Homemade Pumpkin Puree

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Our winter squashes and pumpkins did incredibly well this year. I ended up with 4 nice sized sugar pumpkins (a few cinderella pumpkins), and plenty of squashes.

While rumor has it that canned pumpkin does not have too much of a taste difference than fresh pumpkin, the benefit of not eating out of cans far outweighs the little bit of effort needed to process a pumpkin. In fact, it is so simple, I think that last can of pumpkin in my cupboard may become a donation. Personally, I think the taste is better- it tastes fresh, not canned! Duh.

Three pumpkins yielded over 16 cups of puree. I packaged 7 ‘can sized’ servings for freezing and some extra to make a batch of pumpkin dark chocolate chip cookies. I can’t wait to make pumpkin soup, muffins, bread, etc…. any pumpkin suggestions?

Pumpkin Puree

Preheat your oven to 350°F. Rinse the outside of two to three sugar pumpkins and pat dry. Remove stem, cut in half and scoop out the guts (yes, that is what I call them). Be sure to save the seeds to roast later (I just tried Worcestershire sauce on the seeds – great idea!).

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When the pumpkins are cleaned out, cut each half into thirds and lay them flesh side up on a cookie sheet. Roast in the oven for 45 minutes until the flesh is soft. Let cool.

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Remove the flesh from the skin and process in a food processor/blender until desired smoothness is achieved. Freeze in baggies or use right away! 1 can of pumpkin is a wee less than 2 cups.

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Butter Lettuce, Avocado, and Mango Salad

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We have lettuce ready! This is the first year we have ever had lettuce (and radishes, and carrots, and beets). I guess our soil is finally happy 🙂 Composted manure must do the trick!

Mango’s were on sale a little local market, so I bought a few, but tossed them in the fridge and forgot about them. When I grabbed one today, it was perfectly ripe. After a little searching, I noticed that mango and avocado make quite the pair. Along with a slightly sweet cider vinaigrette, a trio of fresh picked lettuce, mango, and avocado, makes this salad a perfect pre-dinner treat on a triple-H day. For those of you non-New Englander’s, triple-H means Hazy, Hot, and Humid!

Butter Lettuce, Avocado, and Mango Salad

A bunch of butter lettuce – cleaned and torn into bite size pieces

1 ripe mango, diced

1 ripe avocado, diced

1/2 yellow onion, thinly sliced

feta cheese, crumbled

Dressing

2 tbsp olive oil

1 tbsp cider vinegar

1 tbsp lemon juice

1 tbsp maple syrup (honey would work too!)

freshly ground pepper (just a dash or two)

1. Split the salad ingredients between 3-4 salad bowls. Sprinkle with some feta.

2. In a jar, combine the dressing ingredients. Shake well, taste. Adjust for sweetness by adding more vinegar or syrup. Drizzle on salad. Enjoy!

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Fish Tacos with Spicy Slaw

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It’s been almost a month since I have posted and WOW have I missed all of you… my readers!! I have also really, really, really, really (really x 10^28) missed having the time or energy to cook or craft.

To fill you in. I am an officially licensed grades 7-12 science teacher!! With the culmination of my teaching program, which included hours upon hours of portfolio writing, and getting offered a long-term substitute job, I have been overwhelmed. I’ll also throw out there that we may be moving (yes, that’s right, after 5 months) because of unforeseen BS. I’ll leave it at that. My point is that between teaching over 120 sophomores/juniors chemistry and biology and getting up at 5am daily, life got a wee busy.

With such a drastic change, I realized that we were eating like crap. Not to mention Ty has been doing the maple-syrup-making-thing pretty much 24 hrs a day, which has left all meals up to me. So, finally getting caught up on grading and planning and looking at a week off, I thought of having something tasty, yet simple – fish tacos! Some frozen flounder and an easy spicy cole slaw all wrapped up in a flour tortilla was just what I needed. It reminded me that I actually can cook! I thought I forgot for a while there!

