Sweet, Sweet Sunday

Peter Piper Pumpkin Picker

So this is the one and only time all year that all of us, or perhaps most of us at least, buy a pumpkin.

But how many of us would actually recognize the Great Pumpkin if we actually did see it?

1.PassionHalloween should be as fun as possible for your entire family. Don’t be like the lady that we all hate on the movie The Grinch who gets out her tape measure and actually measures the pumkin before buying it.

Never forget that the holidays—not only Halloween, but also Thanksgiving and Christmas—are supposed to be fun, Be passionate about spending time with your family, not spending more money than your neighbors did on the orange globe sitting on your front porches.

2. PerfectionThe pumpkin that you choose doesn’t have to be perfect. Choosing one with bumps and lumps have character.

3.Personal Preference…The perfect pumpkin is that one pumpkin that you or your child could never imagine leaving the PSL without—even though it isn’t the shape or size that everyone else is attracted to. Follow your heart, not the crowd.

4. PigmentationIt is okay if your pumpkin is not a bright orange like the ones that you see on children’s movies and books.

Even though many will say, “the darker the color, the better the pumpkin,” use your common sense here…most of us can tell if a pumkin is the “ugly duckling” of the pumpkin patch.

Just make sure that the top of the pumpkin, specifically around the stem, is not dull, because this indicates frost damage.

5. PitchThe pumpkin that you choose should have a deep, echoing sound when you pick it up, hold the pumpkin next to your ear, and knock on its side with your knuckles.

The louder the sound, the better the pumpkin.

6. PostBy “post” I simply mean the stem, but couldn’t come up with another synonym for the word “stem” that didn’t seem vulgar.

Anyway, the pumpkin that you choose should have a hard, dark green or black stem.

Squeeze the stem to test its firmness. If the stem is soft to the touch, it’s not an ideal pick.

The stem should not bend and break when you pick it up…that would be about like the trunk of the just-chosen Christmas tree snapping in two before you get out of the Christmas Tree lot.

7. Potholes…Gently press on the pumpkin with your finger to make sure that there aren’t any soft spots that indicate that the pumpkin has already started to decay and won’t last much longer.

The pumpkin should be firm all over.

Even though the pumpkin may look perfect from the outside, you do not want to start carving your pumpkin, only to find that it’s rotten.

8.  Profile…Choose an oblong pumpkin, as opposed to a round one. Round or oval pumpkins are easier to carve, have more workspace, and a bigger cavity filled with more seeds.

Choose a pumpkin with a flat bottom that sits well.

9. ProportionIf you are going to be using your pumpkin for baking and cooking, avoid those big pumpkins that are typically sold to be carved into jack-o’-lanterns, regardless of how appealing they may seem.

Those bigger pumpkins are definitely not the best when it comes to cooking and baking. In fact, bigger pumpkins are typically very stringy, bland, and watery.

Instead look for pumpkins that weigh from four to eight pounds and that are labeled as “sugar pumpkins” or “pie pumpkins”—such as Baby Pam, Autumn Gold, Ghost Rider, New England Pie Pumpkin, Lumina , Cinderella, and Fairy Tale.

If only big carving pumpkins are available, choose a winter squash like butternut squash instead, if you will actually be cooking or baking with it.

10. Punctures and Pimples…Choose a pumpkin that has no scrapes, brown spots, bruises, cuts, or holes on its surface. Any of these “punctures and pimples” will make your pumpkin rot faster.

11.Purpose…Choose the thickness of the walls of your pumpkin according to what you will be using for. If you are going to be making a jack o’ lantern, choose a pumpkin with thin walls. If you are going to be cooking with it, choose a pumpkin with thicker walls.

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Sweet, Sweet Sunday

The Other PSL

By now if you’re anything like me, you’ve already spent half a paycheck on PSL’s, and your Starbucks membership has jumped from silver to platinum, completely hurdling over silver status.

