Sunday, October 28, 2012

THREE: Halloween

Orange and Black.
Candy corn.
Popcorn balls.
Chocolate coins.
Fun sized sweets.
The smell of rubber, duct tape, plastic and sugar.
Adults smelling of perfume and sweat beneath heavy costumes.
Things that flash and glow.
Pumpkin shaped everything.
Cheesy music.
Skeletons, black cats, witches, ghosts and monsters.

The excitement and smell of crisp air, musty leaves and lobotomized pumpkins.
The way you feel when you put on the make-up, mask, hood or hat that transforms you into... someTHING or someONE else.

The mystery and fun of ghouls, goblins, witches, cutesies, scaries and unidentifiable children and adults in costumes roaming the streets.

When I was a kid, Halloween was my FAVORITE holiday. It's the day and night where the whole world plays pretend and has to activate imagination.

The world seemed magical on Halloween: the past could come alive, ghosts could walk the earth and come back, midnight truly was the witching hour on this day more than any other.

It was exactly a week before my birthday, so it was sort of.... the beginning of fun in fall.

As an adult, I dress up and decorate and still LOVE Halloween, but the disappointment that occasionally happened as a kid feels magnified when I go through the effort of Halloweening the house and no trick-or-treaters come to my door.

When I was a kid, I can remember a few Halloweens where I had costume disasters, adventures cancelled due to weather conditions, and plain' ole differences in celebration.

Vermont kids don't really trick or treat unless they live 'in-town,' because you'd need a car to get from one house to the other, and it's REALLY, REALLY cold in October, so you have to wear a coat over your costume; which is no fun at all.

Also, nothing is worse than people not knowing what your costume is.

"What are you supposed to be Sweetie?"

"I'm a zombie football player from Beetlejuice. Duh."

"Oh... well, that's nice."

Or the year that I was Ariel from The Little Mermaid.... and I couldn't walk in my costume --- UGH.

A few years ago I dressed up as Rogue from The X-Men for a Halloween party. I had no posse of Wolverine, Storm, etc.

No one knew who I was.


The year before last, I bought lots of candy, decorated the house and gate, dressed up and waited patiently by the door, exited for it to ring and to see all the kiddies dressed up and looking cute.

No one came.
Not a single kiddo.

We called J's (and soon to be my) nieces and nephews over and gave them practically a bag of candy each. J juggled for them and they had to pick what they wanted out of his pattern in the air.

Last year, J and I dressed up as Waldo and Wanda (we looked GOOD) and waited again with candy. Again, no kids showed.

I learned that people here take their kids to the MALL to gather candy.

Let me just say that I COMPLETELY DISAGREE with that practice.

Part of the fun of Halloween is visiting your neighborhood and then driving to family's houses to continue the candy collecting (or in some cases-- VERMONT--- driving into town to walk the main  neighborhood streets).

You meet your school friends and your neighbors. You sing-song "TRiCK or TrEat!" at each doorbell knock or ring. You see that elderly neighbor who demands that you perform a dance, poem or talent to receive your sweet. You get EXERCISE and EARN your candy so that when you get home you're tired.

THAT is part of Halloween.

Not wandering around a climate controlled mall where you just grab candy and stare at people.

Also, about the whole x-ray the candy thing....

Sheesh, if you're going to houses of folks you know (a.k.a. your neighbors, friends and family) then you shouldn't have to throw away the homemade candy apples, popcorn-balls or seven-layer bars because there's no danger.

Also, last I knew, most kids go out with an older relative or an adult--- SAFETY.

I think that it's outside the neighborhood say, at a mall.... *ahem* where it would be MUCH easier for a stranger to contaminate candy.

Anyway, ranting aside, I still love Halloween and I'm still dressing up this year.

Even if NO ONE comes to my door I will have candy ready, because that's the spirit of excitement.

The history of Halloween may be about the dead walking the earth, but until I'm a ghost I can provide candy.

