Monthly Archives: November 2010

More Pumpkin-ey Goodness

Have you had your fill of all things pumpkin yet? Well, I haven’t. Apparently this year I can’t seem to get enough and nothing in my kitchen is safe from having pumpkin spices added to it. In just 36 hours calendars will turn and peppermint will take the stage as the flavor of the month. Me and peppermint, not so cool. Especially since I had a nasty run-in with a bottle of Rumplemintz on my 22nd birthday. In the span of five short minutes two friends and I thought it was a good idea to kill the bottle. Worst. Idea. Ever. To this day I still have issues with mint toothpaste, gum and extract. It’s not pretty people! But I digress.

Last week I roasted and froze 13.5 cups of acorn squash. I ended up with a scoop remaining in the bowl. Being a waste not want not kind of girl clearly this rogue squash needed to find a delicious home. Then, I was suddenly overtaken with a craving for pumpkin spice pancakes. Usually I steer clear of “fried bread” but I could tell this craving wasn’t going away any time soon, so I decided to give in an indulge. Besides I really like squash, it’s healthy, and this is me rationalizing my actions. 🙂

Squash Pancakes
1/2 cup roasted squash puree
1 1/4 cup cake flour (not self rising)
1 egg
1 cup milk
2 tbsp brown sugar
2 tsp baking powder
2 tsp pumpkin spice
1/2 tsp salt
2 tsp vanilla powder

In a large bowl combine squash, milk, egg, pumpkin spice, and brown sugar, mix well. In a med bowl combine flour, salt, baking powder and vanilla, mix well. Add dry ingredients to wet ingredients and blend. Pour batter onto greased griddle/skillet/pan. Flip once the tiny batter bubbles begin to pop and the top does not look so wet.

I made silver dollar sized pancakes so that I could freeze them. I thought they would make a great freezer-toaster-tummy kind of snack. They turned out awesome and taste great with just a touch of agave nectar!

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Creamy Squash Soup

Yesterday I shared my recipe for pumpkin spice. Today I’m going to tell you exactly what soup you need to add it to. Tomorrow, you are going to want to make this soup. Trust me!
Creamy Squash Soup
modified from body&mind magazine
2 cups veg stock
1 cup onion, chopped (1 med)
1 cup carrots, coined (3 med)
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
black pepper (the recipe called for 1/8 tsp. Seriously. Who does that? Just sprinkle some and call it a day!)
1 1/2 tsp pumpkin spice
15 oz can plain pumpkin (I’ve been roasting squash like it’s my job and have on-hand at all times an assortment of winter squash for the choosing. I think I used one buttercup and two sweet dumpling.)
12 oz evaporated skimmed milk or sub half and half

1 Tbsp honey
Plain Low-fat yogurt
dried cranberries, chopped

In a large uncovered pot simmer stock, carrots, onion, baking soda, pepper, salt and pumpkin spice until carrots are soft (approximately 15 minutes). Add squash, milk and honey, mix well and simmer uncovered for an additional 10 minutes. Remove from heat. Once the soup has cooled a bit blend to a creamy consistency with an immersion blender. Top off with a dollop of yogurt and dried cranberries. If I had not eaten ALL of the toasted squash seeds I would have sprinkled a few on top as well.

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Pumpkin Spice

There’s no mistaking it, Turkey Day goes down this week! Of all the holidays Thanksgiving truly is my favorite. Yes, it even surpasses the enchanting horror that is Halloween. Thanksgiving, for me, is the only holiday that really makes sense. It’s a time when families’ gather round a shared table for a day full of laughing, loving and giving thanks. Or stuffing yourself to the point of uncomfortable gluttony, followed by brief periods of unconsciousness caused by tryptophan induced comas and then maybe a bit of footballing, probably from the safety and warmth found on the couch!
The other reason I fancy Thanksgiving is the perpetual olfactory excitement produced by the unmistakable spice blend that is Fall. Cinnamon. Ginger. Nutmeg. Cloves.
Danielle’s Pumpkin Spice Blend
1 Tbsp + 1 Tsp Cinnamon
1 Tsp Ginger
1 Tsp Nutmeg
1/2 Tsp Cloves

The above combination is my recipe for pumpkin spice, it makes a little over 2 Tbsp. I usually make several batches and place it in a container, this way I have an ample supply on hand to get me through Fall and all things pumpkin!

