Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Can the Canned Pumpkin (Donald Trump Style?)

So, I love pumpkin soup. As the calendar creeps towards Thanksgiving and Christmas, I get excited about all things pumpkin: Pumpkin bread, pumpkin spice lattes, pumpkin pie, and definitely pumpkin soup. This year, though, as I have been getting more focused on real foods, I decided I would try and make a pumpkin soup from scratch! How hard could it be, anyway?

Turns out it is pretty easy, and the taste is far superior. First of all, do not use a jack-o-lantern pumpkin. They are bigger, sure, but they have less meat and, apparently, less flavor (the flavor part I have to take from the lady at the farmer's market. I have no experience with this of my own).
Here is a picture of the pumpkin we used:

This pumpkin, rather than the bright (almost garish) orange, is a nice putty/beige color.  And it is heirloom, so you can bet we are keeping the seeds. But when you cut it open, it is twice as bright as the insides of the orange pumpkins. The bright color is a good indication that this pumpkin is pretty high in Vitamin A (in the form of beta carotene), among other things.

So, to make pumpkin soup from FRESH pumpkin is actually a fairly simple task. Step one, cut the pumpkin in half. Rather than saw off the top and try to scoop out the insides (like you would when carving a pumpkin), cut it vertically in half from top to bottom, and scoop out the seeds. I have heard that the seeds are easier to remove once the pumpkin is cooked, but when your pumpkin is an heirloom variety and you want to save the seeds for your garden, cooking them first is a very bad idea.

Step 2, lay the pumpkin flesh-side down in a baking pan. You can use a cookie sheet, if you do not mind the smell of scorched pumpkin juice as it runs all over your oven. This was the first lesson I learned yesterday. Not unbearable, the scent is akin to burnt marshmallows. Oops.

I guess step 1 should actually have been "preheat your oven to 375," but I am going to pretend I already told you that. Step 3, then, is to place the baking dish in the oven for about 45 minutes.

Step 4: Remove the dish from the oven, and allow the pumpkin halves to cool for approximately twenty minutes. This step is vital if you are at all attached to your fingertips in their current, unblistered state.

Step 5 is much easier than you would think. Grasp the (hopefully) cooled pumpkin rind, and pull upwards. If all goes according to plan, you should now have a surprisingly thin and flimsy pumpkin rind in your hand, and a pile of orange goo in your baking pan (this is the pumpkin "meat").

Now, add to your recipe. Pumpkin is pumpkin, volume-wise (though I have learned that taste-wise, this is NOT the case!), so add the same amount as is called for with canned pumpkin.

Last year I made pumpkin soup with canned pumpkin, and Dh thought it was "okay." This year I made the soup with FRESH pumpkin, and he said, "You better freeze the leftovers so we have some for after the baby!"  BIG difference.

This is not my pumpkin soup. We ate it up so quickly (and froze the leftovers so quickly) that I forgot to take a picture.  This picture actually comes from here.

If you have a good farmer's market nearby, finding some high quality pie or soup pumpkins should not be too difficult. So can the canned pumpkin this holiday season! You are in for a very pleasant surprise if you do!

This is the pumpkin soup recipe I used. I should warn you, however, that I am not responsible for what happens if you follow the recipe exactly, haha. I realized as I was getting the soup ready that my husband had used the last onion (and not told me!), so I used green peppers (from our garden!) instead. Then, as I was smelling the nearly-finished soup, I decided it needed a dash of nutmeg and cardamom, too.  And I added some freshly ground black pepper. I did not really measure...not my style with spices. So, play around, have fun, and enjoy!

This is a part of Real Food Wednesday at Kelly the Kitchen Kop! Find more great posts there :)

Monday, October 11, 2010

Menu Plan Monday - Last Official Pre-Baby Menu??

Nine days till our due date! Not that I am naive enough to think that DS will arrive exactly on time, so we are quite aware he could come early or late. I am not feeling incredibly uncomfortable, so I am kind of hoping for the extra time to prepare; and yet... several of my pregnant friends have recently had their LOs, and I am starting to get a bit jealous! I would love to hold our baby boy, and I am really looking forward to our birth experience, in our home!

We do have several freezer meals made up, and are anticipating meals from our church, and my mom is going to be with us for about a month; so menu plans from here on out may be sporadic. I may get one more in next week, if DS does not come before then.