Spicy Cole Slaw

1 small head green cabbage, shredded

1/2 medium red onion, thinly sliced

1/2 red bell pepper, thinly sliced

2 carrots, shredded

1 jalapeno, minced (optional)

1/3 cup mayo

3 tbsp apple cider vinegar

3 tsp celery seed

1 tsp cayenne

1 tsp chili powder

1 tsp cumin

2 tbsp brown sugar

s & p

1. Mix all of the veggies in a large bowl. In a small bowl whisk the dressing until smooth. Combine with the veggies and toss until coated. Season to taste. Let sit for at least an hour (longer will soften the cabbage a little).

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Fish Tacos

1 lb frozen flounder (or other light, white fish)

1/2 cup flour

s & p

evoo

taco size flour tortillas (corn would be good too!)

1. Mix flour and a generous amount of salt and pepper. Coat each fillet of fish with the flour and drop into a hot pan with a good coating of olive oil (enough to cover the bottom – 3-4 tbsp).

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2. Let fish fry on one side until browned, approx. 3-4 minutes. Flip and cook for another 3-4 minutes. This should be plenty for a thin fillet. Remove onto paper towels. Repeat until all fillets are cooked. You may find you need to add a little more olive oil to the pan.

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3. Add the fillets back to the pan and break into bite-sized pieces (the oil should be long soaked up!).

4. Arrange your tacos. Heat the tortilla a bit, add some fish, top with a good helping of cole slaw, and if desired, a dash of Sriracha or Cholula sauce! Enjoy a light and tasty meal!

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Winter Vegetable Gratin

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I found this recipe in my favorite cookbook, Long Nights and Log Fires. It’s kind of fitting to cook from it on a cold winters night in a log cabin (with a wood stove!). I adapted the recipe as I was missing some ingredients, like parsnip and mustard powder, but hey it was still good enough to share.

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This was also the first time I’ve ever had celeriac. It is incredible… so incredible that I am going to hunt for seed to grow some (Boomer even begged for some! A dog? A vegetable other than carrots? Yep!) I picked up a bag of ‘winter roots’ grown at a local farm. Carrots, beets, turnip, and celeriac. I subtracted the beets, added some potatoes, tossed it with a delicious cream sauce and bam, a filling vegetarian meal (with beets to enjoy later!)

This is a great way to use up some root veggies. The recipe called for parsnip, carrot, rutabaga, celeriac, and potato, but my veggie mix was great as well… meaning another versatile meal! My favorite!

Winter Vegetable Gratin

1 large celeriac bulb, peeled and cubed

2 carrots, peeled and cut into rounds

1 large turnip, cubed

2 potatoes, scrubbed and cubed

1 cup light cream

2 cloves garlic, minced

1 tablespoon Dijon mustard

1/2 cup plain bread crumbs

2 tablespoons finely grated Parmesan cheese

2 teaspoons chopped Parsley (dried is o.k., fresh is better)

2 tablespoons butter, melted

S & P

1. Preheat oven to 350°F. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add all the vegetables and par-cook for 10 minutes. Drain.

2. In a small pan over low heat, add cream, garlic, and mustard. Stir continuously for 10 minutes until thickened. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

3. Mix parsley, bread crumbs, and parmesan in a separate dish.

4. Butter a shallow oven-proof dish. Add vegetables. Pour cream sauce over the veggies and top with bread crumb mixture and some fresh pepper. Drizzle butter over the top. Bake for 40 minutes or until the edges are crusted. Serve warm.

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Meatless Monday: Layered Ratatouille

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Who didn’t love the movie Ratatouille?? With that cute little Remy, who wanted nothing more than to cook his little heart out!! I lived in a place a few years ago where there was evidence of mice… as I set the trap one night, I thought to myself, maybe the little guy just wants to cook! Ha. Animated, cooking mice in movies are adorable. Little, scurrying, mess-making, disease-carrying critters on your kitchen counters…. NOT adorable.

Back to the cute, animated mouse… this recipe is a recreation of that gorgeous layered ratatouille. I discovered it a few years ago over at Smitten Kitchen, but haven’t made it since. Served over yummy whole grain pasta with extra sauce and some fresh grated asiago cheese, it makes a beautifully presentable meal.

