Sweet, Sweet Sunday

Purely Pure Pumpkin Puree

Since this year I have tried to stay away from processed and prepackaged foods, I decided that it would be fun to take advantage of the millions and billions of pumpkins that are available this time of year.

I had read that there was something different about the texture and flavor of pumpkin pies and other baked goods made from pureew.

At first I thought that pumpkins are a pain in the butt, and the only people who would ever take the time to make their own pumpkin puree would be those over-achievers who pretend that they are Martha Stewart and are lost in the dark ages.

But then I remembered my mom always telling me that the secret to making awesome food is to have awesome ingredients, and there is no way that I would ever eat the pumpkin puree that you can buy in a can.

Making pumpkin puree while pumpkins are available on just about every street corner makes total sense and allows you to enjoy better, especially when you take the time to make enough pumpkin puree to stock your freezer. All year long you will have a much better pumpkin ingredient available as you are baking such things are pumpkin pie, pumpkin bread, pumpkin muffins, pumpkin dip, pumpkin cookies, pumpkin butter, and so forth.

1,  Choose your pumpkins…You can roast as many small pumpkins at a time as you want. Tyically each pound of uncooked pumpkin will yield one pound of mashed and cooked pumpkin.

Make sure that the pumpkins that you use are the small “sugar” or “pie” pumpkins that are “bred” specifically for baking and cooking…not the larger pumpkins grown specifically for carving jack-o-lanterns.

These larger pumpkins are not the right texture and do not taste nearly as good.

 

 

2.  Prepare to cook it…

  • Slice a small piece of skin off one side of the pumpkin so when laid on its side, the pumpkin will lay flat without rolling.
  • Remove the stem,
  • Slice the pumpkin in half.
  • Scoop out the seeds and pulp from the center with a large metal spoon, ice cream scoop, or melon baller. Place all the seeds into a bowl for roasting later.
  • Repeat until all the pumpkin pieces are largely free of seeds and pulp.
  • Rinse the pumpkin under cool water to rid the skin of any residual dirt. Dry well with a clean towel.
  • Place pumpkin halves, cut side down, in a roasting pan,
  • Add 1 cup of water to the pan.
  • Rub the cut surfaces with oil.
  • Sprinkle the pieces with kosher salt.

 

 

3.  Cook your pumpkin….At this point you are ready to cook your pumpkin. This can be done in at least three different cooking methods—boiling, roasting, and steaming.

 

a.  Boiling your puree..Bring a large pot of lightly salted water to a boil. Add the pumpkin to the boiling water, Cook for about 25 minutes or until the flesh is tender when pierced with a knife.

b.  Steaming  your puree,…Place the pumpkin pieces in either a steamer or a metal colander placed over a pot of boiling water. Cover. Let steam for about 50 minutes or until the flesh is tender when pierced with a knife.

c.  Roasting your puree…Preheat your oven to 375 degrees. Bake the pumpkin halves until you can easily insert a paring knife into the pumpkin, This can take anywhere from 30 to 45 minutes, depending on just how large your pumpkin halves actually were.

 

 

4.  Preparing the Puree…

Now that your pumpkin has cooked, your goal is to squash it…until the entire pumpkin has basically turned into baby food.

Let the cooked pumpkin halves cool for at least an hour.

Use a large spoon to remove the roasted flesh of the pumpkin from the skin.

Now smoosh it into smithereens…

This can be done using a food processor, blender, immersion blender, potato masher, or even a fork.

Continue pureeing until all the pumpkin is totally smooth.

If you want your pumpkin more watery, add a few tablespoons of water at a time.

If you want your pumpkin less watery, strain it over a fine mesh strainer to get rid of some of the liquid.

 

 

 

5.  Now what?

At this point you have a choice to either refrigerate and use the pumpkin within the next seven days or to freeze it in Ziploc bags, where it will keep for three months.

If freezing it, store about one cup of pumpkin in each bag.

I honestly find that a smarter idea would be to go ahead and start holiday baking with the fresh pumpkin puree. These five days of baking can save you much needed time later on in the holiday season.

 

After, it’s the most wonderful time of the year…to be getting ready for the most wonderful time of the year…

My how quickly this year has flown!!!

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Getting Healthy, Sweet, Sweet Sunday

Baking with Applesauce

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Being the wife of a type 2 diabetic makes you reconsider the old ways that you have learned to cook, not only in WHAT you cook, but also in HOW you cook.

You become more aware of the amount of saturated fats, sugar, and calories contained in your baked goods.