But today I want to talk to you about another trend of this season…the other PSL…

 

…the Pumpkin Sales Lot…

The first time that I ever went to a “pumpkin patch” worth even mentioning was back when my girls were about five and seven…

That was about twenty years ago.

Up until that day I assumed that all pumpkins were orange and round, maybe even plastic since neither my parents or my husband for some strange reason never bothered to buy and carve the expected jack o’ lantern each Halloween…

We were doing good to simply put the tree up before New Year’s Day and take it down by Easter, right?!

Anyway, there I stood in that great big field of all shapes, colors, and sizes of pumpkins…and there I was with them wanting one of each different type…a white one, a green one, a blue one, a tall one, a squat ones, and obviously an orange one…

I felt the same way that I did when I lived in Germany and would travel places where the only words that I knew were numbers and the only phrases that I could say were…

“Where is the bathroom?”

“How much does it cost?”

Actually that’s the only three things that we need to know if it gets right down to it, right?

Anyway, here I was standing on American soil, speaking my native language, and all I could do was say “two” and point out what I wanted and ask how much it cost?

Flash forward thirty years…

Here I sit, fifty years old, getting ready to take the “resident four year old” to a huge pumpkin patch in the morning.

Hoping not to feel like a foreigner in my own country out in the country looking totally stupid by thinking that all pumpkins had to be orange and round…

So this year I’m brushing up on my pumpkin recognition skills, or at least taking this “cheat sheet” with us.

To keep things simple, I have grouped the most common pumpkins into three obvious, or at least obvious to any true PSL, categories—the tall, the grande, the venti, and the trenta.

And made a quick list of the characteristics of the most common varieties of each size that you are likely to see…

(I had originally planned on doing this as one post listing pumpkin varieties within each size group, but that article would have been longer than the “resident four year old”‘s  Christmas wish list and that of my two college aged daughters…so doing this in three segments)…

So looking at the smallest group of pumpkins first, let’s see what your options are…

  • Size
  • Skin Color
  • Shape
  • Shelf Life
  • Texture
  • Flesh Color
  • Vertical Ribbing

The Tall (2 to 8 pounds)

This category—the smallest available “cup”— probably are best suited for decorating the porch or front steps. even though these smallest pumpkins have a great tasting, buttery flesh that makes the very best pies, cookies, baked treats, soups-, and almost any other recipe originally calling for squash.

But if you don’t feel like taking the time to prep two dozen different pumpkins, you could always simply carve it, paint it, or hollow it out and stick a flower into it…

1.Baby Bear

  • Best for…pies, roasted pumpkin seeds…also makes an attractive bowl for serving soup, stews, and chili
  • Size…one to two pounds
  • Skin Color…deep orange
  • Shape…flattened

2.  Baby Boo

  • Best for…decorating because it’s supposedly inedible
  • Size…typically the size of your palm
  • Skin Color…bright white; which tends to turn yellow if exposed to direct sunlight
  • Vertical Ribbing…deep

4.  Baby Pam

  • Best for…pies because of its sugary, starchy, string-less, dry flesh
  • Size…three to four pounds
  • Skin Color…deep orange, yellow if immature
  • Texture…very smooth

5. Casper

  • Best for…pies and baking
  • Skin Color…bright white
  • Shape…more round than squat
  • Vertical Ribbing…slight ribbing

6.  Kakai

  • Best for…Although these pumkins are edible, they are better known for their blue seeds, which can be roasted
  • Size…five to eight pounds
  • Skin Color…gray with orange stripes or ribbing

7. Lakota

  • Best for…its butternut squash-like flavor.
  • Size…five to seven pounds
  • Skin Color…red with green and black markings
  • Vertical Ribbing… light

8. Long Island Cheese

  • Size…six to ten pounds
  • Skin Color…pale yellow or orange
  • Shelf Life…up to a year
  • Flesh Color…bright, deep orange
  • Vertical Ribbing…light

9.  Lumina

  • Best for…baking
  • Skin Color…bright white
  • Texture…smooth
  • Flesh Color…bright yellow

