I managed to collect on some accrued alone time this Saturday, heading out for an hour or so with my camera in hand. After not taking any photos for 2 weeks, it was fabulous to get out there and do something… especially taking the extra time to play with the manual focus, as the lens I decided to take with me did not have autofocus. My camera is a cheaper model which does not have an internal motor of its own and relies on the newer lenses to have the motor, the lens I was using was an older model that does not have a motor either. It can be a pain to get right but I often find that using manual focus affords me much higher levels of precision, although obviously it would be of little use when taking photos of Mikey or something else that moves quickly.
While out, I ran into a small group of our local feral African Rose-Ringed Parakeets. I first noticed these birds in the trees outside my apartment a couple of years ago, when we had just recently arrived here from our last duty station in Texas. It’s not difficult to miss a flock of noisy, bright green birds that are very obviously not native to Germany, but I hadn’t seen them in a long time… not since the summer. I hadn’t managed to get a photograph of any of them until then either.
Thanksgiving is rapidly approaching as well. Really I will take any excuse to be in the kitchen all day, although I’m still quite the novice at cooking Thanksgiving. I always have to double check before deciding on what to cook, to make sure that I’m cooking the kind of thing that Americans usually eat on the day and it’s perhaps something that will take a good few years for me to actually get used to. I’m not cooking it all myself this year though, having learned from last years mistake, this year we’re sharing the cooking.
I know I’m definitely going to be making Sweet-roasted Acorn Squash, Homemade Cranberry Sauce and Mashed Potato. Most of the other parts of the meal are still up for grabs with the friends who will be celebrating with us. I’m refusing outright to deal with the green bean casserole, as I’m fairly sure it’s the most revolting American dish I’ve ever come across (with apologies to anyone who likes it!) I’m really just glad that we don’t have to juggle everything around a turkey taking up all of the space in the oven this year, a friend who lives close by will be cooking that at her house.
I may, however, also throw together another batch of these Pumpkin Cranberry Muffins for breakfast on the day. I’m always fairly surprised when baking recipes that I’ve altered actually turn out how I want. Cooking is another matter and I always feel fairly confident changing up ingredients, baking though? It still scares me a little.
Pumpkin Cranberry Muffins
Modified heavily from an original recipe for Pumpkin Cranberry Bread, Gourmet Magazine, November 1996.
The recipe calls for fresh or frozen cranberries, but I didn’t have either of these so I actually used dried cranberries, with encouragement on twitter from Zoe of A Giraffe in a Scarf. If you’re interested, I put my dried cranberries in a bowl with a splash of orange juice, covered them with plastic wrap and microwaved for 1 minute. Then I let them rest, covered, until they were needed in the recipe. They turned out great.
1 cup unbleached, all purpose flour
1 cup wholewheat flour
2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1 tsp ground ginger
1/2 tsp allspice
1 cup canned, solid pack pumpkin
1 cup sugar
1/4 cup water
2 large eggs
1/4 cup vegetable oil
1 cup fresh or frozen cranberries.
Some raw sugar from sprinkling the tops.
Preheat the oven to 350F. Line a muffin tin with paper liners.
In a medium bowl, whisk together the flours, baking powder, baking soda, salt and spices. Put aside.
With an electric mixer, beat together the pumpkin, sugar, eggs, water and oil until smooth. Add the flour mixture and stir until the batter is just combined. Stir in the cranberries.
Spoon the batter into the paper liners, filling each one almost to the top. Sprinkle the top of each with some raw sugar and bake on the center rack of the oven for 20 – 30 minutes or until a toothpick inserted comes out clean. Set to cool on a wire rack.