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Ratatouille

1 small italian eggplant

1 zucchini

1 yellow squash

1 red bell pepper

1 small shallot, finely diced

2 cloves garlic, thinly sliced

1 large can crushed tomatoes

fresh thyme

evoo

fresh asiago cheese

cooked pasta

1. Preheat oven to 350°F. If you have a mandolin, great! If you don’t (like me), using a very sharp knife, thinly slice the eggplant, zucchini, and yellow squash into rounds. Cut a circle around the top of the pepper and remove the seeds, leaving the remainder of the pepper intact. Thinly slice the pepper into rings.

2. In a shallow baking dish, like a 9×9, add one cup of tomato sauce. Stir in a drizzle of olive oil, shallot, and garlic slices. Season with salt and pepper. Arrange the sliced veggies, alternating between vegetable types, concentrically from the outer edge of the dish.

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3. Drizzle olive oil over the top. Sprinkle with coarse sea salt and a generous helping of thyme leaves. Cover the dish with tin foil and bake for 15 minutes. Remove the foil and bake for an additional 25 minutes.

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4. On the stove, heat the remaining tomato sauce (add garlic and spices to taste, if desired). Cook the pasta.

5. In a shallow bowl, spoon some extra tomato sauce on top of pasta. Top with a serving of ratatouille and some fresh grated cheese.

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Meatless Monday: Stacked Vegetarian Enchiladas

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Meatless Monday (well, it was Tuesday for us) number 3 done and done… successfully! I have been enjoying the challenge each week to make something meatless, but filling and tasty. So far so good… no flops yet!

This recipe is versatile; you can add any vegetable you have on hand. It also fills a 9×13, but enchiladas (especially, stacked) are easy to adjust. I am also super happy to report (or brag… sorry) that I used our own canned salsa, jalapeno, and tomato sauce, our frozen corn and zucchini, and homegrown beans!!

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Stacked Vegetarian Enchiladas

18 corn tortillas
2.5 cups enchilada sauce
(taco sauce works too or spice up some tomato sauce with cayenne, chili powder, and cumin)
2 cans beans (I used dried cattle beans) 
evoo
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 large sweet potato, finely diced
1 medium bell pepper, diced
1 small onion, diced
1 small zucchini, diced
1 cup corn
1 jalapeno
1 cup shredded cheddar cheese (divided)
fresh cilantro
dried cumin, chili powder, and cayenne
 

1. Cook beans, if dried. Drain and rinse. Coarsely mash with a sprinkle of cumin, chili powder, and cayenne. Adjust to taste.

2. Preheat oven to 350°F. In a large fry pan, heat a tablespoon of olive oil, add garlic, sweet potato, and a teaspoon each of cumin, chili, and cayenne. Saute for 4-5 minutes or until the sweet potato starts softening. Add onion and peppers (bell and jalapeno). Saute for another 3 minutes. Add zucchini and corn – heat for another 2 minutes.

3. In a 9×13 pan, start assembling the enchiladas. Coat the bottom of the pan with a thin layer of enchilada sauce – about a 1/2 cup. Add 6 corn tortillas to cover the bottom. Spread half of the mashed beans over the tortillas. Top with half of the veggies and sprinkle 1/3 of the cup of cheese. I added some fresh cilantro here. Add another 1/2 cup enchilada sauce, another 6 tortillas, remaining beans, veggies, and another 1/3 cup of cheese. Add another 1/2 cup enchilada sauce and the last 6 tortillas. Finish off the casserole with the remaining sauce (and maybe a little salsa) and cheese. Sprinkle with some cilantro.

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4. Bake for 35 minutes until the edges are browned. Serve with a dollop of salsa and sour cream.

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Meatless Monday: Vegetarian Pad Thai

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I cooked tofu!!!! That’s right, me… I actually successfully cooked it! Even Ty gave it a shot! I’m not sure how ‘authentic’ this is, as my ethnic cooking skills are terrible, but woo wee it was delish!

And although I am not posting this on a Monday, well, it is a perfect Meatless Monday meal. Now I realize that this sounds/reads like a lot of work, but I promise you, it isn’t. If you are a good chopper… you’ll be blessed with a ‘date night’ worthy meal in no time!