If no one shows up, I'll just read Edgar Allen Poe aloud and watch a cutesy spooky (not horror) movie-- like Hocus Pocus, The Boogie Man or The Nightmare Before Christmas.

Then I'll read some more poetry and tell a ghost story or two.

Oh, and when J and I have kids, they won't be going to the mall.
They'll be hiking around to family and friends earning their sugar old-school-style.


TWO: Love


It snowed Thursday and Friday last week.

The days were delightfully gray and cold; wet and sloppy and most definitely weather for jackets, hats and scarves.

Thursday morning I attended a memorial service for J's father, who passed away three years ago this Halloween.

I was honored to be included and reminded of how short life truly is... at any moment it could be taken away.

I am of the opinion that this does not mean that one should live in fear of death or heart failure or freak bus accidents, but rather that you should tell the ones you love that they matter immensely every chance you get.

I make a practice of telling my friends that I love and care about them too.
The snow coated everything in the hush of heavy white; the muddy drive leading into the cemetery was a dull brownish gray; mixing to a tan where the snow had melted and then covered again.

We were the last car to arrive.

Everyone was standing around the plaque of the gravesite. Sitting in a line of green wood and canvas chairs in front of the astro-turf pedestal upon which a folded up American flag, a small leather book and a reddish metal canister were displayed. 

A basket full of paper cups, lids and a thermos coffee pot was propped on a chair in the second row. 

We walked up to the group; steaming cups in their hands from which wafted the smell of artificial hazelnut or caramel coffee. 

Each person standing had a somewhat different look on their face: awkward, complacent, antsy, relaxed, cold, staid but cheerful, smiling simply and still.

Music was blaring muzzily out of J's step-mom's (B's) pocket: her phone set to Pandora mobile I suppose.... she began speaking. 

"Thank you all for coming. It's been three years and it's finally time..." she stated somewhat cheerfully, but warmly.

Her pocket renewed it's loud blaring and then switched to some sort of commercial.

"I'm not sure if you all know this, but T prayed each and every morning. He prayed for you kids..."

-------'Are you prepared for...' some actor's voice interrupted her, blabbing on scratchily about life-insurance... she continued on.

"So I would like to read from my list of..."

-----------'Be prepared today!' the commercial ended with buzzing chimes which faded into a Christian Rock song...

I noticed that at one end of the circle, G, E, H and J had begun to link arms; H grinning at me sweetly across the circle.  I shuffled closer to L and linked her arm; she slipped hers into C's. Halfway through the speech, he linked his into J's.

Suddenly, the gathering was put on the spot. 

"Now, let's everybody say something nice you remember about T," B commanded.

Little by little, each member began to speak... at some point, E stepped over and grabbed B's blaring cell-phone and shut it off.

"I remember how we'd be in the car with him, and he was really a quiet guy otherwise, but when we were driving and someone almost had and accident or made a mistake or whatever, he would yell 'CRASH!' really loudly and it always scared me and made me giggle at the same time..."

"He never did that with us in the car," J began, "but I remember when I totaled the truck---"

"Yes, are there any of his kids here who didn't wreck one of his cars?" 

"He was always calm and caring about it. He cared more about people being safe than the vehicle---"

"Yes, he would say, 'Cars can be replaced; people can't."

"He paid for my school in New York--"

"Yeah! He was always supportive. For example, when I wanted to go live in Paris, he was all for it. He was the parent whom you went to when you wanted the other parent to agree with you.."

"I only met him once, but my first impression of him was the same as what you all call him all the time--- teddybear. Tall and round and bearded and warm." I said. 

Everyone rambled on for a while remembering T.

Apples and peanut butter.
Orange slices.
The Beatles.
Working on electronics and computer parts with him.
Building bookshelves.
Cinnamon coffee.
E-mails about selling cookies.
Being supportive.

Some slight disagreements flowed briefly in and out of the conversation. A suggestion to sing was accepted and then refused. Finally the remembrance was over-- I brought my end of the arm links around and linked with J's step-mom so we could have a circle hug.

We all trudged back to our cars. 

"H and J, do you have class?" B asked.