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Blueberry Vanilla Granola

In my family it’s no secret that during the holidays I ALWAYS show up with handmade-homebaked gifts bursting with love.  Let’s be honest I didn’t can 325 (thus far) jars of preserves, chutneys and sauces all for my own evil hoarding pleasures. Well, maybe the tomato jam, but everything else will be shared amongst friends and family. This year I’m planning on adding more “meals in a jar” which are great for crock-pot cooking along with granola which is just all around kick-ass!

Last weekend I had a fierce craving for granola. Seeing as how I had consumed the entire batch I made two weeks ago (except for the container I’m hoarding at my desk in the office) I needed to whip up another batch, deciding to make that top priority of the day. Remembering I had squirreled away a quart jar of dehydrated blueberries last summer I decided to give that fruit a starring role.

Blueberry Vanilla Granola
2 c rolled oats
1 c wheat germ
1 c almonds, raw
1/2 c sunflower seeds, raw
1/3 c flax seeds
2 c blueberries, dried
1 1/2 c banana chips
1/3 c maple syrup
1/4 c sunflower oil
1/4 c agave nectar
2 tsp vanilla extract
2 generous sprinklings of vanilla powder
a sprinkling of ground cinnamon
a pinch of salt

Place oats in a lightly oiled 9×13 pan and toast for 15 minutes at 350, stirring once or twice. Had the wheat germ not already been toasted I would have baked it with the oats. Combine wet ingredients in a medium bowl and whisk until blended. Remove toasted oats from the oven and add nuts, seeds, wheat germ and salt, stir until well mixed. Pour sugar-oil mixture over dry ingredients and stir so that everything is evenly coated. Place back in the oven for about 20-25 minutes then add dried fruit and sprinkle cinnamon and vanilla powder, stir, then add more vanilla! 🙂

This batch happens to be my favorite go-to cereal blend, and I’m willing to bet there won’t be any left to start off next week!

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Tomato Butter Toast

Just a few short weeks ago I was drowning in beautiful sun-ripened tomatoes.  Now, not so much.  Tomatoes are one food that I refuse to eat when not in season, especially when dining out.  Call me what you will, but I’ve worked in restaurants and there is nothing more unappetizing than a flavorless tomato that has ripened on a truck while crossing the country.  Gross.

Knowing that my summer fling with tomatoes was nearing an end, I needed to find another way to preserve summer in a jar.  I had already “put up” several quarts of Amish Paste tomatoes as well as made sauce and salsa.  I began revisiting the tomato pages in my canning books and searching food blogs.  Finally it hit me, I’ll make tomato butter.  And so I did.

To be quite honest, I wasn’t all that impressed.  Then I figured out the perfect way to eat it and ended up consuming an entire jar in 3 days!  I’m left with 3 half pints and way too many winter months ahead of me!  I’ve decided to ration it out by hiding it in my closet and attempting to forget about it!  Let me tell you how well that is NOT working!

Honestly, I don’t recall if this is even the recipe I used.  I know, I suck!  Since it wasn’t love at first bite I ended up only making a small batch.  I’m talking a measly 5 half pints.  What a mistake that turned out to be!  Total palm to forehead moment folks!  I did however remember to write down the spices and their amounts since I was veering from a recipe.  (FYI, when canning you should NEVER change amounts in a recipe without first checking with your local extension office first!  I’ve learned that dried spices are okay but anything else is not, especially your ratio of acid to non-acid foods!)

Danielle’s Tomato Butter

5 lbs red tomatoes, skins and seeds removed
1 cup vinegar
3 cups sugar
1/4 tsp ground ginger
1/2 tsp nutmeg
1/8 tsp cloves

Here is what I think I did. Again, I know, sorry, I suck. : /

Blanche tomatoes, remove core, skin and seeds. Place tomatoes in a food processor and puree, then transfer into a crock pot. Cook on the low heat setting for several hours. I’m pretty sure I did this in the wee hours of the morning and then went to work, so it probably cooked for about 8 hours…or maybe it was over night. When canning season is in full throttle life is an absolute blur! Regardless, I know I cooked it down for hours! Remember to vent your crock’s lid so the steam escapes and the mixture reduces. I lay a wooden spoon across one of the ends and then put the lid on. Add sugar, vinegar and spices, stir well. Continue cooking for several more hours, just before ladling into hot jars give it a  zip with an immersion blender so it achieves a creamy buttery texture. Process in a BWB for 10 minutes (or your recommended time for location altitude). Place jars on a wire rack and allow jars to cool undisturbed for 24 hours.

