Pumpkin Puree

I love pumpkins, squashes and gourds. I just think they are so beautiful. They are also super healthy and tasty.

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An easy way to enjoy these benefits year round is by pureeing your own pumpkin. It’s super easy. All you have to do is cut the pumpkin in half, clean out the guts using the side of a spoon (keep the seeds to roast, feed the yucky stringy parts to your worms if you have them, they will turn a lovely orange). Cut the clean halves up into chunks and roast them on baking sheets at 350 for about 45 minutes, or until tender. Then, once its cool, just peel the skin off and puree in batches in a blender or food processor. You can either use it right away in your favourite pumpkin recipe, or freeze it for later

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Why make it if you can just buy it? It literally takes minutes of actual work, plus pumpkins are dirt cheap in the fall, and this way, I actually end up using the pumpkin. It goes like this: I think, gee I would like to bake/cook something, I have pumpkin, perhaps I should use that and I end up with a delicious and healthy product. Otherwise I would look at a recipe and say, nope no pumpkin in the house, and move on to another idea.

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Another great reason is that most people don’t realize how easy it is, so if you serve them pumpkin pie and say you made it completely from scratch, from pumpkins, they are really impressed.

Healthy Vs. Low Fat

Sometimes I post a meal idea or recipe and I describe it as healthy, but then I think that maybe some people would disagree. When I say ‘healthy’ I mean nutritious, as in containing vitamins, minerals and other good stuff. I would never describe a recipe as healthy because it contains only 50 calories. In our house, we don’t often often consider the fat, calories or sugars in the foods that we eat. We just try to eat a well balanced diet.

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We don’t follow fads, like demonizing gluten, or wheat or sugar. Instead we focus on eating a varied diet, filled with nutrient dense foods, like greens, nuts and whole grains. We also eat almost exclusively whole foods. By this I mean we buy very few canned, boxed or processed foods. We prefer to buy or grow fresh foods and process, or prepare them ourselves.

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I’m not telling anyone how they should eat, or saying that I know anything about diet and nutrition. I’m just saying healthy isn’t always low fat. We eat to put good things into our bodies to keep them running, and try to get as much enjoyment out of it as possible.

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Just some food for thought!

Easy Whatever Muffins

I like making muffins, but I hate following recipes. Muffins usually are the type of thing where you need to closely follow a recipe in order for them to turn out. I’ve had a lot of muffin failures by making things up as I go, or trying to make substitutions.

Recently, however, I found a fairly fool proof method for muffins.

1 cup of wet stuff (in my case a mix of mashed bananas and grated zucchini, but could be pumpkin, carrot or applesauce…or whatever)
1 egg
a generous squirt of vanilla
1/3 cup of sugar (give or take)
mix these together then,
half a cup of oats (or something similar or just extra flour)
1 cup of flour
1/2 teaspoon of baking soda
1 teaspoon of baking powder
mix all this together
then add to the first mixture and mix, just as much as needed, don’t go crazy
add nuts or chocolate chips or whatever is lying around
put into muffin holding device (I use silicon muffin cups because I HATE washing muffin tins)
bake for about 25-30 minutes at 350, poke to check for doneness

I like this recipe because I can change and modify it whatever way and it still seems to work. Also, I just need to remember the basic ratio and not have to check a recipe every time.

Have some old fruit lying around, give it a try! If you come up with any great additions/combinations, let me know!

Fermenting- Update

Our fermenting was a success! Well, mostly. After about a week I decided the pickles and beets were done. The method I used to tell…I was tired of skimming the crud off the top every day, and they tasted good. Very scientific, I know.

I’m not sure if it’s the kind of salt we used (a mixture of pickling salt and kosher salt), the recipe we used (1 tablespoon of salt per cup of water) or if it’s just us, but the pickles were unbearably salty. As in, they made your mouth hurt. To remedy this I strained them out of the brine and we are keeping them in water in the fridge. This seems to have reduced the salt, so they are now deliciously edible and super crunchy.

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We will definitely do this again next year, but I’d love to find a way to cut down the salt so that we can store them in brine since I assume that would make them last longer, and probably increase the probiotics.

Any suggestions?

Winter Veggie Storage

This year we are doing something I’ve wanted to do for a while, but couldn’t because we didn’t have a basement of our own. We are trying to store enough root veggies to see us though the winter. This time of year the grocery store is practically giving some vegetables away. We bought 10 pounds of carrots, 10 pounds of onions and 20 pounds of potatoes, all for $2 each.

For the onions we just left them in the meshy bag they come in and stuck in the cold room. We will definitely need to get more onions, but they might get even cheaper so we will wait and see. For the potatoes we layered them in milk crates with layers of newspaper in between. The carrots were a little trickier. All of the sources we read told us to layer them in sand with no carrot touching. The sand is supposed to be damp. We used sand from our yard (around the pool is all nice clean sand). We used an old dog food bucket that was in our garage when we moved in (it’s clean, don’t worry).

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So now our cold room is fairly well stocked with vegetables, and canned tomatoes. We’re hoping this will save us money though the year and reduce our rate of running out of onion mid meal prep. I would also like to get sweet potatoes and some squash. We will also be adding apples to the mix soon, but we’ve read that those can’t be stored near potatoes or carrots, so we’re not too sure what to do about that yet. So we’re almost ready for winter, food wise. Personally, I’m never ready!