"Yeah, but I'm thinking I'll skip it today," J responded.

"Mine's not until later," H said.

"Let's all go to breakfast at the diner," I said.

"Great!" beamed B.

We piled into our cars and headed out; J and I stopping for H to leave her car at our house so we could carpool to the diner-- which had less than desirable parking options.


That morning we remembered, we ate, we laughed, we reminisced and caught up. A family with sets of blood relations and mostly step or half relations, but all one family. 

People who had come together to remember a man who touched their lives. 
A man who loved greatly and was loved by many.
He is missed, and he will be missed forever.

So, take the time and tell the people you love about the way they've touched you.

There's no time like the present. 

ONE: Today is a Triplentry Day.... Yes, I just made up that word. ;-)


The air was crisp and pink this morning as I stepped outside. Sidewalks were littered with tiny gold-yellow leaves; like a frozen runner along the cement.

Through the haze of the sunrise, I could make out the shadowy and darkened outlines of the trees; backlit against the pastel-coral colored sky.

Breathing in it smelled like... fresh pumpkins.

 Indeed, with my eyes closed, I could've sworn that the earthy, sweet, dusty and clean aroma was emanating from jack-o-lanterns that lined every doorstep in my imagination.

Then a small gust of wind blew my hair from my face and pricked my cheeks.

Fall will soon be over, and the snows shall return.

I decided to call my mum on this walk because she and Dad had just returned from a trip overseas.

We talked pleasantly about museums, cousins, opera, old friends, food, wine and music.

I was reminded how lucky I am to have such parents and people in my life.

My mum also reminded me to vote: which I've already done (mail-in ballot) but not put in the post.

So: Go for walks, revel in delightful people and VOTE!


Triplentry (Yes, Triple + Entry = Triplentry) Prologues:


It snowed Thursday and Friday last week.

The days were delightfully gray and cold; wet and sloppy and most definitely weather for jackets, hats and scarves.

Thursday morning I attended a memorial service for J's father, who passed away three years ago this Halloween.

I was honored to be included and reminded of how short life truly is... at any moment it could be taken away.

I am of the opinion that this does not mean that one should live in fear of death or heart failure or freak bus accidents; but rather that you should tell the ones you love every chance you get, that they matter immensely.



How do YOU celebrate Halloween, and what does it mean to you?

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Spreading the Love with Food...

Sccccrrraaaaaape... scratch, scratch, PLOP! ScrrrrrAAAAAPE-scrape-scrape, PLOP!

Her eyes popped open wide. She instantly held her breath as she tried to identify the noise that had woken her.

Straining, she could hear the faint sounds of wood scraping against metal... the barely-there ring in the air... singing in her ears.

The room was purpley-black, the sheets smelling delicately of downy.

Slowly and carefully the girl twisted and slid her feet from the warm, silky-soft cotton sheets and toward the thickly carpeted floor.

Olive green shag carpet, to be exact.

Emma's little back arched, reaching down the side of the bed. When her toes found the fuzzy warmth, she grabbed gropingly for her red plastic frames on the bedside table.

Glasses on her nose, she tip-toed to the doorway and leaned against the frame. Her knobby, freckled knees peeked out from the oversized t-shirt she slept in; a large, gray, much worn and washed affair stolen from an older male cousin or brother.

Pressing her side into the doorway, she hugged the frame tightly, willing herself not to be afraid.  Her knuckles were white as she gripped the wood, tracing the grooves absent-mindedly with a thumb.

Why are old houses so creepy at night? She whispered silently to her eleven year old self. It doesn't help that I've had the monster dream again, where my family all turn into werewolves, vampires and ghouls... she swallowed.

The hallway was deep and murky; paneled in dark walnut it made a sharp contrast to the light blue pastel walls of the bedroom she was in.

Squeezing her eyes shut as the scary scraping sound began again, she quickly counted to eleven in her head (one year for each in her age). Her breath tight in her chest, she exhaled silently and slowly, feeling goosebumps trickle down her arms and legs, her hair standing on end and sending her into a shiver.

