For the last 18 years I have gathered once a month with 10 moms for a delicious meal and an evening of sharing and laughing. It was my turn to host last month and honestly I was not looking forward to it. As with many social situations in my grief it just seemed like too much work. I often find it difficult to join in the fun and enjoyment of socializing. I had recently returned from traveling, a conference in Yosemite and visiting my son at Penn State. I was tried and wanting to spend time alone. But once my kitchen was filled with these women with whom I have shared so much with I began to relax. What cook can help but love a group that refuses to hang out anywhere besides the kitchen. This year I was prepared and just brought the chairs into the kitchen.
Later during dinner as I looked around the table I thought which of us has not suffered? These women understand that I might need to sit back and listen and not share. We are a funny group. We have known each other for so many years but will often only see each other at our monthly gathering. We have mom couples, Yanina and I see each other at least once a week for a walk, I teach Natalie’s daughter and see Natalie at school most weekdays, B and I go to the same church and I’m sure there are connections amongst the others in between our get togethers. We have two widows, two who have suffered through divorces, serious marriage problems, major illnesses and disabilities with their children, cancer, loss of siblings, parental illness and death. Nothing close to the group of young moms we started as. These women understand and accept my grief. They were there at Tom’s memorial service quietly organizing and cleaning up the massive amounts of food that that arrived at our home after the church service. Always we bring food to each other when one is suffering, it is how we share our love.
It was an honor to prepare a meal made with love for them in my home.
I made my favorite chili. How is it that I have never made this for the moms? I have made this slow braised tri-tip chili for our annual neighborhood halloween gathering, my son’s robotics team kick off and many other large gatherings for years. It is always very well received. I recently shared the recipe in our local lifestyle magazine 92024 and several people from school have told me how much they like it. No beans, no veggies just pure chili. Great for a gatherings because it is even better a day or two after you make it. Here is a link to the recipe, originally from Sara Moulton:
In our new found quest to keep it simple for the hostess my menu was pretty basic:
Apple slices and crackers with Pumpkin dip
Chili with all the fixins
Josie brought a nice jalapeño corn bread that was extra moist almost like corn pudding.
My favorite fall appetizer – Apple slices, Trader Joe’s Pumpkin Cranberry Crisps and pumpkin dip. The pumpkin dip is:
8 oz. cream or goat cheese
1/4 cup Trader Joe’s Pumpkin Butter (any fruit butter would work)
Mix together with a hand mixer until light and fluffy and voila!
My favorite fall dessert by far! Ina Garten’s Pumpkin Roulade with Ginger Buttercream
For the cake:
3/4 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground ginger
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
3 extra-large eggs, at room temperature
1 cup granulated sugar
3/4 cup canned pumpkin (not pie filling)
1/4 cup confectioners’ sugar, plus extra for dusting
For the filling:
12 ounces Italian mascarpone cheese (COLD)
1 1/4 cups sifted confectioners’ sugar
2 tablespoons heavy cream (COLD)
1/4 cup minced dried crystallized ginger (not in syrup)
Pinch kosher salt
Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. Grease a 13 by 18 by 1-inch sheet pan. Line the pan with parchment paper and grease and flour the paper.
In a small bowl, mix together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, and salt. Place the eggs and granulated sugar in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment and beat on medium-high speed for 3 minutes, until light yellow and thickened. With the mixer on low, add the pumpkin, then slowly add the flour mixture, mixing just until incorporated. Finish mixing the batter by hand with a rubber spatula. Pour into the prepared pan and spread evenly. Bake the cake for 10 to 12 minutes, until the top springs back when gently touched.
While the cake is baking, lay out a clean, thin cotton dish towel on a flat surface and sift the entire 1/4 cup of confectioners’ sugar evenly over it. (This will prevent the cake from sticking to the towel.) As soon as you remove the cake from the oven, loosen it around the edges and invert it squarely onto the prepared towel. Peel away the parchment paper. With a light touch, roll the warm cake and the towel together (don’t press!) starting at the short end of the cake. Allow to cool completely on a wire rack.
Meanwhile, make the filling. In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the mascarpone, confectioners’ sugar, and cream together for about a minute, until light and fluffy. Stir in the crystallized ginger, and salt.
To assemble, carefully unroll the cake onto a board with the towel underneath. Spread the cake evenly with the filling. Reroll the cake in a spiral using the towel as a guide. Remove the towel and trim the ends to make a neat edge. Dust with confectioners’ sugar and chill overnight.
This will make another appearance on my Thanksgiving menu! Looking forward to MNO at Anne’s in December and hearing about her travels to Costa Rica.