Cauliflower Sauce

This is an interesting recipe. It’s ridiculously simple, fairly healthy and quite tasty. I think you’d even be able to get picky kids to eat it. It can also be vegan. You can call it cauliflower white sauce, veggie cream sauce, vegan alfredo sauce. Whatever you call it, you should try it. Especially if you bought a head of cauliflower the size of a large watermelon like we did ($2 at the farmer’s market, score!).

All you do is take some saute some garlic in oil or butter, and boil some cauliflower. Take said garlic and cauliflower (plus either some broth or a wee bit of the water used to boil) and put it in a food processor. Wait to cool. I didn’t do this and was quite surprised when liquid started seeping through the cracks. Blend until smooth. Add some milk if you want and maybe some parmesan (we added both those plus some prosciutto). That’s it. Seriously.

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The website where I got the recipe (which I didn’t really follow because I didn’t have a clue what 5-7 cauliflower florets was) mentions some uses for this sauce. We stuck to pasta this time, but I would strongly consider putting it on rice.

Make One, Freeze One

School has started again and with that we are back to real life. With that comes meal planning attempts. What I’m trying to do seems fairly simple, but I think it will turn out to be pretty useful. Whenever we make a meal, we will make enough to eat that night and then freeze enough for another meal. Obviously this doesn’t work with every kind of meal, nachos, for example wouldn’t freeze particularly well, but pasta sauce, curry and soups all freeze wonderfully.

By having all of these meals in the freezer ready to go, whenever we have a day when we come home late and don’t feel like cooking, we know we have options. It’s much simpler than cooking meals specifically to freeze though, because we are just making extra.

Just a little idea to try and make life easier!

Making Soap- First Attempt

This past weekend we attended a soap making class. It was something we had been wanting to try for a while, but I was really afraid of the lye and the possibility for death. A class was a great way to ease into it and learn from a human, instead of just a book and youtube.

The class was put on by the owner of HomeSpun Dazzle, Claire. She did a fantastic job. The class was super informative and we both feel comfortable taking on soap making at home now. Though the lye was scary, I think a certain level of fear when using dangerous stuff will help you be cautious.

So, we each made one batch of soap, and I also won the one that the teacher prepared in a little raffle. We brought them home and had to wait 24 hours to take them out of the molds. The anticipation was hard to bear!

Here are our creations:

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This is Kurt’s. He made an orange poppy seed soap.

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I made lavender. I attempted a swirl.

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This is the batch the teacher made. I’m not sure what essential oil she used, but it smells really good and her swirl turned out a little better than mine.

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Here they all are standing at attention together as they cure in the basement. We have to let them cure for 4-6 weeks to make sure it’s safe. In the meantime the basement is going to smell wonderful!

Fermenting….It’s Not So Scary

Last year we tried fermenting some stuff. We ended up with fruit fly soup. This year things seem to be going a little bit better. I make yogurt and Kurt makes cheese. We make all kinds of preserves, but fermenting vegetables just seems different somehow… a little scary.

We are making dill pickles and beets. The process basically was:

-wash everything involved (crocks, plates to hold vegetables down, vegetables)
-make brine from non iodized salt and filtered water in your non-reactive vessel of choice (this took a while because our brita is slow and we ran out of salt and had to run to get some)
-add spices and oak leaves* to brine (we used garlic, pickling spice and fresh dill)
-put vegetables in
-put a plate on top to smoosh it all down (I also added a jar with water on top to weigh it down)
-cover it all with a clean tea towel
-every day or so scoop out anything gross and wash the plate

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* The oak leaves are supposed to help keep the cucumbers crispy. Kurt had to drive all over town to find what he claims was the only oak tree in town. Apparently grape leaves work too.

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Other than checking on it every day I’ve been giving it it’s space. I’m not positive what it’s supposed to look like or how I will know when it’s done doing its thing. I’m really just sitting here hoping for the best and trying to catch as many fruit flies as I can.

Backyard Update

A third of our backyard is growing and looking beautiful, the middle third looks like a demolition yard and the back third is pretty much all weeds by this point. One out of three ain’t bad.

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We have these beauties popping up everywhere. A bunch of the flowers were destroyed by a sudden rain storm we had a few mornings ago, but by the next morning the plant was covered in flowers again. The honey bees seem to love them too. They leave little pollen foot prints all over the flower. So cute.

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Our kale plants are hilarious. They look like a little forest growing in the garden. I threw the basketball in for perspective. They are huge!

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Our tomato plant is officially as tall as me. The tomatoes are giant too, especially considering we didn’t plant this until July. They aren’t changing colour though. We suspect it might be the lack of sun we’ve been having. Please note Homer in the window.

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The beets are growing weirdly. Some of them have popped out of the ground, but continue to grow. We figure as long as their tails are under ground they should be fine.

And here are some pictures of the wreck (I think it’s to the point now where it can’t be called a pool anymore). I think it speaks for itself.

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I don’t have any pictures of the back yonder, as I call it (starting right now). It’s beyond the thing formerly known as the pool. Right now there are heaps of twigs and things like that as well as weeds. I really just go back there to go through the gate to the river. One day I hope it be a shaded patio area where we can sit and enjoy the breeze and wild flower gardens. Wouldn’t that be lovely?