Heart thudding her pulse against her throat, she peered right, then left.

Her bedroom was the front room, on the left side of the corner of the hallway.  She could see that the middle bedroom door on the right, part way down the hall, was open; her grandmother must be awake too.

Looking further down, she could see the blackness of the back bedroom, its door slightly ajar.

She stepped out into the hall and spun around, pinning her shoulders against the wall and freezing motionless for a moment. When nothing grabbed her, she began inching toward the dark of bathroom doorway.

There was a light on in the kitchen; the glow was leaking out into the hall.

Her hair had flopped thickly into her eyes. She roughly shoved the curls away so she could see, then padded silently toward the kitchen door, hugging the opposite wall with her back just in case something decided to jump out at her.

Then, the scraping stopped completely.

She was perhaps a foot from the door, splayed tightly against the wall.

Suddenly, a round figure burst through the swinging dutch doors of the kitchen, blocking the glow.

"What in the world are you doin' out here pressed against the wall Kid?" Her grandmother asked her sternly, frowning down at the child over her apron.

The woman wasn't tall, just under five feet, with ample curves above and below her tiny waist. Her bunny-slipper covered feet were spread shoulder-width apart; a linebacker couldn't have knocked her off balance.

She had one hand propped on her hip, and the other waggling a wooden spoon covered in cookie dough at the girl's nose. Her curly silver hair was coiffed perfectly; framing her ruddy cheeks and head like an electric halo.

"Well, I heard a noise and---"

"Fair enough. You wanna' help? Lordy! You 'bout  scared the bejeezus outta' me like that.  I oughta' make you warsh' dishes, you little TURKEY!" she finished with emphasis, grabbing Emma by the back of her t-shirt and hustling her into the kitchen.

The yellow, orange, white and green plaid linoleum gleamed brightly in the stove light. The shades were drawn, but the first light of sunrise was shining pinkly through their translucent cotton eyelets. The cream coloured walls with  50's style stripes and daisies began to lighten as the sun came up.

"Wash your hands and bring that stool over t'me," the old woman bellowed, tossing the spoon back into an enormous metal bowl and scraping the dough into a  large ball in the middle.

Well, that explains the scary sound, thought Emma as she smiled to herself.

Cookie pans were greased and ready on top of the gas stove, as she brought the stool to the counter beside her grandmother.

Winking and staring sternly down into her granddaughter's brown eyes, magnified by their red frames, she thrust two teaspoons in to her little hands.

"Scoop 'em and ball 'em and put 'em not more nor less'n 2 inches apart on those sheets, y'hear?"

"Yes Ma'am," came the proud reply.

Leave it to her grandmother to make cookies at 4:30 AM the morning of Halloween.


I love food. I also love cooking.

I have been known to bake things "simply because," and lately my culinary creations have revolved around chocolate.

I bake every week for my choir companions (we rehearse fairly late in the evening) so this week it was double chocolate pecan cake and petit fours.

Fairly easy.

First take your favorite chocolate cake recipe (mine is gluten-free, vegan and has a bit of pumpkin and coconut oil in it) and add chocolate chunks/chips and pecans. Bake per usual.

Easy, huh? :-D

The petit fours I made were mocha cake with cinnamon coconut cream as the filling, and covered in dark chocolate-- again, all gf and v.

Having never made petit fours before, I owe my success to a petit-four pan-- I didn't have to fuss with baking sheet cake,  freezing it and then carving or cutting out the little shapes with cookie cutters.

 BAH to that I say! Not when there are pans with teensy little cake shapes that waste none of the precious batter! :-D

Anyway, I say the way to people's hearts is most definitely through their stomachs.

So, go show someone you love them.

Bake, cook, toss or just offer somebody a bite.

They'll love you for it. :-D

Sunday, October 7, 2012



My head felt like a black, ink-filled, fuzzy mess this morning as I awoke to the blaring of the alarm clock.