Now you know how to make it, here is how you eat it. Place two pieces of bread on a baking sheet (trust me, one is not enough!). Set your oven to broil and carefully toast each side. Slather on tomato butter and top with a sprinkling of cheese. Place back into the oven until the cheese is melted and slightly golden. Oh My!

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Food Store Super Score Rambles

It’s no secret that I grow most of my own food; I also cook everything from scratch. At times that can be a real pain in the ass, especially when hunger pangs are in full force and instant gratification is nowhere to be found! For me grocery shopping is not a weekly or biweekly ritual, it’s more like a once a month event. If anything I frequent the local Mennonite/Amish food stores to stock up on non conventional flours, natural sweeteners, TVP and the like.

Last weekend I held my annual FNS, Fall Nesting Session. During this time I go through EVERYTHING in my house purging and simplifying my acquired stuff in preparation for winter. (I do this in the Spring as well.) I happened to find several Fall inspired squash and soup recipes that I had squirreled away over the course of the Summer. Of the needed ingredients there were a few not found in my pantry. So Monday after work I headed out with list in hand for a bit of errand running. The first stop was Rhubarbs Natural Market to stock up on immunity boosting goldenseal extract and skin nourishing safflower oil. While aimlessly wandering the isles I happened to notice the organic free-range chicken and organic veggie stocks were on sale for half price, SCORE! I then ventured over to the regular food store for bananas, oj and condensed milk only to find organic beets and carrots on super sale, DOUBLE SCORE!! Unbenounced to me the produce sale had actually ended which was why the self scan was not discounting them. Apparently someone forgot to take down the sign so they had to honor it anyway! Makes me wish I had grabbed a few more! I’m definitely heading back to Rhubarbs later this week to pick up more chicken and veggie stock. That is one cooking staple I love having on hand during soup season!

Seriously, I’m still excited over my unintentional bargain finds!

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Maple Fruit Granola

Lancaster has a few hidden gems, one being Millers, an Amish food store smack dab in the middle of nowhere farmland.  I’m talking old order Amish, no electricity, only kerosene lamps, straight pined clothing and thick THICK Pennsylvania Dutch accents.  I was in awe the first time Jason took me there.  Not because of the Amish, I’ve been around Amish my entire life, but because of their amazing selection of homemade granola.  They must have had over 20 different varieties, and don’t get me started on the dried fruits!

Several years ago the Miller family built a new store directly across from the original one.  This one is three times as big!  They now have a “walk-in” style refrigerated room and if memory serves me right they now have electricity.  It’s been over a year since I last visited due to having two Mennonite bulk food stores in close proximity to my home, plus the trek across Lancaster County (depending on tourist season, which runs March – Jan) can take well over an hour!  I do however need to visit soon and stock up on flame raisins. They. Are. Awesome.

Granola is one of my favorite foods!  Not only does it taste amazing but it’s easy peasy to make and a relatively healthy snack (depending on what you put in it, of course).  Fall brings several flavors to the forefront of my mind, one being maple, the other, cinnamon.  I decided to conduct a blog search for maple granola and found one that fit perfectly.