Vegetarian Pad Thai

1 box Pad Thai noodles (any wide, flat, rice noodles will do)

1 package extra-firm tofu

cooking spray

S&P

2 tbsp vegetable oil

3 cloves garlic, coarsely chopped

1 tbsp fresh ginger, chopped

1 tsp crushed red pepper (or whole dried peppers)

2 cups assorted vegetables
(shredded carrots, peppers, onions, zucchini, asparagus, green beans… just ideas)

2 eggs

3 tbsp brown sugar

3 tbsp soy sauce

3 tbsp lime juice

1 tbsp Sriracha or another spicy sauce

fresh cilantro

scallions, chopped (keep both whites and greens)

crushed roasted peanuts

1. Preheat oven to 475°F. Wrap the tofu in a paper towel and press dry. Cut into 1/2 inch cubes. Spray with cooking spray and season with salt and pepper. Lay on a cookie sheet and bake for 25-30 minutes or until crispy on the outside. Toss occasionally.

2. Cook the rice noodles according to the directions on the package. This should take about 10 minutes.

3. In a small bowl, whisk brown sugar, Sriracha (or other spicy sauce), soy sauce, and lime juice.

4. In a large wok or fry pan, heat oil, red pepper, garlic, scallion whites, and ginger. When the oil is hot, add the veggies that take the longest… (carrots, peppers, and onions). Saute for a few minutes. Add the remaining veggies, cooked tofu, and saute for another minute or two. Keep the veggies crispy.

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5. Remove the vegetables. In a separate bowl, beat the eggs. Add the eggs to the hot pan while scrambling. When they are cooked, add the vegetables/tofu back to the pan. Add the sauce and heat for a minute.

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6. Serve the vegetables on top of the noodles. Sprinkle with crushed peanuts, scallions, and cilantro.

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Beet Risotto (for your Valentine!)

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Would this not be a perfect side to serve your honey on Valentine’s Day? Look at that gorgeous red color! Pictures can’t do it justice (at least mine can’t…. I need that photo class!)

Don’t be afraid of risotto – it’s not that scary! It takes about 30 minutes to make and trust me, there is no need to continually stir for 30 minutes (like I always believed!). It only takes two pots (three in the beet risotto case) and is essentially fool-proof.

Beet Risotto

3 medium-sized beets

1 small onion, minced

3 cloves garlic, minced

evoo

1 cup arborio rice

1/4 cup dry white wine

2-3 cups chicken stock

2 cups water

1 tbsp butter

1/4 tsp thyme (1/2 tsp if fresh)

1/4 tsp rosemary (1/2 tsp if fresh)

1/4 cup parmesan cheese

pepper to taste

1. Cut the root end and tops off of the beets. Place on a large sheet of tin foil. Drizzle with evoo and sprinkle with coarse sea salt and fresh pepper, and wrap tightly in the foil. Roast at 425°F for 45 minutes to 1 hour… or until a fork easily breaks the beets. When they are done, move on to the following.

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2. In a small saucepan, mix water and 2 cups of chicken stock and heat until warm (not boiling). Keep the last cup as backup if more liquid is needed. In a large sauce pan, heat a good dollop of evoo over a medium high heat. Add the onions and garlic and saute until onions become translucent. Add rice and continue to saute for 3-4 minutes or until slighty changing in color.

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3. Here comes the fun. Add the white wine and stir well. When the wine is evaporated, add 1 cup of the stock/water mixture. Stir well for a minute. Let simmer until evaporated. Add another cup of the stock, stir for a minute, let it soak into the rice (technically it doesn’t evaporate…). While this is occurring, peel the skin off the cooked beets and coarsely mash (a potato masher works great!)

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4. When 3 of the 4 cups of stock/water have been used, add the mashed beets, butter, thyme, and rosemary. Stir. Add the remaining cup of stock, stir well, and let simmer until soaked in. I recommend tasting the risotto here. If it still needs a few more minutes, add a little more stock (the 5th cup that was reserved). Remove from heat and right before serving add the parmesan cheese and stir well. Garnish with a spring of fresh thyme or rosemary.

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The hard part of making this risotto was attempting to clean up with two pups guarding the sink…. (I think they wanted to be the dish washers!)