Up this week:

Tonight (Monday) - Roast Chicken Breast with Rice and Vegetables
Tuesday - Pumpkin soup, Wheat Bread, Sausage (from our pig!)
Wednesday - Chicken & Biscuits (Our chicken and whole wheat biscuits)
Thursday -Roast Ham (in the crockpot), sweet potatoes / veggies
Friday -Breakfast for Dinner (Grits, Bacon, Eggs)
Saturday - Leftovers (Roast)
Sunday - Family birthday / group barbecue - we're providing meat for burgers

That's it for our meal plan.  Head on over to OrgJunkie for more great meal plans.

Saturday, October 2, 2010

Meal Planning - We Are Still on the Wagon

Well, as my due date draws closer, time seems to find all kinds of things to be crowded with.  We have been taking the time to diligently meal plan; but I have not been taking the time to post our plans. Actually, as I have gone from working in the office to freelance writing from home, it seems I have fallen off the face of the blogosphere all together.  I am really wanting to remedy that, though, as I would rather write about these things than how many ways there are to skin a cat in Minnesota (anyone who has done freelance article writing online certainly understands that sentiment, I am sure).

We received a very pleasant surprise today: Dh went to our dairy farmer to get our milk, and checked to see if he had any beef yet (he said closer to October last time we spoke with him).  Well, he did not have the new beef yet, but after dh helped him get a cow back into the pasture, he gave us a shopping bag full of steaks and ribs he had in the freezer. Gave. Things are a bit tight these days, so that was a huge blessing.  Tonight we are having sirloin! (A side note: If you have never cooked grass finished beef before, or have cooked it with not-so-great results, head over to Kelly the Kitchen Kop to check out this post. Cooking grass finished the same way you cook commercial beef can lead to some tough results!

Regarding the pig we split with a family from our church: We worked our way through the pork chops, tenderloin, and roasts pretty quickly. We have another roast left, but mostly a good bit of sausage and lots (and lots) of ribs. Add that to the beef ribs we just got from our dairy farmer; and we have decided that the next few Sundays are officially "Rib Day."

Taking inspiration from many of the amazing real food bloggers I have been reading, I also decided that we would freeze the remains of one meal a week for freezer meals post-baby. I will have my mother here with me for a month, and friends visiting, so I know it may not be a drastic necessity; but I wanted to have at least a week's worth of back-ups, just in case. So far we have frozen the mixed up (but raw) beef mixture for Barley Burgers, Venison Sausage Chili (Dh's amazing creation), Pork & Cranberry Stew (we had a gluten-free guest that night so it is made with rice instead of barley). We actually have two nights worth of the stew frozen, all thanks to being only two people with one large crock pot ;) .

We were also very blessed with an abundant (and I do mean abundant) harvest of sweet potatoes.  For our first garden together, most of our planting yielded sparse results. Good, quality, heirloom and heritage fruits and veggies, but not in the greatest quantities. Sweet potatoes, it seems, were the exception to that rule. We planted 2 sweet potatoes in about 4 pieces (after sprouting them), and they took over our backyard. So, I have plans to freeze enough baked sweet potato for a few sweet potato pies (I need to do that before the baby comes, for sure!) for Thanksgiving and Christmas; but otherwise, we have them stored in the crawlspace under the house and we're just trying to incorporate them where we can.  So on this meal plan, you will see several meals with sweet potatoes, and now you know why!

One last little addendum.  My last checkup with my midwife had me reading as slightly anemic. Not a huge deal, but being due in 2 1/2 weeks (give or take), I decided that everything with grain is going to be soaked this week, even things I don't normally soak (like crepe batter, or rice for the risotto). Though I am not sure yet exactly where I fall in the phytic acid debate, I figure that this week I need all the help absorbing iron I can get.

Monday - Spinach/Tomato/Mozzarella Fritatta, Whole Wheat Toast (from our homemade soaked WW Bread)

Tuesday - Hamsteak (from our pig!), Sweet Potato Risotto (Yes, I am soaking the rice for this)

Wednesday - Breakfast for dinner - Sausage (from our pig!) & Egg Crepes (with soaked whole wheat crepes)

Thursday - Spaghetti with garlic bread (again with our homemade soaked whole wheat bread), and steamed veggies

Friday - Pan Fried Chicken, Veggies, Rice (soaked, and cooked up with a little bit of chicken stock - hello flu season!)

Saturday - Cozy Quinoa Casserole (We are revising this one to exclude the ground turkey - since it is really not necessary - and to replace the Acorn Squash guessed it! Sweet Potatoes! Plus, we are ignoring all the "low-fat" and "low-sodium" parts of the directions. Only full fat cheese and our homemade chicken stock work for us!)

Sunday - Beef Ribs, Cornbread (soaked), and Baked Sweet Potatoes.

Visit Laura @ I'm an Organizing Junkie for more great menus!