10.  Marina Di Chioggia

  • Best for…having a sweet flavor that makes it a favorite for cooking
  • Size…six to twelve pounds
  • Skin Color…green
  • Shape…squat
  • Texture…thick and warty​ skin
  • Flesh Color…yellow/orange

11.  Musee de Provence:

  • Best for…snacking because it actually has a rich, sweet, creamy, taste…often sold in slices in French markets
  • Skin Color…pale orange-yellow
  • Flesh Color…yellow-orange
  • Vertical Ribbing…deep and distinct

12.  Tiger

  • Size…about 5″ around and 3″ high
  • Skin Color…yellow with orange mottling
  • Shape…flat with recessed stem
  • Vertical Ribbing…deep at the top, then fading at the bottom

13.  White Ghost

  • Skin Color…pure white
  • Shape…squat
  • Flesh Color…bright yellow

14.  Winter Luxury

  • Best for…baking
  • Size…up to six pounds
  • Skin Color…unique netted-looking pale orange
  • Shape…round
  • Shelf Life
  • Flesh Color
  • Vertical Ribbing

Other varieities of  these smaller pumpkins that you might encounter include…

  • Baby Boo (white)
  • Jack-Be-Little (standard orange miniature)
  • Jack-Be-Quick (taller, darker orange)
  • Munchkin (uniform, attractive orange fruit)
  • Sweetie Pie (small, scalloped, medium orange fruit)
  • Lil’ Ironsides F1
  • Magic Lantern
  • Lil’ Pump-Ke- Mon F1
  • Merlin F1
  • Howden
  • Howden Biggie
  • Gold Rush
  • Mystic
  • Spooktacular
  • Tallman
  • Early Autumn
Sweet, Sweet Sunday

Pumpkin…The Why?!

Pumpkin is not only a highly low-calorie, nutrient-dense food that is rich in vitamins and minerals, but also help you have a healthier complexion, healthier hair, and more energy.

So let’s take a look at the specific nutritional level of pumpkin and how eating more pumpkin could be beneficial for diabetics…

First, a few nutritional facts…

Beta-Carotene…Beta-carotene is a powerful antioxidant that gives orange vegetables and fruits their vibrant color. Beta-carotene is easily converted into vitamin A…which in turn triggers the creation of white blood cells that fight infection.

This is important because consuming foods that are rich in beta-carotene may reduce your risk of developing certain illnesses, such as

  • age-related macular degeneration
  • asthma
  • certain types of cancer, including prostate and colon cancer
  • degenerative damage to the eyes
  • diabetes
  • heart disease

Calories...One cup of cooked, boiled, or drained pumpkin without salt contains 49 calories.

Carbohydrates...One cup of cooked, boiled, or drained pumpkin without salt contains 12.01 grams of carbohydrates.

Cholesterol…One cup of cooked, boiled, or drained pumpkin without salt contains no cholesterol.

Fat…One cup of cooked, boiled, or drained pumpkin without salt contains 0.17 g of fat.

Fiber…One cup of cooked, boiled, or drained pumpkin without salt contains 2.7 g of fiber. Canned pumpkin provides over 7 grams of fiber.

Although the recommended daily fiber intake is between 25 and 30 grams, most Americans typically only get 15 grams of fiber per day.

Fiber is important for slowing the rate of sugar absorption into the blood and promoting regular bowel movements, and supporting the digestive system in general.

Protein…One cup of cooked, boiled, or drained pumpkin without salt contains
1.76 g of protein.

Vitamin A…One cup of cooked, boiled, or drained pumpkin without salt contains more than 200% of the recommended daily allowance (RDA) of vitamin A.

Vitamin C...One cup of cooked, boiled, or drained pumpkin without salt contains 19% of the RDA of vitamin C. Vitamin C is important for the immune system, especially important on days like today when the temperature is lunging from 85 degrees today to about 50 degrees tomorrow.

