Fall Pumpkin Dip

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I love fall. I love the colors, the spice, drinking hot drinks, crisp weather… Fall is the last bit of color before the trees bare and snow falls. Here in Pennsylvania, fall is dragging on and on. The trees glow with more colors than I remember from last year.

And then the food…spicy pumpkin pie and spicy chai lattes. And in this case a spicy pumpkin dip.

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A friend and I abandoned homework and escaped to town. We stopped at a fruit market and chose the perfect pumpkin to contain the dip. Inside we picked out crisp Gala apples and mellow pears. At the grocery store, we found gingersnaps to finish the snack.

At home I sawed into the pumpkin, carefully removing the top for a lid, scooping out the seeds and strings, and chopping out as much of the flesh as I could. I needed 2 cups of pumpkin puree. The easiest way to make your own pumpkin puree is to chop the pumpkin in half, cover both sides with foil, and bake at 350 degrees for thirty minutes. I chose the complicated method of cutting into the side and pulling out what I could. Thankfully pumpkin is fibrous, so it pulled out nicely. I put the pumpkin in a dish and baked it at 350 for 20 minutes. It turned out perfectly. I threw that and one cup of squash into the blender, added 8 ounces cream cheese, ginger, nutmeg, and cinnamon, and brown sugar. It was yummy! Then I dumped it back into the pumpkin. It made me smile. I love when something fits so well. It was just delightfully earthy and the perfect stress reliever after a busy week and crazy tests. Plus it made other people happy.

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{Fall Pumpkin Dip} from Tasty Kitchen

  • 8 ounces cream cheese
  • 1 cup light brown sugar – I changed it to 1/2 cup and it felt really healthy. The girls never knew I changed it. 🙂
  • ¾ teaspoons ground ginger
  • ½ teaspoons ground nutmeg
  • 2 teaspoons cinnamon
  • 15 ounces pumpkin puree (1 can)

In a food processor (or in a bowl by hand), pulse the cream cheese until smooth. Add the sugar and spices and blend well.

Empty cream cheese mixture into a bowl, add the pumpkin puree, and mix well.

Refrigerate until ready to serve.

Belligerence and Butterflies

Following is an essay I wrote for English Composition this semester about a neighbor at home. His name has been changed.

            “Don’t mess with Ronnie Piper. You get in his way and he’ll curse you off the property if he doesn’t shoot you off.” This was the warning my parents received when they bought a rundown house a quarter mile down the road from the Pipers. He and his wife had lived on that corner for years; our house was once owned by her grandmother.  A coarse, sailor-like appearance and a belligerent attitude made Ronnie seem like a neighbor to avoid, but seeing him as the ‘butterfly man’ revealed an unforgettable contrast.

            The coarse, sailor-man neighbor towered over me as I stood timidly at his front door. My eyes, focused on the floorboards, saw scuffed, brown, work shoes. My eyes traveled up and up. His thin, checkered shirt hung well below his waist, noticeably so because his pants were hitched up over his stomach. Huge, thick hands held open the screen door. He looked down at me through wire rimmed glasses held up by a hook nose. “You need some Worcestershire sauce?” he bellowed over my head. Shyly I held out the small, Tupperware container my mom had sent. “I’ll let Sheri fill this up. Hey, I’ve got some ice cream bars out in the freezer. You and the rest of the kids at home want some?” So it became a tradition; we borrowed from them and never left without ice cream. As we walked home licking Schwann’s ice cream bars, we giggled over his frequent question, “How many to home?” We could predict his question, but he never could remember how many kids there were.

Stories of Ronnie’s reputation were woven into my community’s recent history. Ronnie and Sheri had eloped in their late teens, their first child already on the way. He had little chance of making a good impression on his mother-in-law. His size, brusque manner and lack of respect for God’s name thrust him neatly in a truck-driver stereo-type. To his distress, Amish neighbors came over to borrow the phone; it was one of these men who warned us to avoid him. Although he was respectful around my family, I knew by the stories Ronnie told that the Amish man’s caution was valid. There was the time the coyote hunters requested to hunt in his woods; in no uncertain terms he told them they could never hunt in his woods. Another time he heard noises outside his house at night. He kept a gun handy for a while, not to shoot them, but to let them know someone was home.

            Ronnie as butterfly man began almost by accident. In a conversation with Ronnie, my dad casually mentioned my mom’s hobby of collecting and raising monarch caterpillars. Ronnie was hooked. First, he brought worms to our house to add to my mom’s nursery. He asked for information and did his own research. Soon he was going on caterpillar hunts with my mom. He called regularly or puttered in in his gray, beat-up Ford like a little boy, thrilled with his latest find. He found his own gallon jar and filled it with milkweed and caterpillars. He Facebooked, posting what he found in the field and online. His wonder grew when my mom started tagging the butterflies headed to Mexico. Seeing the big man searching for caterpillars in a field of weeds did not seem to fit his character.

            Ronnie’s looks were not deceiving. Some people experienced a quarrelsome, cantankerous red-neck.  When he drove past on his motorcycle, it was easy to imagine him as part of a wild gang. But how many people have seen his heart, softened by the deaths of his son, mother, and wife in the last five years? When we stepped away from all the labels stuck onto him, we found a nice neighbor, one willing to do chores and lend cupcake liners.