Happy Thanksgiving!

Vegetables | November 21, 2017 | By

Smashing pumpkins. It may be a band name and a vandal’s badge of Halloween infamy, but around this time of year I picture more of a British exclamation, “Smashing! Pumpkins?!” It’s the expression of my proud, mental high-five for making the move from canned pumpkins to fresh, as well as the internal bewilderment over why I didn’t do it earlier.

Pumpkins are so often viewed as ornamental, but they offer us so much more in terms of health benefits between their Vitamin C and beta carotene rich flesh, possible anti-cancer and immune boosting properties, and their seeds which have multiple health benefits. When you turn that beauty into a dessert, you can almost feel giddy about getting your fruit (though we think of it as a vegetable since it isn’t naturally sweet) that way.

My former sister-in-law told me that sugar pumpkins were easy to use and that her husband couldn’t go back to eating canned pumpkin after the first time she baked with them. I owe her one, especially since I’ve succumbed to feeding Daniel vegetables in the form of pouches and desserts just to get them into his body. I’m a little desperate. 

I put up an unadulterated picture of a naked roasted pumpkin to show you how not intimidating it is to cook and use them. You can almost palm these pumpkins, and somehow this feels good to someone my size who has never been able to palm a basketball. I palmed the peeling in this shot to remove it.

This is the easiest method I know to use sugar pumpkins. If you have any others, let me know. (I suppose, on a rushed day, I might put the whole pumpkin in and slice it open after it roasts if slicing it presents a challenge.)

  1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.
  2. Wash and dry the pumpkins with paper towels.
  3. Holding the pumpkin steady with one hand at the base of the stem, press it against a cutting board and use the tip of your knife to cut into the center.
  4. Moving the knife horizontally across the equator of the pumpkin. The stem of the pumpkin should be north of your knife and the base of the pumpkin south of it. 
  5. Leave the peel on! 
  6. Scoop out the seeds and save them (cook separately using “Mary’s Method-to come in the recipe section soon)
  7. Stick the pumpkin halves on a sheet pan lined with parchment paper if you don’t want a lot to clean up at the end.
  8. Roast the pumpkins until they are tender between 30-45 minutes.
  9. Remove the peeling from each pumpkin half. In the photo above, we were able to lift the peeling off completely with no fuss.
  10. Puree the pumpkin in the blender.
  11. Use the puree in any recipe that calls for canned pumpkin. Be careful of waterlogged pumpkins which may need to be cooked down more before use in lieu of canned pumpkins.
  12. Warning: Don’t use your decorative pumpkins that you would normally carve into Jack-o-lanterns for this use, because they aren’t suited for dessert applications.

Last Thursday, we made hand held pumpkin filo desserts. They didn’t have the depth of pumpkin pie or the super smooth mouthfeel, because it doesn’t have a custard-like base (hence, it is also short several calories and grams of fat), but they were very good (even Daniel ate them). I appreciated the ability to do something different with pumpkins during the Thanksgiving season. We omitted the powdered sugar but added freshly whipped cream (of course, we added back in the fat we missed), and Daniel loved them! When we finished making them, I could see the link between this Greek dessert and modern day fast food chain, hand held pies but these are, of course, a better option. 

Next time, I’ll post the roasted pumpkin seed recipe and the pumpkin chocolate chip cookie recipe from Saucy Boy, so stayed tuned.

Wishing you many blessings this Thanksgiving, lots of fun, peace of heart and mind; and good health around your table, Rufina

Small Things

small-things“Remember to use one green one and one red,” Bonnie said as she glanced at the peppers in the colander, “they taste different. If you don’t, it won’t be the same.” She gently rinsed them. Her blue eyes looked up, twinkled, and paused on mine. As if by habit from her work as a Long Island nurse, she spoke as though she wanted to remind me to take all of my meds, not to skip doses out of convenience. “You’ve got to have the right ingredients to make macaroni salad for Fire Island,” she cautioned, smiling.

Bonnie seemed healthy today. As she set up the cutting boards, her lively movements never revealed her body’s historic battles. To date, she had beaten cancers that afflicted her pancreas and liver.


As Above, So Below: Spending A Day Where the Sun Dances at Indian Ridge

as-above-so-belowARCHIVED FROM 2009
“In chemical farming, it’s about the plant, pesticides, herbicides and designing the plant to take it all up. The focus is on the plant. In organic farming, the focus is on the soil. You feed the soil; then you do the worms, air, microbes, sun and water … all forces of the earth working on the soil. The same thing is true of a person’s life. You can treat yourself chemically with all the ‘shoulds’, ‘oughtas’ or you can feel the soil that nurtures the spirit [organically]. You know what feeds you: good relationships, food, good music. If you live chemically, you beat yourself up.”

Ed believes in the truth of the old saying, “As above, so below.” Put simply, he proclaims, “if you nurture the soil, the dang gone seed knows how to grow.” He claims that when you start messing with the seed, things don’t turn out the right way. Undoing the hard-wiring of the seed through genetic modification and through the use of chemicals during plant growth attempts to fix something that would otherwise already work.


The Saucy Road to San Marzanos

Fruits, Vegetables | July 23, 2016 | By

saucy-road-san-marzanosARCHIVED FROM 2009 (Note: The husband I refer to is now an ex-husband, great guy. We  had an amicable divorce.) 

I am a woman obsessed. I sleep with one eye to the window and think of stories of how cowboys sleep. By the morning, I conclude that they don’t. After traveling 800 plus miles to Atlanta with my husband, we had stopped at the Motel X at 1:00a.m not wanting to disturb relatives or friends only a mile away. My husband was traveling for continuing education, but my main mission was to spend time with relatives and purchase San Marzano tomatoes in bulk at the Dekalb Farmer’s Market.

We drove straight from Wisconsin, Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, Tennessee, and Georgia.   After thirteen hours in our packed Subaru, we wanted sleep.

To the Edge of the Perimeter of Atlanta and the Ends of the Earth for San Marzanos

At the edge of Atlanta’s perimeter, the legendary circle that outlines Atlanta and separates suburbs from city life, Motel X looked like an ivory beachside motel with a rail-guarded concrete balcony running the length of each floor. One oversized street lamp in the middle of the parking lot towered above the main buildings’ three stories, illuminating the space like a beacon— signaling refuge for the weary at $29.99 a night. Its height dominates the scene over the clerk’s office building with its awkward, disproportionate size compared to surrounding structures.