Friday, October 7, 2016

The Autumnal Equinox Tradition

Traditions are some of my favorite things to learn about. I love knowing what people do, and why. I love seeing the bits of heart put into things, and how these traditions bring people together. 

When we were first married traditions seemed hard. We hadn't been married long enough to have any traditions together. We borrowed traditions from growing up and from what we saw people doing, and tried them out. Some we loved. Some didn't work. 

But one tradition that has stuck around, and that may be one of our favorite traditions now, is our annual Autumnal Equinox Dinner. This dinner tradition started as a spin-off of a tradition Cameron's family had. 

On the Winter Solstice, the Mowers would all get dressed up in their Sunday best and come together for a traditional Christmas meal, as Christmas day they had the traditional New Mexican feast. For the solstice they'd have ham, potatoes, and the whole works. We wanted to carry this on, but as students we weren't likely to be home for the Solstice each year and we wanted this to be a tradition we could do at our house. So we chose the Autumnal Equinox, because it's smack in the middle of the semester and we knew we'd be home the new couple of years and could do this as something special for us. 

A few weeks ago we had our 6th Annual Autumnal Equinox Dinner. 

Last year it fell on Day 2 of the Keeping Up Appearances challenge and I definitely bit off more than I could chew. So this year we tried to keep it a little more simple with the food prep. No crazy melted cake this year! We ended up with some super yummy parts of the meal, some meh parts, but somehow thankfully no Pinstrosities other than me not starting food prep early enough and us starting about 40 minutes later than planned. But that's doable.

Instead of getting the whole meal from Pinterest this year, I decided to mix and match. I turned to our favorite cookbook for the chicken, because every single recipe we try out of the America's Test Kitchen cookbook (with every recipe they've tried from 2001-2014) turns out phenomenal. We've never had anything not turn out. Well, except the time I forgot to make the sauce. That time the meal was meh...but that was my fault. I trust that book over anything I find on Pinterest.

But, I can't throw a party without Pinterest being involved somehow of course! 

Pinterest successes #1 & #2: The Pumpkin Shaped Buffalo Ranch Cheeseball

This one is a double win! While looking for cheese ball ideas (because that in and of itself is becoming an Autumnal Equinox Dinner tradition), I came across a pin for a pumpkin shaped cheese ball. I was sold.

I made the cheese ball from this recipe and tasted it. Super salty and intense! So I added another block of cream cheese, and then threw in more grated cheese to get a better consistency. After that it was just right. I rolled it in finely grated cheddar cheese to get the orange color on the outside and because there were nut allergies in our guests.

Then it came time to shape it. I didn't have rubber bands on hand, but I did have yarn. So I cut three lengths of yarn, and then used each one to tie around the plastic wrapped cheese ball, tying it tight enough that it cut into the cheese to create the divot. When it came time to put the platter together I cut the yarn, took the cheese ball out of the plastic wrap, added in the stem from a bell pepper, and it was ready!

This one was fun because it looks fancy, but is super easy. Our friends thought at first that I'd molded it or spent a long time getting the shape right. So A+ for this pin!!

Pinterest success #3: Curried Carrot Soup

This was one we'd actually made before from a pin we'd found on Pinterest. It's simple to make, but so so so yummy! No pictures from that night, but here's a picture from when we made it before:

Pinterest Success #4: Prickly Pear Lemonade

And by the time this got put together and out to serve, the party was in full swing and my camera was safely stowed away from the kids. But, it looked just like the pictures in the original link. And we "dirtied" it up redneck style with Almond Joy creamer (our grocery store here didn't have plain coconut cream creamer, so we went with the Almond Joy, and that touch of chocolate flavor was yummy)!

And the Pinterest Meh: The Snickerdoodle Pie

I was pretty excited about this one. Super excited. Which maybe is why it ended up meh, because I had it built up so much in my head. I even did a series of pigs running around the outside for the crust (because naturally I have a pig cookie cutter, but nothing remotely fall-ish likes leaves or anything). 

First thing that went weird was the amount of filling. It didn't even fill the crust half way. I made a deep dish pie (as always), but normally even regular pie recipes come up higher than that on my deep dishes. I reread the recipe and the comments and it didn't say anything about it puffing up or anything, so I decided to make another batch of the filling to get it to the top of the pie. 

And in the oven it went. But of course because there was double the filling, it took much longer to bake. But the crust didn't burn (wrapped it in foil), and it smelled and looked delicious. Anticipation was high! 

Dinner got over and it was time to cut into the pie (and just now as I am sitting here typing this I realize that I completely spaced getting the whipped cream out for it!). I cut the first slice, pulled it out and it was a pake! For anyone who's not a Drop Dead Diva fan, that's a pie and a cake combined. The filling was cake basically. It didn't taste bad, but it was just kinda meh, and a bit of an odd consistency. I think I was expecting more of a baked custard pie for some reason. No one disliked it, but it looked yummier than it ended up being sadly. 

So I might try tweaking it a little and seeing if I can't come up with my own snickerdoodle pie that's more what we were expecting. We'll see.

But altogether it was a fabulous meal!

  • Peruvian Garlic Lime Chicken (for a subscription fee you can find the recipe here, or in the cook book, which is totally worth buying!)
  • Buffalo Ranch Cheeseball shaped like a pumpkin, served with Smoked Gouda Triscuits, Ritz crackers, and blue corn tortilla chips
  • Curried Carrot Soup, served with blue corn tortilla chips to crush over the top
  • Oatmeal Rolls (these are Cameron's favorite rolls! I burned the bottoms slightly on accident, but they still weren't bad)
  • Fresh corn on the cob from the neighbors fields (a kind neighbor with a field full of corn opened up his fields to all of us, and our friends brought down a basket of steaming fresh corn! It was super yummy!)
  • Red Cabbage Slaw (I need to get the recipe for this one from our friends who brought it! It was super yummy!)
  • Prickly Pear Lemonade
  • Snickerdoodle Pie

The "rule" (or tradition might be a less harsh way to put it), is that the fall decor doesn't come out until the day of the Equinox dinner. It was fun to pull out my wreath, garlands, and table runner again! But then I got an idea and before everyone came Cameron and I ran around the yard and the empty lot across the wash from us and gathered bits of nature for a tablescape. We cut down some of the sunflower stalks to make a table garland for the center. Cameron also found an Osage Orange tree (also known as a hedge apple) and we picked a few to go into the decor (because I think they look so funky and cool! Topping it all off was the gorgeous autumn bouquet my friend Wendy brought. The colors were perfect! It's still on my kitchen table and other than a few flowers we've had to pull out, it's doing beautifully! 

Overall, each portion of the meal and the evening was simple, but when combined all together it was such a nice evening and a yummy meal! We loved the time we had to visit with our friends and celebrate the goodness of life. I can't wait for next year's dinner already!

What is your favorite tradition? How'd it come about?

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