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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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.

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

Applesauce…The Why?

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So if you’re going to start baking with applesauce more frequently, there is obviously one very important thing that you must keep on hand…
Applesauce!!!

 

Obviously there are two options when it comes to keeping applesauce on hand—buy it from the grocery store ready-,made, or make it yourself..

Why even consider making your own applesauce when it’s so easy just to get cheap applesauce, even if you do have to squat in the Walmart aisle in order to get to the cheap stuff.

That’s probably the problem. When it comes to food products, there are certain items where cheap simply means cheap…cheap quality, cheap texture, cheap ingredients, cheap manufacturing methods.

The best applesauce—both as far as taste and nutrition—is homemade, unsweetened and made from unpeeled apples.

Plus this is coming upon the time of year when apples are relatively cheap and easily available…

If you’re buying two thousand apples already for the upcoming PTA Halloween carnival, why not also buy another thousand and see how much homemade applesauce you can make ahead of time and sell at the food booth also.

 

Finally, so why even bother with applesauce in the first place…check out these nutritional facts…

 

Applesauce contains…

  • Calories…A cup of unsweetened applesauce contains around 100 calories.
  • Fat…Apples0auce contains no fat, assuming that your applesauce is unsweetened and does not contain high-fructose corn syrup or sucrose..
  • Fiber…Applesauce is an especially good source of soluble fiber, the type that dissolves into a gel-like substance and helps maintain healthy blood sugar and cholesterol levels. Yet store-bought applesauce is typically made without the apple peel, which means that buying your applesauce instead of making it yourself does not take full advantage of the amount of fiber that those apples originally contained.
  • Pectin…While we’re on the topic of fiber, applesauce also contains pectin, a special type of soluble fiber, a vital nutrient in  helping to lower your cholesterol levels.
  • Vitamin C…Applesauce can supply as much as 80% of your daily allowance of vitamin C.