Saturday, November 18, 2006

I Return with a Peace Offering - A Great Pumpkin Bread Recipe

Well, I've taken rather a long hiatus from my blog, but I promise to return to being reasonably regular in my posts now -- or at least until I'm under the gun with another book illustration deadline (Merry Christmas, Cheeps! by Julie Stiegemeyer derailed me last time. It's due out from Bloomsbury next fall). I'm going to continue soon with my A Tree Grows in Brooklyn comments that I abandoned last spring, but for now I wanted to share a favorite seasonal recipe.

The recipe that follows is for my mother's pumpkin bread -- and it is absolutely the best pumpkin bread in the world, as well as my favorite comfort food. It works for tough times and happy ones, and it makes a great gift or a pick-me-up for yourself. Today I took a loaf to a gathering to remember my friend Susan's mother, who died recently after a long illness, and last week I baked it for my sister on her birthday. I've wrapped it up in care packages for my son who's a freshman in college several times this fall. It tastes especially good on a gloomy autumn day, but I'm happy to eat it all year, in any weather. I pretend, quite successfully, that the nutritional value of the pumpkin offsets all the sugar.

Kee Mom's Pumpkin Bread
Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Grease 2 regular loaf pans, or 4 1-lb coffee cans (I use Pam spray) .

In a medium mixing bowl, sift together and set aside:
3 1/2 cups of flour
2 tsp. baking soda, slightly rounded
1 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp nutmeg
1 tsp salt

In a large mixing bowl, combine:
3 cups of sugar (my mom says she uses less, but...)
1 cup vegetable oil (I use canola oil)
4 eggs

Gradually add the dry ingredients to the wet ones, alternating with the contents of:
1 15-oz can pumpkin

If you like, you can stir in:
1 cup chopped walnuts or pecans

Divide batter evenly among your loaf pans and bake for 1 hour. Dump the loaves out of the pans and cool on a rack. Delicious served with cream cheese or all by itself.

Okay, while your pumpkin bread is cooling, get out some good picture books to share with a little friend while you nibble your treat. If it happens to be a one year old you're reading to, here are my recommendations for must-own books:

Goodnight Gorilla by Peggy Rathmann. Look for the balloon on each spread and share the giggles. Some one year olds can even "get" the allusion to Goodnight Moon.

Helen Oxenbury's large board books -- Clap Hands, Say Goodnight, Tickle, Tickle, and All Fall Down. These books are a visual feast for any age, and tykes quickly learn the short, simple rhymes, chiming in with actions and rhymes.

More, More, More Said the Baby by Vera B. Williams. This is one of my all time favorite baby books, with lush paintings, and a sweetness that appeals to kids and parents alike. It also invites acting out the fun, with chases, kisses, and even toe nibbles.

Tumble Me Tumbily by Karen Baicker (my sister-in-law). Fun language and real warmth. Also available as a series of three board books (Wakity Wake, Yum Tummy Tickly, and Snuggle Me Snuggly).

Cheep! Cheep! by Julie Stiegemeyer and illustrated by me! (Bloomsbury, 2006). It's particularly useful if you're expecting a new family member soon.

Also, anything by Sandra Boynton, the Nicky books by Harriet Ziefert (No, No Nicky was a much read title in my house), and many of the Karen Katz titles (like Where Is Baby's Belly Button -- fun lift-the-flap books).

Whew, this is long. I'll list books for two year olds next time.

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