Trying to focus  my bleary eyes, I realized that I didn't feel quite like my usual chipper self as I flipped out of bed. My feet were cool on the smooth wood floor of our bedroom.

 Maybe it's because the heater is on now, and there's that strange musty, burning dust smell that always wafts out the first few days... I thought to myself.

 The temperature has been hovering around freezing lately, and I would go so far as to say that "groggy," has become the word of the day.

Failing to suppress the shiver wriggling lightly over my shoulders and down my spine, I noticed that J had beat me to the bathroom by a few seconds.

Blast. I really had to go. Why is it that bodily functions feel so much more urgent when a body's cold?

As I hopped from toe to toe in an attempt at keeping warm and my mind off my necessaries, I practically burst through the bathroom door when I heard the slow creeeeeak of  his exit.


Relieved, I waited for the tap to warm up before plunging my hands beneath it's steamy gushing; hoping to rush some heat back into my fingertips; noticing that my feet were warm in the designated spots where he'd stood moments before on the frigid tiles.

I quickly slipped into jeans and a heavy, oversized sweatshirt; feeling the cool fabric whoosh away my accumulated body heat. Again, a shiver crept over me; up my spine this time, so that I could feel the tickling, tingling hairs on my neck and head rising.

Stepping into the warmth of the kitchen just as J pressed down on the coffee grinder, I waited for its growl to subside before I said, stating the obvious:

"Jeebus it's cold this morning," with my teeth chattering slightly.

He grinned at me from the end of the counter, tapping the fresh coffee grounds into the brown of the recycled paper filter.

With a quick kiss on my forehead and a hasty hug, he started the percolator and zoomed about the house gathering his work things. As soon as the hissing coffee maker announced that it was possible to fill his mug, J was off with another kiss and quick squeeze.

"Have a nice day J," I called after his long-legged form as he stepped off the back porch in one and a half strides.

"You too Darlin," he said beaming up at me, his eyes twinkling beneath his knit cap, all wicked and sparkly in the frost of his warm breath in the cold, cold air.

Closing the door behind him, I felt the rush of warmth return. The kitchen seemed glowing and golden around me even though the sun wasn't bright and fully shining as of yet.

I filled my own mug with hot steaming coffee and donning a down vest and mittens, I pulled on my snow sneakers and went to the front door. Thinking better of it, I attempted to trap my curls under a cotton-fleece hat, but my hair was having none of it, so with a sigh I grabbed a less warm, baseball cap.

I slipped my keys into my pocket and stepped out onto the front porch to begin my walk.

A curtain of icy air enveloped me as I turned to lock the front door.

I was instantly reminded of those aching, chilly and burningly cold mornings I spent as a child, waiting for the school bus.

Briskly walking down the steps and through the front gate, I felt my lungs protesting as the cold flowed in; my eyes pricking with tears as my nose went numb.

This feels just like Vermont,  my brain said cheerfully and I began my round of the neighborhood.


There's something about the gray, icy cold that makes me want the smoky comfort of a wood burning fireplace or stove. The way that the warmth sizzles and dances as it rises and rushes to meet the cold air outside the flames.

Fire is magical in that manner. The basic need for our bodies to remain a comfortable temperature is a fundamental need. To be too cold or hot is to be instantly cranky and uncomfortable in one's own skin.

Occasionally I wake up expecting to see the forest out my bedroom window, or the rocky shore of the New England Sea.

I miss the ocean a lot. I also miss the smell of the snow on the maples and pines; the way your boots CRRRRRACK, CRUNCH, SHHHH, as you break through the glazed over blanket of white covering everything; the glinting of iced over budded branches after a sleet storm-- the silver reflecting off their sparkling skeletons of wood.

Winter is a time of mystery, enchantment and simple calculation. I always reach for Robert Frost, Emily Dickinson, Edgar Allen Poe, the Bronte sisters, Shakespeare's Tragedies...  those words hit me when it's cold; when the harsh finality of winter creeps in, like a delightful melancholy that I can revel in.

I love the sense of Gothic Romance that I recapture every year, as autumn trips delicately and is caught in winter's icy grasp.

