Thursday, 28 March 2013

Roman Holidays & Twofer Pumpkin Bread

I realised that in the past 6 weeks there have been 2 American holidays - Valentines Day and St.Patrick's Day. A third more personal holiday was my daughter's birthday. Of the three, my daughter's birthday was the one that was fully celebrated. She was serenaded at the bus stop, her locker was decorated at school, each friend gave her candy, and she was sung to again at soccer practise. The last time she was so excited about a birthday was when she turned 4! The large bag of candy is the closest she'll ever get a an American Halloween.

While I was thinking about the topic of holidays down under, my US friend posted an article from The Huffington Post, on her Facebook page titled: 'Can We Bring the Holidays Down a Notch?' (
I found this ironic as I'd been thinking about this same topic and wondering if there was any holiday hoopla in Australia? Should I continue my American celebrations of Valentine's Day, St.Patrick's Day and even Halloween even if they are not celebrated much where I am currently living? When in Rome, should I be a Roman?

Since a topic like this is hard to research, I searched out my dog park acquaintances. This is an excellent "research group" to speak with as they are different ages, different professions, different personalities, and bear no emotional connection to me. Overall, I was told in the usual direct, honest Aussie way - Why would you celebrate Valentine's Day or St.Patrick's Day or Halloween? What is the significance of these days? What do you know about them? Aren't these fluffy holidays; just a ploy to spend more money and buy more things (aka American consumerism)? Since holiday traditions stem from childhood memories, there are many questions I need to ask as I continue living overseas and raising children here - Isn't it nice to celebrate Valentine's Day, a holiday  focusing on love? Yes. Do I really need to eat more chocolate and buy a Target red t-shirt for that day? No. With my husband and I sharing Irish heritage, is it important to celebrate St. Patrick's Day? Maybe. Do I want to eat corned beef and cabbage? No but the beer is fine. Is it fun to dress up for Halloween? Yes. Do the kids need all that candy? No. Lots to consider.....

From my experience, the only holidays that are big celebrations here are those with large significance - birthdays, ANZAC Day (veterans), Australia Day, and Christian holidays - Christmas and Easter. This is not surprising since according to 2011 Census, 61% of Australians adhere to some form of Christianity and religion is also in taught in public schools. As we get closer to Easter, I'm seeing lots of Easter candy and flowers in the stores. The Royal Easter Show (think fancy county fair) is in full swing and Good Friday and Easter Monday are both public holidays, so a four day weekend is upon us. It is really a holiday as the country will shut down. Except for the petrol station, a grocery store and maybe a few cafes, everything else will be closed. I am glad to see some Easter hoopla because at the end of the day, I like any holiday that gives people time to slow down, visit with family & friends, and eat a good meal.

With Easter approaching, I'm automatically thinking about chocolate, tulips, longer days and sunshine. These are the nostalgic things that remind me of my youth and growing up in upstate New York. I still get confused with the opposite Southern Hemisphere seasons. Here in Australia, Easter is an autumn holiday. March 1 (yes, March 1 not March 21) indicates the beginning of autumn (and yes, that is 'autumn' and not 'fall' as people only fall down or fall pregnant). With the cooler weather that is yet to come, I am trying to think about apples, sweaters, and crock pot cooking. One of my favourite everyday autumn recipes is Pumpkin Bread. I call it Twofer Pumpkin Bread as this recipe makes 2 loaves, uses only 2 bowls (the less clean up the better) and I make 2 different types of pumpkin bread with this one recipe. I LOVE this pumpkin bread - it is healthy, moist and more nutritious than most loaf breads.

Twofer Pumpkin Bread
altered from original recipe in Baked: New Frontiers in Baking cookbook



3.25 cups/455 g of  regular flour

2 tsp/10 g cinnamon

1 tsp/5 g nutmeg

1/2 tsp/2.5 g allspice

1/2 tsp/2.5 g ginger 

2 tsp/10 g baking soda

1 tsp/5 g salt

1-15 oz can/420 g of pumpkin puree* (see notes at bottom)

1 cup/240 ml vegetable oil * (see note at bottom)

2 cups/400 gm sugar

4 large eggs

1 tsp/5ml pure vanilla extract

1/2 cup/120 ml water

Optional  Mix-Ins - chocolate chips, sultanas (raisins), walnuts, pecans

1) Preheat oven to 350 F/ 175 C degrees.

2) In large bowl, make dry mixture: add flour, cinnamon, nutmeg, allspice, ginger, baking soda, and salt. Hand stir to combine.

3) In another bowl, make wet mixture: add pumpkin puree and vegetable oil and hand stir through to combine. Add sugar and stir through again. Add eggs one at a time and stir through with each addition.Add vanilla extract and water and stir through.

4) Add wet mixture to dry mixture in 3 batches. Hand stir through to combine with each addition, making sure to scrape down sides and churn up bottom so the batter mixes evenly. The batter will be slightly lumpy BUT you do not want to over beat batter as this will make the bread denser and more chewy.

5) Divide batter between 2 greased loaf pans and place in oven OR add additional mix-ins to bread. In my photos, I divided the finished batter equally between the 2 used bowls and added 3/4  dark chocolate chips to 1 bowl and a 3/4 cup mix of raisins/sultanas and walnuts to the other.

6) Place loaves into oven and cook for 1 hour 15 minutes. If you can, rotate each loaf pan 1/2 way through cooking to ensure more even cooking.

7) When cool, serve plain or toasted with butter or cream cheese.

- Libby's Pumpkin Puree is sold at speciality deli's. In my neighbourhood, the Green Grocer always stocks it near the deli, just ask. Another substitution is microwaving a Jap Pumpkin and then pureeing it so you have 2 cups. (Yes, there is a Jap pumpkin here and also a fish called, 'Jewfish') 

- To reduce fat, instead of 1 cup vegetable oil, use 1/2 cup vegetable oil and 1/2 cup applesauce.


  1. Don't knock the corn beef and cabbage. It goes really well with beer, especially a Guiness. Just stay away from the mass brewed Aussie stuff as it almost makes Bud drinkable. Think Little Creatures, White Rabbit, Murray's or 4 Pines.

  2. Hi Susan, as I remember when the JAP pumpkin came on the market they were looking for a name for the new varietal and decidned on Just a Pumpkin....original I know!
    Another pumpkin experience for me - was in US for thanksgiving once and had the audacity to serve roast pumpkin with the turkey - they thought I was crazy! Ruth

    1. Hi Ruth! Really JAP pumpkin comes form that? I never knew. The US has so much diversity and different ethnic groups that Americans have to be sensitive when naming anything so as not to upset anyone. 'Jap pumkin' and 'Jewfish' would definitely offend some people and would not be used despite the innocent reasons. Just not PC, politically correct there.


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