Other Nutrients…One cup of cooked, boiled, or drained pumpkin without salt contains 10% or more of the RDA of vitamin E, riboflavin, potassium, copper, and manganese… as well as at least 5% of thiamin, B-6, folate, pantothenic acid, niacin, iron, magnesium, and phosphorus.

Finally, what benefits do pumpkin, pumpkin oil, and pumpkin seeds have to offer type 2 diabetics?

Pumpkins can lower your risk of getting type 2 diabetes, and help control diabetes, because of the powerful effect that plant compounds found in both pumpkin seeds and pumpkin pulp have on the absorption of glucose into the tissues and intestines.

Not only that, pumpkin also helps balance levels of liver glucose.

In fact, these plant compounds found within the pumpkin seeds and pulp have such an impact on diabetes that there is research being done as to using them in anti-diabetic medication.

So now I am headed out the door and to the nearest Starbucks for a grande PSL with extra sugar…after all, pumpkin is healthy, right?

Sweet, Sweet Sunday

It’s The Most Wonderful Time of the Year…

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The other day I found myself surfing Netflix to see if Charlie Brown’s Great Pumpkin episode was on there and making a special trip to Starbucks for a pumpkin spice latte.

Yes…it’s time for the great pumpkin….not to mention Pumpkin Spice latte.

 

And needless to say, the pumpkin is great indeed…

 

Great for great recipes…

Great for great coffee…

Great for decorating your home not only for Halloween, but also for fall…

Great for “kitchen beauty” concoctions such as hair masks and facials…

Great for nutrition…

 

No other vegetable, other than perhaps the sweet potato, has the same sweet, cinnamon-y taste that nostalgically reminds us of Halloween and Thanksgivings long ago.

But have you ever thought about the health benefits that this great pumpkin, not to mention pumpkin seeds and pumpkin oil have to offer…

Sweet, Sweet Sunday

One Bad Apple Actually DOES Spoil the Entire Bunch

Okay, you’ve picked the very, very best apple out of the entire bin of apples to choose from…

Congratulations on a job well done…

 

But, wait…

Choosing the very best apple will not matter at all if you neglect to take care of it properly when you get it home.

So what exactly are you supposed to do with your apples?!

 

There are actually three options as to where/how you could store your apples…

  1. Cool, Dry, Dark Space…Perhaps the best way to store freshly picked apples for the  longest period of time would be to  wrap them in paper, place folded-side down in a single layer on a tray, and store in a cool, dark, dry place—somewhere between  32°F and 40°F.
  2. Refrigerator…Sprinkle your apples with water and then store them in a perforated plastic bag in the coldest area of the refrigerator, They should stay fresh for two or three weeks.
  3. Room Temperature….Apples can be stored at room temperature for a short period of time, but check  apples stored at room regularly, because apples stored at room temperature will ripen faster than if were stored in the refrigerator.

 

Now for a few more quick tips on storing apples…

—Do not allow the individual apples to touch, because it is actually an established fact that one bad apple actually does spoil the entire bunch.

 

Keep your apples away from other fruits and vegetables if storing them in the refrigerator. Apples produce and emit ethylene gas, a gas that causes fruits and vegetables stored anywhere near them to ripen and spoil more quickly.

Even though this interaction between apples and other produce is usually considered a bad thing, you can also take advantage of this fact if you do actually need to speed the ripening of other fruits,

In order to do this, place an apple, with the unripe fruit, in a paper bag. Seal and make a few slits in the bag. Allow the bag to stand at room temperature for 2 to 3 days

 

Finally, regardless of how your apples are being stored, check them quite frequently to see if any apples have begun to rot.

Because one bad apples spoils the entire bunch.

Sweet, Sweet Sunday

How to Pick the Very Best Apples

Regardless which apple you are picking your apples from—Honeycrisp, Empire, Golden Delicious, Ambrosia, Spartam Mitsu, Jonagold, Ida Red , Fuji, Granny Smith…

And regardless which recipe you will be making with the apples that you have chosen…

There are always certain things to keep in mind when picking apples.