Maple Fruit Granola  (adapted from WFCF blog, my additions are noted with an asterisk)

2 cups rolled oats
1 cup dried cranberries
1 cup dried currents*
1/2 cup flax seeds*
1 cup slivered almonds, raw
1/2 cup sunflower seeds, raw
3/4 cup shredded unsweetened coconut
2 Tbsp agave nectar
1/4 cup maple syrup
2 Tbsp sunflower oil
a large handful of banana chips*
a pinch of salt
a sprinkling of cinnamon
Toast the oats in a 9×13 pan for 15 minutes at 300 degrees F, stirring once.  In a small bowl combine wet ingredients and whisk until well blended.  Remove the toasted oats from the oven and add remaining dry ingredients, except for the fruit and cinnamon.  Stir until combined, then evenly pour the oil-sugar mixture into the pan stirring well to make sure everything is well coated.
Place pan back in the oven for 20-25 minutes or until granola starts to brown around the edges, stirring once or twice.  Be careful to not overbake your granola when using flax seeds.  Not only will flax lose its beneficial health properties when over heated, but it will also develop a smoky flavor.
Add cranberries, currents and banana chips and stir.  Top off with a sprinkling of cinnamon.  Allow to cool completely before placing into containers for storage.

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Dehyrating Greens – Rainbow Chard

My dehydrator has been on overdrive due to a surge in my end of season preservation. This year instead of freezing my greens I decided to dehydrate them. Not only will this save on space but also requires less energy since they do not have to be kept frozen.
I’m so smitten with Rainbow Chard. I think it is absolutely stunning and I have major plans of making this chenopod a feature in next year’s edible landscaping! 
Earlier in the week I started harvesting my Rainbow Chard. I first de-stemmed it, then cut the greens into strips. I submerged it in a sink of cold water and swished it around a good bit to remove any extra dirt hidden in the curly leaves, then placed it into gallon ziplocks. I ended up with 2 very full bags.
Whether you are freezing or dehydrating greens you first need to blanch them (with either boiling water or steam) until wilted. This stops the enzymes from breaking down the nutrients as well as retards the loss of color, taste and texture. I chose steam to retain the maximum amount of vitamins. Using tongs I carefully rotated the chard to insure even wilting. 
Once the greens were wilted I placed them on my dehydrator trays keeping them no more than a quarter-inch thick.
I set the heat dial to the recommended setting and left for a photo shoot with my brother’s band. (I’ll be sure to share that on my photography blog…eventually!) When I returned four hours later this is what I found.
Perfectly crisp and crunchy chard!
Over a large bowl I crumbled the greens by hand, then scooped them into my grinder to powder them. I could have used a mortar and pestle as well but this was way faster and I had over 500 picture to start going through!
Four trays of greens yields a measly inch or so in powdered form. Guess it’s a good thing it is so potent! I plan to add the powdered chard to soups, stews and curries. I’m sure it will also be good sprinkled on baked potatoes as well as an excellent vitamin boost when added to smoothies!

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Pickled Green Tomatoes

Last Friday it was forecasted that we were to receive our first hard frost of the season. With the exception of my cool weather crops (like peas, bok choy, beets, radishes, all my brassicas and mesclun who love the cold) most of my plants can’t take frost or a severe dip in temperature. In a panicked state I hurried about my garden picking green tomatoes like a squirrel collecting nuts. I ended up with well over 25 lbs of unripe tomatoes. Turns out we did not get an actual killing frost until this morning, but it was a necessary harvest that was going to take place eventually.

I really love fried green tomatoes, however, I don’t see myself perpetually consuming them over the next two weeks. So my preservation quest began. I found quite a few recipes that peaked my interest, one of which was to pickle them, which I did.

Pickled Green Tomatoes

4 c water
4 cups white vinegar
4 Tbsp Pickling Salt
4 pounds green tomatoes, sliced into wedges
dill seed
garlic
peppercorn
bay leaves

Combine vinegar, salt and water to make a brine and bring it to a boil. In each hot jar add 2 bay leaves, 2 tsp dill seed, 1/2 tsp peppercorns and a clove of garlic, sliced. Add tomatoes and fill jar with hot brine. I did both pints and quarts. For the quart I upped the spice measurements a bit. Process in a BWB for 10 minutes.

As with anything pickled the longer the brine has to develop the stronger and better the flavor becomes. I’ll be sure to crack one of these open in a few weeks and let you know how they turned out!

**UPDATE** Mid January I cracked open a jar of this lovely green beauties, needless to say I ate almost the entire jar standing in the kitchen! They are awesome and I can’t wait to make more later this year!!

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Filed under Boiling-Water Bath Canning, Pickling, Vegan, Vegetarian