A warm, comforting aroma of the season will waft throughout your home when you bake this delicious and moist pumpkin bread that my neighbor passed on to me years ago. It never disappoints. It must be the smooth canned pumpkin that provides the consistent results.
Get your kids involved in the planning and shopping. Before you head for the grocery store, let them investigate and see if the spices and baking powder hiding in the back of your cupboard are out of date. Fresh is always best.
When it's time to bake, gather the ingredients and basic tools you'll need, and set them out on the counter. Preheat the oven, put on aprons and get started. Measure, sniff, stir and talk together as you make and bake this spicy bread.
Serve slices warm with mugs of cider, and relax together as you experience a new fall memory and one of the simple joys of family and home.
PERFECT PUMPKIN BREAD
1/2 cup vegetable oil
1 1/2 cups sugar
2 eggs, lightly beaten
1 cup canned pumpkin
1 3/4 cups flour
1/2 teaspoon each: ground cinnamon, cloves, allspice, nutmeg
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 cup water
1/4 cup raisins or coarsely chopped nuts, such as pecans or walnuts (optional)
Heat oven to 350 F. Grease and flour one 1-1/2-pound loaf pan. (Place parchment paper or waxed paper on the bottom of the pan for easy removal.)
In a large bowl, mix together oil, sugar, eggs and pumpkin until well blended.
In a separate bowl, sift together flour, spices, salt, baking soda and baking powder.
Stir dry ingredients into pumpkin mixture alternately with water. Fold in raisins or nuts, if you wish.
Pour into pan. Bake about 1 hour, or until wooden pick inserted in center comes out clean. Remove from pan. Cool thoroughly before slicing. Makes one loaf.
Tip: While all the ingredients are out, make an extra loaf or two to give to others.
FALL LEAF PLAY
Romping in the rain decked out in rubber boots and raincoats is a happy pastime for Canadian-born Melissa Oliveri and her 5-year-old son Luca. And when the leaves change color, it's even more of an adventure, especially when the falling leaves in their neighborhood are Melissa's beloved maples, the symbol of her homeland.
Pockets full of colorful maples are often the centerpieces of fun learning activities when they get home -- like creating an artful version of the Canadian flag. Noting the 11 points on the leaf, they sandwich it between pieces of adhesive-backed, self-laminating sheets and glue it to the center of a large sheet of white art paper. Melissa draws two vertical red lines from top to bottom on the paper, about two inches from the side edges of the leaf. Luca fills in the two borders with red markers, crayons or paint, and it's ready to hang.
Explore the magic of leaves and other nature finds where you live this week. Here are two more ideas:
SWIMMING IN THE LEAVES
If raking the yard is on your to-do list, set out your kiddie pool before you store it for winter, and fill it to overflowing with fallen leaves. Luca enjoyed active afternoons as a preschooler "swimming," "splashing" and "kicking" in the contained space of crackly red and gold leaves, while Melissa and her husband got the raking done.
PRESS AND FRAME
First, press a variety of shapes and colors of leaves. Spread them out on smooth paper towels. Place heavy books on top and let the leaves dry for a couple of days. Remove books and gently remove leaves. Or, simply press them in pages of a phone book.
Group them together in an inexpensive poster frame, and display in a prominent place in your home. If you have a collage-style frame with outdated or faded photos, remove them and frame different leaves in the square and/or oval sections of the matting.
Donna Erickson's award-winning series "Donna's Day" is airing on public television nationwide. To find more of her creative family recipes and activities, visit www.donnasday.com and link to the new Donna's Day Facebook fan page. Her latest book is "Donna Erickson's Fabulous Funstuff for Families." (c) 2015 Donna Erickson Distributed by King Features Synd.