Fall is beautiful; like the last dance of the earth's beauty before she slips into the graceful, darkened, sleeping death that is winter.

The fall and snowy holidays have always been my favorite; perhaps because cheerfulness and fun are made more exciting by the dichotomy of the bleakness in which they reside.

Winter is beautiful and dangerous... some might say, like the wrong kind of partner. ;-)

Oh, how many of us have fallen for that mysterious, moody, sexy and seemingly 'wrong,' person? Love affairs are like the seasons; they change.  Hopefully we find another person who has enough range (like the weather) to keep us interested, excited and appreciative.

We move through phases of attraction just as the earth moves through her wardrobe of color and thermostat--- if a person is lucky enough to meet up with someone who loves them back, however brief or lengthy the time; life is worth it.

Hopefully we learn from all our mistakes and follies...  enjoy each season as it happens, passes and shifts... knowing that it will come again, whether we desire it or not, and that we must eventually prepare or be overtaken by the transition.

It is this changing of the seasons that acts as the anchor, the constant; the chapter headings in the book of being alive.

I am of the opinion that partners should be able to dance through the seasons; change with the tides and times; grow into and around each other and flex with the wind, rains, suns and snows.

Love should change and develop with the seasons; no autumn, summer, spring or winter is the same as the last--- so should love be different, dynamic and newly familiar each time.

Thursday, October 4, 2012

The Smell of Snow!

A purple glow invaded my consciousness as I opened my eyes. My nose felt cold... in fact, my whole face felt cold above the warm cloud of comforter. Slowly twisting to glance at the clock, it read 5:50 AM.

Strangely, this did not elicit groaning from my sleepy brain. 

I felt my system rapidly buzzing, my whole body was waking up very quickly.  I knew that any attempt at sleeping further would be entirely futile.The realization that my cheeks and skin were flushing in the cold early morning air was certainly strange though... isn't our bedroom still inside the house? 

 Carefully and gently, I extricated myself from the steaming warmth of the blankets and padded into the bathroom.

The tiles felt freezing.

I grabbed my robe and tip-toed into the kitchen. Opening the side door I peeked out into the blue gray air. Frost had covered the grass and trees like a transparent white glaze; mist was floating and rolling around the yard. 

I took a deep breath in and sensed something else in the fresh air... something besides the crisp early morning dew, besides the musty smell of dry leaves and earth and beyond the clean smell of the night's rainfall. 

I was inhaling the scent of snow.

Today was going to be an exciting day. 


There's something magical about the smell of the sky when snow is building inside the fluffy, silver depths of the clouds.

That smell makes me long for fall in Vermont.

 I want to see the cascading flush of crimson, gold, orange, yellow and brown leaves again, hear the morning silence as the fog falls in billows down to the meadow, chased away by the pink and glowing gold of dawn.

I want to breathe in the fragrance of maple syrup warming on the stove as it mingles with the scent of freshly ground coffee and biscuits; spreading out from the kitchen like buttery fingers wafting through the entire house, both upstairs and down.

I want to see the frost on the trees and the first large flakes that fall in slow-motion; fat and outlined against the street-light lit blue evening.

I can almost feel the first, gentle winter winds pricking my cheeks and tickling my eyes with tears as my  scarf is blown about.


Winter is coming and I know because this morning, I scented snow. 


Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Updates, Cupcakes, Sleeping Lates and Syncopates...

I've been absent a while.  I've been making things like pumpkin chocolate chip cupcakes, applesauce cookies, chocolate oatmeal blueberry plumb crumble bread, and pumpkin pie bites. J and I have also been sleeping in as much as we can because of his crazy work/school schedule.

Sorry about that. I didn't intend to neglect my blog, I promise.

I've been baking every week for my choir: they're perhaps not aware that they've been eating vegan, gluten-free, entirely organic, low-sweetner treats for the past few weeks.


However, today I am going to make chocolate chip cookies: Gf flour, dark chocolate chunks, bananas, cinnamon, brown sugar, raw sugar, baking soda, a pinch of sea salt, coconut oil and LOVE.

