Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Pumpkin Puree

Last Thanksgiving, I got put in charge of the pumpkin pie. Growing up, I remember baking pumpkins with my mom so I decided to give it a try again. Making your own pumpkin is very easy and you can make it a day or freeze. Canned pumpkin is fine, but there is nothing like fresh, baked pumpkin.

I started with this beautiful pie pumpkin from our local farmers market

Cut off the top. You will need a good, sturdy chefs nice for this. Cut in a half and clean out the seeds.

Quarter the pumpkin and arrange on a cookie sheet or baking pan and bake until pumpkin is tender. Process cooked and cooled pumpkin until a smooth consistency. And silly me, I didn't get a final picture of the puree! But here is the finished product: pumpkin pie!

Pumpkin Puree
from Tasteful Cuisine

1 pie pumpkin (or as many as you want to bake)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Rinse pumpkin thoroughly and pat dry. Cut top off of pumpkin and cut in half. Clean out the seeds and quarter pumpkin. Arrange on a non-stick cookie sheet and bake for 45 minutes to 1 hour or until tender. Rotate the pumpkin halfway through so that cooks evenly. Cool completely. Peel the skin off the pumpkin and cut into small pieces. Transfer pumpkin to a food processor and process until a fine pulp. This mixture can be refrigerated up to 7 days or frozen for later use. Yields three cups.

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Pumpkin Pie Spice

It's that time of year for everything pumpkin. Pumpkin pie spice is an essential ingredient in fall baking. But why buy another jar of spice when you can make it with spices you already have in your pantry? It's simple!

Just measure out your ingredients:

Mix Together:

And Voila! You have your own homemade pumpkin pie spice:

I like making my own for a two reasons: I rarely make pumpkin recipes, so this allows me to make a small amount for the season. It would literally take me three or four years to go through a jar, by then it's no good. It also allows me to tweak the spice how I want. If I want more cinnamon, I can adjust and add more cinnamon. If I want more spice I can add more cloves and so on.

Pumpkin Pie Spice
from Tasteful Cuisine

Yields: 1 tablespoon

2 teaspoons cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1/4 teaspoon ground allspice
1/4 ground cloves

Mix spices together and store in airtight jar or container.

Yields: 1/4 cup

2 tablespoons cinnamon
1 tablespoon ground nutmeg
2 teaspoons ground ginger
1 teaspoon ground allspice
1 teaspoon ground cloves

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Preserving Herbs

This past spring, my husband built some raised beds to start a small garden. I planted mostly herbs with a few tomato and pepper plants (I tried to start small, this is my first gardening on my own). I love using fresh herbs so I planted as much as I possibly could. Now that fall is upon us, I need to preserve some of the herbs for the winter. We had our first small frost last week so I was busy preparing all my herbs before it hit.

Herbs from left to right: Basil, Oregano, Parsley, and Rosemary

To prepare herbs for drying, line cookie sheet with parchment paper, wash and dry the herbs, and spread the herbs in an even layer on a cookie sheet. Store in a dry place for ample drying time. I placed mine in a dry corner in the kitchen that is close to a heat vent and sunny window.  You can also dry herbs by tying together in a bundle and hanging them in a dry place.

Dried Oregano

I also made some lovely basil pesto and froze tablespoon amounts in ice cube. Once the cubes of pesto are frozen, pop them out and place them in a Ziploc bag. These are great to add to a sauce for an extra pop of flavor.

I got a little messy with the pesto...

Here's a run-down of what I did with each herb:

Using a strong pair of kitchen shears, harvest herbs from the garden. Cut stems at the base of the plant or as close as possible.

Carefully wash and dry herbs (a salad spinner works great for this). Lay out on paper towels to dry thoroughly.

Oregano: Remove oregano leaves from stem. Spread out on a cookie sheet to dry. 
Basil: Basil is a soft herb and is hard to dry so I opted for keeping it as fresh as possible. Use basil to make pesto and freeze in ice cube trays. Or freeze chopped basil leaves in olive oil. Once the cubes are frozen, remove and put in freezer safe containers or bags.
Parsley: Remove leaves from stem and finely chop the leaves. Spread in an even layer on a lined cookie sheet. You can also freeze parsley in olive oil as you do with basil.
Rosemary: Lay the stems out to dry. Once dry, pluck the leaves off of the stem.

Store all dried herbs in Ziploc baggies or spice containers or jars.

I also have some potted herbs that I plan to keep indoor this winter. This way I can use fresh herbs all year around!