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Black Bean and Corn Burgers

IMG_0750We’ve gone meatless!! Ty surprisingly agreed to hop on the meatless monday boat! So for the next few weeks, we’ll give the whole meatless thing a try. I am plenty happy eating vegetarian for a night or two… or three, but getting Ty to do it may be tough. So, we’ll start with just one night a week. Last night, I made a black bean and corn burger. I did use an egg to help bind the burger… but it was an egg from a happy, cage free, local chicken! And egg’s aren’t really meat, right? I must say, it was a good dinner! I actually ate an entire burger and didn’t feel insanely full! So, one meatless monday down! Successfully!

Black Bean and Corn Burgers

2 cups black beans (1-15 oz can could work)

1 cup cooked corn

1 egg

1/2 large onion

3 cloves garlic

1 jalapeno

1/2 cup panko bread crumbs

2 scallions, finely chopped

1 tsp of cumin, chili powder, and cayenne

dash of salt and fresh pepper

2 tbsp evoo

1 tbsp butter

1. In a food processor, finely chop the onion, garlic, jalapeno, and spices.

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2. Move to a separate bowl. Divide the beans in half and process one half until mushy. Add to the chopped onion mixture. Add the remaining whole beans, corn, egg, scallion, and bread crumbs. Mix well.

IMG_07293. In a large fry pan, heat the olive oil and butter until hot. Shape palm-sized patties and fry on each side for 5-6 minutes. If you try to flip and the burgers break apart easily, let them cook for another minute or two before flipping.

IMG_07414. Serve on a toasted whole wheat bun with mashed avocado, tomato, cheese, hot sauce or anything your mouth desires. (We loved the sprouts!)

IMG_0504I think next year I have to quadruple the number of black beans I grow. Aren’t they just gorgeous?!

Beet and Avocado Salad

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A while back, Ty and I went to a friend’s house for dinner. She is basically a vegetarian and eats gluten free. I’ve always loved what she cooks and envy her creativity. She served us up a delicious meal of avocado and beet salad and vegetarian chili. I fell in love with the salad and have attempted to re-create it multiple times; she didn’t really have a recipe, so I took the idea and ran with it. I’d say this past re-creation was the best. Luckily I remembered exactly what I put in so I can share with ya’ll! Her salad had sprouts and a pear. I didn’t have any sprouts on hand or a pear, but I had a golden delicious apple, which did its delicious thing for this salad!

IMG_0506I never really liked beets until recently. Maybe it was the fact that the first time I had them, I was on a date with an ex-boyfriend. It left a bad taste in my mouth (if ya know what I mean). About a year ago, I tried them again. Their gorgeous deep purple bulbs and perky green and red leaves were calling me. They are also pretty easy on the wallet. As a matter of fact, in most grocery stores, I have found the organic beets to be the same price as conventional and with more weight per bunch. Beets are also extremely good for you. With one serving providing 11% DV of Vitamin C (peace out flu!!) 37% DV folate, and 16% DV dietary fiber among other important vitamins and minerals. Then we have avocados, which I am sure you all know are considered ‘super foods’. So what do you get when you put beets and avocados together? Why a super-healthy and super-filling salad of course (it’s filling enough as an entire meal for me).

Beet and Avocado Salad

3 medium beets

2 avocados

2 cloves garlic

1/4 cup apple cider vinegar

Drizzle of evoo

Juice of 1/2 lemon

1/2 small onion, thinly sliced

1 apple (a sweet variety)

4 cups mixed greens (I used Olivia’s 50:50 blend)

S&P to taste

Preheat oven to 375°F. Scrub beets and clean tops (hint: leave about an inch of the stem still on the beet… this will reduce bleeding and thus reduce your chance to stain something!). Wrap the beets in foil and until soft; about 45 minutes. In the meantime, thinly slice the onion and chop the apple. Toss with the salad greens.

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In a small dish, peel and pit the avocados. Mince the garlic and add it the avocados. Mash with the evoo, cider vinegar, and lemon juice (a potato masher works really well). Season with S&P. When the beets are soft, remove from the foil and let cool to the touch. Using your fingers, remove the skins. Cut off the tops and dice. Add to the mixed greens and toss with the avocado mixture. Top with toasted almonds or sunflower seeds.

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