I may even put some oatmeal and molasses in; just for something new.

Baking and cooking (I've been IN LOVE with casseroles.. more on that later) this past month has been very important to me.

I've been editing, writing letters of recommendation, and finding MORE and MORE things that need to be done.  Such as thank you notes and wedding preparation.

I've been writing a lot in my head, going over and over my novels and making changes and adjustments---- something I've got to do on the page very soon.

For today, I'll leave you with a casserole recipe. I vary it a lot, but here's what I usually do. It's completely organic, vegan and EASY. It tastes cheesy and warm and gooey delicious.

1) Mise en Place:

Preheat oven to 375 degrees; you may want it slightly warmer if you live at altitude (as I do).

1 casserole dish,

1 sautee pan,

1 bag frozen vegetables of your choice (I've been using half spinach and half broccoli),

1 quarter grated squash (been using 1/4 acorn squash or 1/2 to 1 zucchini),

a pinch of salt; pepper; cajun spices or chili powder,

2 tablespoons flour (I use gf oat or bob's red mill)

3 tablespoons (or a bit more) fat (I use coconut oil, but butter would work too)

Approximately 3/4 to 1 Cup liquid (I use almond milk, but any dairy or unsweetened/flavored milk substitute would work)

1 can pumpkin (NOT pie mix please),

1 fork,

1 wooden spoon,

1 handful slivered almonds and sunflower seeds, OR the savory breadcrumb topping of your choice (heck, use fried onions if you want, I don't care).

2) Dump frozen veggies and shredded squash/zuchinni in casserole (you can grease or NOT grease the casserole dish with fat, it doesn't really matter). Sprinkle with a pinch of salt, pepper and chili spices. Set aside.

3) Place the sautee pan on the stove on medium low. Add 3 tablespoons of coconut oil/butter. When melted, add the 2 table spoons of flour and stir continuously with a wooden spoon so that it does not burn. This is called making a rue. You want to cook the flour until it smells nutty and darkens in color (it should smell buttery, like rolls baking in the oven) -- my grandmother would say at LEAST 3 to 5 minutes. If the mixture in the pan is more watery than gooey, add a bit more flour and cook another few minutes.

4) Then, gently season the rue with salt, pepper, chili powder, and slowly add your almond milk (or other liquid dairy/milk substitute). KEEP stirring and turn the heat to medium. The mixture should hiss a bit when you add the liquid, and begin to form blobs. It will keep thickening to the consistency of gravy! This was our GOAL! :-D You may want to add more liquid if it's too thick. If it's too runny, don't worry, this next step will solve that. When the gravy has reached the desired thickness, turn the heat back to low.

5) Open the can of pumpkin and stir it up inside the can with a fork. You want it to look whipped, not chunky. Add by the forkful to the gravy in the pan a little at a time, stirring with the fork to prevent lumps and incorporate the pumpkin smoothly into the sauce.

6) When the pumpkin is all mixed into the gravy, it should be a nice brown orange color. Taste it (carefully, it's HOT) and adjust seasoning-- you can add herbs or a little worcestershire sauce if you like to make it less pumpkiny and more cheesy. MMMM.....

7) Turn off burner. Pour gravy over veggies in casserole dish and carefully stir. Or don't. It doesn't really matter, but it will cook more quickly if you stir because remember, we used some frozen veggies.

8) Sprinkle with the almond/sunflower seed mix OR your breadcrumb mix.

9) Place in oven and bake for approximately 40 minutes, or until an inserted fork comes out warm all the way down the tines, and the top of the casserole is brown and crunchy.

10) A good way to know if it's done is if you can smell the DELICIOUSNESS from the living room/throughout the rest of the house.

11) Remove casserole from the oven and set to cool for 10 minutes. Then EAT. I like to sprinkle nutritional yeast on top of mine because it adds to the cheesy flavor.


More narrative later. I just felt like sharing some COOKING with you today.


Fall is my FAVORITE!