
It got the point where we had to get some of our dads to stand out front wearing grim reaper robes to check invitations (done up with spooky rhymes, invisible ink, the works!) to make sure we didn't have party crashers and we could handle the amount of people
who would show...
I didn't do a Halloween party last year or the year before, instead organizing a group of friends and going together to the big Halloween block party that Dallas has every year.
I'll probably do that again this year, but I really wanted to get into the Halloween/Samhain/Day of the Dead spirit and do something that would bring people together for laughs and fun times.
What better way than pumpkin carving parties? Jack-o-lanterns are a wonderful Aumtumn/Halloween that actually developed in America. While turnips were sometimes carved into lanterns over in Europe, and they are often said to be the inspiration for the Jack-o-lanterns
of Samhain/Halloween, the evidence is sketchy. But pumpkin carving dates back to the 1800s in America and is still a living, breathing tradition today!
Every Saturday in October, we'll gather in the late afternoon to take advantage of the last rays of light from the day and we'll carve pumpkins, tell stories and partake in traditional Samhain/Halloween/Day of the Dead/harvest foods and drinks!
We're calling the events BYOP - Bring Your Own Pumpkin and so far, everyone seems to love the idea. Pumpkin carving is such a fun, creative thing to do, but we only do it once a few days before Halloween... Not this year though :)
I've been doing some research on traditional foods and this is some of the fun stuff I've come up with if you wanted to have your own pumpkin gatherings!
Soul Cakes -
European tradition often linked with "All Souls' Eve"
Recipe from npr.org - http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=15536354<
"Soul cakes get stale within a day or two, so eat 'em while they're hot.
Makes 12 to 15 2-inch soul cakes
2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg, ground fresh if possible
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon, ground fresh if possible
1/2 teaspoon salt
Generous pinch of saffron
1/2 cup milk
1 stick (8 tablespoons) unsalted butter, softened
1/2 cup sugar
2 egg yolks
1/2 cup currants
For the Glaze:
1 egg yolk, beaten
Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
Combine the flour, the nutmeg, cinnamon and salt in a small bowl. Mix well with a fork.
Crumble the saffron threads into a small saucepan and heat over low heat just until they become aromatic, taking care not to burn them. Add the milk and heat just until hot to the touch. The milk will have turned a bright yellow. Remove from heat.
Cream the butter and sugar together in a medium bowl with a wooden spoon (or use an electric mixer with the paddle attachment). Add the egg yolks and blend in thoroughly with the back of the spoon. Add the spiced flour and combine as thoroughly as possible;
the mixture will be dry and crumbly.
One tablespoon at a time, begin adding in the warm saffron milk, blending vigorously with the spoon. When you have a soft dough, stop adding milk; you probably won't need the entire half-cup.
Turn the dough out onto a floured counter and knead gently, with floured hands, until the dough is uniform. Roll out gently to a thickness of 1/2 inch. Using a floured 2-inch round cookie or biscuit cutter, cut out as many rounds as you can and set on an
ungreased baking sheet. You can gather and re-roll the scraps, gently.
Decorate the soul cakes with currants and then brush liberally with the beaten egg yolk. Bake for 15 minutes, until just golden and shiny. Serve warm, with cold pumpkin juice."
An Irish Halloween tradition
(I'll let you go to this one on your own)
Boxty - Another Irish Halloween tradition (though it's eaten all the time)
(Again, I'll let you go to this one on your own)
Candied Pumpkin -
Day of the Dead tradition
Recipe from about.com - http://mexicanfood.about.com/od/savorysides/r/candiedpumpkin.htm<
"Prep Time: 15 minutes
Cook Time: 2 hours
Total Time: 2 hours, 15 minutes
- 5 lb pumpkin (approx.)
- 4 cinnamon sticks
- zest of one orange
- juice of orange
- 2 lb piloncillo
- 4 cups of water
Cut off the stem off of the pumpkin. Cut the pumpkin in half and scrape out the seeds and stringy parts. Cut each piece in half lengthwise again and again until you have 8-10 long pieces of pumpkin. Cut the skin off of each piece
and then cut the flesh into approximately 1 to 2-inch pieces. Place into a large saucepan and bring piloncillo, orange juice, orange zest, cinnamon sticks and water to a boil. Carefully add in pumpkin pieces and reduce to a simmer. Simmer for approximately
2 hours or until pumpkin is fork tender and the rest of the ingredients have reduced to a thick glaze. Remove from heat and let cool to room temperature before serving.
- If you don't have piloncillo, substitute 1 3/4 cup dark brown sugar and 1/4 cup molasses.
- You may leave the skin on the pumpkin."
Pan de Muertos
- Traditional Day of the Dead bread left as offerings to the spirits visiting the living
(You can check this one out on your own.)
- A Mexican drink traditionally left out on the Day of the Dead to warm the spirits after their journey
(You can check this one out on your own)
Okay, so I don't know how traditional this one is, but it looked yummy :P
Recipe from divinedinnerparty.com - http://www.divinedinnerparty.com/traditional-halloween-recipes.html<
1/2 C. water
1/2 C. granulated sugar
2 cinnamon sticks
1 orange, peel and juice
1 bottle (750 mL) dry red wine
1. in a pot (or crockpot) combine the water, sugar, cinnamon, cloves, and orange juice.
2. Simmer 2-3 minutes.
3. Add the orange peel and wine.
4. Let sit warming over low heat at least 30 minutes before serving.
5. Don't allow it to boil or you'll cook the alcohol away.
6. Serve in warm mugs, garnished with a cinnamon stick and orange slice, if desired."
Whew! I hope you guys got some fun inspiration for your own Autumn festivities!
I hope everyone experiences something new and great and different with this change of seasons. Remember to just have fun, be yourself and enjoy life while you've got it.