For example, check out these facts about the nutritional value of Paula Deen’s Sour Cream Pound Cake found in my last post. I’ve been making this cake for about thirty-five years my self and eating it for about fifty, but never stopped to really think about the ingredients until here lately.

But still, being from the Deep South, I absolutely love to bake and would gladly put my sour cream pound cake in competition with anyone else’s at any upcoming state fair this fall.

But how do I still manage to make moist, delicious baked goods that will rival any competitors while also keeping my type 2 diabetic husband’s blood sugar and cholesterol levels in line?

One way is by replacing some of the fat called for in cookie and cake recipes with applesauce.

So this holiday baking season, I plan on making at least some of my traditional recipes using applesauce so that at least some of my offerings will contain less sugar and perhaps even healthy(?!)…since apples have been shown to have great health benefits.—such as helping to prevent cancer, reducing your risk of cardiovascular difficulties, acting as an antioxidant, and diminishing the effects of bad cholesterol.

Sweet, Sweet Sunday

Sorry, Paula Dean…But…

Now that our family is having to change our eating habits and stop cooking like the Southern Baptists from the deepest of the Deep South, all in the name of middle age and type 2 diabetes, are we to live the rest of our lives totally without the Trinity of Deep Southern Cooking—cream cheese, powdered sugar, and butter?!

 

So not happening!!!

Nothing makes my husband smile nearly as much as a Sour Cream Pound Cake fresh out of the oven.

But we have been trying to limit how many caloriess and how much added sugars and saturated fat we consume since becoming more health-conscientious.

Thankfully there are a few suggestions out there that will make your baking supposedly healthier, while keeping it delicious…techniques that will help cut heart-harming fats, refined sugars, and empty calories.

So just in time for the upcoming holiday season, and in time to start completing this year’s Christmas Notebook, here are some ideas…

 

But first, the recipe for Sout Cream Pound Cake, the one and only recipe that I have actually memorized after my thirty-plus years of having my own kitchen, not to mention my very own KitchenAid miser.

Three cups of sugar, six eggs, one cup of sour cream…perhaps a type 2 diabetic from the Deep South’s greatest temptation ever…

 

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Sour Cream Pound Cake

  • 3C flour
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 6 eggs
  • 1/2tsp baking soda
  • 1C sour cream
  • 3C sugar
  • 2C butter

Preheat oven to 350 °F….Cream the butter and sugar together…Add sour cream…Sift the baking soda and flour together…Add to the creamed mixture alternating with eggs, beating in each egg 1 at a time…Add vanilla…Pour the mixture into a greased and floured loaf pan…Bake for 1 hour.

Now taking all of the ingredients in this cake, let’s see if and how we can hopefully make this cake a little less deadly, while keeping it delicious…

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Flout

Time and time again, I have read to simply replace the white flour called for in a recipe with the same amount of whole wheat flour. While whole wheat flour is not as heavily refined and processed as regular white flour, I just don’t want to end up with a sour cream pound cake that tastes like rye bread.

Honestly, I don’t even know that I could replace up to half, or even a spoonful of the all-purpose flour in this recipe with whole-grain flour, That almost sounds like the ultimate kitchen sin.

If you are willing to start using whole grain flours instead of white flour, try first substituting whole gtrain flour for only half of the flour originally called for in the recipe.

Another option is to try  experimenting with flours that are a little more our of the ordinary—such as chickpea or almond flour.

But perhaps the best way to reduce the amount of fat in baking recipes is to use high-quality, low-gluten flour—whole wheat, oat, brown rice––such as King Arthur Brand.

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Sugar…So many baked goods contain completely and entirely way too much sugar in the first place. So as a general rule, you can typically go ahead and reduce the amount of sugar called for in a given recipe by about 25% right out of the bat.

Two other options to help reduce the amount and impact of sugar in your baked goods would be to…

Increasing the amount of other spices—such as ginger, cinnamon and nutmeg—to make up for any sugar that you may be taking out of the recipe will often allow the finished product to still taste good.

Try other sweetener alternatives—such as honey, maple syrup, agave, coconut sugar, pitted dates, or molasses.

 

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Butter…A few substitutes for the “bad fats” often called for in recipes—such as butter, stick margarine, and shortening—would include

  1. Canola oil or any other type of “heart-healthy oil”
  2. Greek yogurt
  3. Ground flax seeds
  4. Ground nuts
  5. Low-fat sour cream
  6.  Prepared all natural nut butters

 

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Egg

Eggs…As far as eggs go, try one of the following ideas…

  1. Replace one whole egg in any given recipe with ¼C zero-fat, zero-cholesterol egg product substitute, such as ConAgra’s Egg Beaters.
  2. Use two egg yolks instead of one complete egg.