These things to keep in mind when picking apples include…

 

1.Quantity…Avoid those pre-bagged bags of fruit. They think that they are doing you a huge favor bagging the fruit for you so that you won’t have to inconvenience yourself, right?!

Wrong!!!

How long does it take to bag fruit, in the first place??!

Exactly?!

They just want to fund a way to sell apples that are still in good enough shape to be sold in a bag with more of the motley crew, but would never make it to the cart if you actually had to  pick that apple up with your own hand.

 

 

2. Season…It is important to buy your fruits and vegetables while they are “in season” in order to find the best quality.

Fruits and vegetables that are available “out of season” have been typically traveled quite a while from where they have been grown to where they are being sold, meaning that these fruits and vegetables usually, if not always, lacks the flavor of fruit in season.

We are now in the peak few months of apple pickin’ season—August until October.

After October, most of the apples that you will find available have been harvested in October and stored so that there can always be a supply of apples available, but these are hardly ever as good as the apples that you can find now…

 

3. Maturity…Another factor to consider when selecting apples is maturity, how ripe the apple actually was when it was picked from the tree.

Maturity is important because once an apple has been taken off the tree, that apple will not continue to ripen.

If the apple is not actually ripe when taken off the tree, the apple will not have a good flavor, texture, or color.

If the apple is not actually ripe when taken off the tree, the apple will not have the same storing capability and the skin will start looksing wrinkled after being kept only a short time in storage.

 

 

4. Texture…To tell if an apple will have a good texture, simply pick it up and make sure that it feels firm , and not squishy.

Another way to check the texture of the apple and make sure that the apple is ripe would be to flick the apple near the stem and listen for a dull thud.

 

5. Blemishes…Check the apple for any markings—such as bruising, blemishes, holes where insects may have entered, and any other -obvious signs of decay.

 

6. Weight...Pick the fruit up. If it’s heavy for its size, then you have successfully found yourself a good piece of fruit.

 

7. Color…Even though color is not always the best indicator of great produce, color can still be important.

Buy only apples that are brightly colored., not dull.

Brightly colored fruit has absorbed lots of sunlight, important for developing the  flavor of the fruit.

Dullness may indicate that the apple ss past its prime..

 

 

8. Smell…Smell the apple to make sure it smells fresh, not musty.

Note that not all apples will smell the same. The scent of the ale will vary between one variety and another. For example, Gala apples will have a stronger fragrance than most other varieties. Just make sure that the apple doesn’t stink.

Sweet, Sweet Sunday

It’s Apple Pickin’ Time

Okay, now that we’ve established the fact that in order to take care of an awesome type 2 diabetic husband, “resident four year old,” and whoever else may be surrounding our tables or grabbing whatever food they can find to eat in surplus===such as my college daughter….

…we’ve also decided that one way that we can start converting all of our collected Southern Living and Paula recipes into healthier alternatives is by baking with applesauce…

And now that another goal of mine is to start slowly weeding out all processed foods from our diet, I’ve also decided to make and can my own applesauce…and apple butter…

Wait, did I say that I was gonna actually “can” something?!

My mom will be so shocked—kinda like the day that I told her that I had bought my very first sewing machine and she thought to herself that I’d never sew a straight stitch in my life…(now quilting is my favorite hobby…more on that later)…

But if I’m ever going to actually make applesauce or apple butter, there’s obviously one very important ingredient that I’m gonna need…

APPLES!!

Big Deal…So go get you some apples…

Wish it were that simple…wish apples came with two options—red or green…

But it isn’t?

If I send my daughter out to get apples, she’d soon be calling me to ask which ones…

If I order apples from Instacart, ,I’ll have to first surf and see which apple variety to order.

So my goal in these three upcoming posts are to show…

  1. How to select apples
  2. How to store apples
  3. Which variety to choose for what

…,and then share a few of my very favorite apple recipes…