 

Heading Off to Work, Sweet, Sweet Sunday

Blessing the Bibliophiles

 

For those of us book lovers who have a nightstand piled high with books, subscribe to the local bookstore’s newsletter, and always keep a paperback close at hand, we belong to a special breed of people called bibliophiles.

And this year why not share your love of reading with other bibliophiles by making a big deal out of this shared passion and giving a literary-themed Christmas gift such as the perfect coffee mug, pair of comfy socks, or a nice and warm blanket. 

   

Blanket…Musical Background in Retro Style Throw Blanket ($40)by Cafe Press

     
Bookmark…Music Beaded Bookmark ($3) by Peter Pauper Press

  

Library Stamp…Monogram Stamp ($20) from The Stamp Maker

  

Mug…”Kindly Go Away, I’m Reading” Mug ($16) by Zazzle

  

 Reading Socks…Fur Tipped Cable Knit Reading Socks

  

 Spoon…ThePaperSpoon4U

  

Sweatshirt…The Great Gatsby Sweatshirt ($42)…Out of Print Clothing

   
Tea…The Literary Tea Collection ($51) from First Edition Tea Co.

  

Tote Bag…Keep Calm and Read On” Tote Bag ($21) from The Library StoWith Love

    Getting Dressed

    A Baker’s Dozen of Books About Soapmaking So That Your Friends and Family Can Give Soaps to You for Christmas Next Year Instead

      
    For those of us who are “old fashioned” and still love learning  from books, instead of or in addition to, the Internet, there are many books available to help you along your journey into the adventures of making soap.

      Even though there is much to be learned from the internet, a few basic soapmaking books written by different soap makers will serve as handy references for recipes, formulations, troubleshooting, techniques, and information about different types of soap.

        Although the basic soapmaking processes will remain the same,there are always new and unique tips, tricks and techniques to be learned from every author.

          Some of the best soap making books include…

                
              1.  Essentially Soap

              • Author…Dr. Robert S. McDaniel
              • Geared Towards…all levels of soapmaking experience
              • Price (all prices are Amazon new cost)…$5
              • Published…2000
              • Review
              • Topics…simple instructions for cold process soaps, melt-and-pour soaps, and rebatched soaps “custom-made” with just the right scent, emollients, eye-appeal, fragrances, skin treatments, colors, shapes, and essential oils

                    

                  2.  Making Transparent Soap

                  • Author…Catherine Failor
                  • Geared Towards…readers that already have an understanding of ingredients and basic techniques
                  • Price…$12
                  • Review…From Nature With Love
                  • Topics…creating large batches, as in dozens of soap bars for each recipe, of soap with a more transparent and appealing design to sell or give as gifts

                    

                  3.  Melt & Mold Soap Crafting

                  • Author…C. Kaila Westerman
                  • Geared towards…both basic and more advanced soapmakers
                  • Price…$15
                  • Reviews
                  • Topics…soaps using a meltable soapbase, techniques, possible problems you might  encounter and their solution, colors, ideas, and advice

                    

                   4.  Natural Soap Making

                  • Author..Kelly Cable
                  • Geared towards…beginners
                  • Price…$12
                  • Topics…organic soapmaking, different soap oils, coloring additives, cold process technique, ratios and recipes that can be scaled and adjusted for your needs

                    

                  5. Pure Soapmaking

                  • Author…Ann-Marie Faiola
                  • Geared towards…intermediate soapmakers who have already made some soaps at home…one of the most complex yet most detailed books available, so super complicated for beginners
                  • Price…$16
                  • Review…Soap Queen
                  • Topic…massive list of 32 recipes with step-by-step instructions, but  involving many steps and ingredients 

                    

                  6.  Soap Crafting

                  • Author…Anne-Marie Faiola
                  • Geared towards…all levels of soapmakers
                  • Price…$15
                  • Topic…three dozen recipes using various household ingredients like avocados, cinnamon, and pumpkin spices…with techniques for adding swirls and glistening effects into your soap

                    

                  7.  Soap Maker’s Workshop

                  • Author..Robert and Katherine McDaniel
                  • Geared towards…beginners
                  • Price…$22
                  • Topic…a light overview of soap making with basic practice ideas…includes a DVD with instructions for each of the major recipes

                    

                  8.  Soap Making Reloaded

                  • Author…Janet Evans
                  • Geared towards…novice soapmakers 
                  • Price…$9
                  • Topic…an overview of the soapmaking process written especially for people wanting to explore soapmaking without making an actual commitment 

                    

                  9.  Soap Naturally

                  • Authors…Australian soap makers Patrizia Garzena and Marina Tadiello 
                  • Geared towards…”novices and masters alike”
                  • Price…$150 (why?!)
                  • Review…
                  • Topic..hands down, the absolute ‘must have’ book for all natural, homemade, handmade soap 

                    

                  10.  The Soapmaker’s Companion

                  • Author…Susan Miller Cavitch
                  • Geared towards…at-home soapmakers
                  • Price…$14
                  • Topics…one of the best references for at-home soapmakers because it covers such topics as adding textures, colors, varying oils, and altering the soap’s aroma…as well as soapmaking as a business and selling your soaps with e-shops like Etsy

                      

                     11.  The Complete Soapmaker

                    • Author…Norma Coney
                    • Price…$11
                    • Topic…detailed instructions and recipes for basic lye soaps made with animal or vegetable fats, and for hand-milled and specialty soaps using almond meal, chamomile, glycerin, and milk.

                         

                         12.  The Everything Soapmaking Book 

                        • Author…Alicia Grosso
                        • Geared towards…beginners who need simple advice for getting started in soapmaking
                        • Price…$11
                        • Topic…a detailed guide to the entire soapmaking process

                          

                        13.  The Ultimate Guide To Soap Making
                         

                        • Author…Amanda McCarthy
                        • Geared towards…beginners
                        • Price…$12
                        • Review…The Curiously Creative
                        • Topics…a true encyclopedia answering all sorts of questions about soap making from start to finish…including recipes, the difference between cold process and hot process techniques, and the potential dangers of individual ingredients and how you should handle them with precaution
                        Getting Healthy

                        A Baker’s Dozen of Recipes for Homemade Soap Just in Time to Give for Christmas This Year 

                          
                        The best way to know what’s exactly in a given product is obviously to make that product from scratch…and here are a baker’s dozen of homemade natural soap recipes for those willing to take the dare…

                        Perfectly in time for Christmas gift-giving!!!

                           
                        1.  Bacon Soap-This natural homemade bacon soap recipe is made using real bacon fat. Bacon fat gives this soap extra conditioning properties.

                          

                           
                        2.  Banana and Oatmeal Soap-This natural homemade oatmeal banana soap recipe is made using real bananas. Bananas are great for conditioning the skin.

                          
                        3.  Blueberry and Carrot Soap-This natural homemade blueberry and carrot soap recipe is made using real carrot puree and blueberries. Both carrots and blueberries are rich in anti-oxidants and highly prized for their anti-aging properties.

                           
                        4.  Chamomile and Neroli Beer Soap-This natural homemade beer soap recipe is made using beer…go figure?!

                           
                        5.  Coffee Soap-This natural homemade coffee soap recipe is made using real brewed coffee. Coffee naturally helps neutralize tough odors and is believed to help with rosacea, skin redness, and other skin ailments.

                           
                        6.  Egg Soap-This natural homemade egg soap recipe is made using egg yolks. Eggs have many skincare benefits…such as tightening skin, shrinking pores, and calming redness and breakouts. 

                          

                          7. Green Tea and Agave Soa-This natural homemade green tea and agave soap recipe is made using green tea and agave extract. Green tea and agave extract offer skin conditioning oils and anti-oxidant power.

                            
                          8.  Mango and Coconut Milk Soap-This natural homemade mango and coconut soap recipe is made using ripe mango and coconut milk.

                              

                            9.  Pear Soap-This natural homemade pear soap recipe is made using overripe pears.

                                
                            10.  Pumpkin Soap-This natural homemade pumpkin soap recipe is made using real organic pumpkin. Pumpkin is packed with fruit enzymes and alpha hydroxy acids which are shown to help smooth and brighten skin. Pumpkin also contains vitamins A and C which have been shown to help soften and soothe skin as well as boost collagen production which helps to prevent signs of aging.

                                   
                            11.  Tomato Soap-This natural homemade tomato soap recipe is made using overripe tomatoes and basil essential oil. 

                               

                              12.  Wine Soap– This natural wine soap recipe is made using leftover wine.

                                

                                13.  Yogurt and Avocado Soap-This natural homemade yogurt and avocado soap recipe is made using a small, ripe avocado and real Greek yogurt. Ripe fruit and yogurt give homemade soaps extra skin conditioning properties.