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  • Pumpkin Puree: Homemade vs. Store Bought (with recipes)

    I bought some sugar pumpkins at Trader Joe’s and roasted them to make puree yesterday, so I thought I’d do a price comparison on homemade pumpkin puree vs. canned pumpkin.

    One can of organic pumpkin puree at Trader Joe’s is $1.99, and contains approximately 3.5 1/2 cup servings, or about 1.75 cups.

    Sugar pumpkins are $1.99 each at Trader Joe’s – they’re fairly small, which I think makes for better flavor. I tried to pick pumpkins that were heavy for their weight, so the flesh would be moist and dense. Three pumpkins yielded about 6 cups. That works out to $1.74 per 1.75 cups, and I also got about two cups of roasted pumpkin seeds out of my pumpkins. But the price per unit doesn’t factor in the time or energy costs it took to make the puree.

    So I’ll call it about even. After all, making pumpkin puree requires a fair amount of effort, while canned pumpkin has a huge convenience factor in its favor.

    Actually, because the pumpkins I bought weren’t organic, the canned pumpkin probably costs less. But as far as I know, pumpkins are pretty low risk when it comes to pesticide and fertilizer residue. Plus, fresh pumpkin tastes phenomenal and canned pumpkin raises BPA concerns for me.

    Want to try it for yourself? Here’s how I made my pumpkin puree:

    Homemade Pumpkin Puree
    Makes about 2 cups per pumpkin

    Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Cut a small sugar pumpkin in half. Scoop out the seeds and strings, saving the seeds if desired. Place the pumpkin cut side down on a lined baking sheet and bake for 45 to 60 minutes, or until you can easily insert a knife through the pumpkin.

    Remove the pumpkin from the oven and let cool on the pan for about 30 minutes.

    Place a food mill fitted with the smallest blade over a large bowl. Scoop the pumpkin flesh out of the shell and transfer to food mill. Pass the pumpkin through the food mill, scraping down the side but not pushing the pumpkin through the holes. Use the puree as you would canned pumpkin.

    Note: I have a food mill from my homemade baby food days, so that’s what I used. It makes for a nice puree that still has a bit of texture, but if you don’t have a food mill, I *think* you should be okay with a food processor. Speaking of baby food, you could mix the puree with some applesauce, or add in a little cinnamon to give your baby a new taste.

    Roasted Pumpkin Seeds

    Separate the pumpkin seeds from the strings but do not wash them (they have a lot more flavor this way). Add 1 tablespoon of olive oil per cup of seeds and sprinkle with fine sea salt to taste. Spread the seeds out in a single layer on a lined baking sheet and bake at 300 degrees for approximately two hours or until golden brown, stirring every half hour.


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    Three Ways to Make Zankou Chicken Garlic Spread

    I’m a huge fan of Zankou Chicken‘s roasted chicken, which is served with pita bread and their famous garlic spread. The garlic spread is white, thick, and just a tad lumpy. It’s super garlicky, and is just the perfect match for the chicken.

    As I mentioned earlier this week, I want us to eat out less. And a full dinner from Zankou runs our family $15 to $20, plus the cost of veggie sides. So I recreated a meal from Zankou for dinner last night using a whole chicken from the freezer, and Jennifer B. asked for the recipe of their garlic spread since I confessed to breaking the emulsion yesterday.

    I’ve made the garlic spread several times, and I’ve tried a few different ways. The one thing you need is a blender, because I don’t think a whisk is going to get the job done.

    So the first version I tried, via Chowhound, involved 3 small russet potatoes, 14 cloves of garlic minced (1 head), 1/3 cup of fresh lemon juice, 1/2 tablespoon salt, and 1/2 cup canola oil (tip: “mince” the garlic using a microplane). I made mashed potatoes, then pureed the rest of the ingredients, and then added the potatoes. It tasted okay, but more like garlicky-lemony mashed potatoes than garlic spread.

    So the next version I made eliminated the potatoes. When you add the oil slowly to the garlic, lemon juice and salt, it emulsifies and turns into this glorious, thick mayonnaise type consistency. What I learned the hard way is that you need to let it mellow for a few hours at least. The sauce was way too intense at dinner, but the next morning it was delicious.

    That second version is what I was going for yesterday. Unfortunately, I didn’t add the oil slowly enough and my emulsion broke. It was no longer thick and glossy but liquidy. I tried starting over but for some reason I couldn’t get the second emulsion to form either, so I was feeling a little desperate. I’ve served roasted chicken with my white bean dip, so it occurred to me to add about 1/2 cup of cannellini beans to my non-emulsified liquid. It did the trick, and I had a spreadable sauce that was still garlicky and lemony and went nicely with the chicken.

    I’m not sure which version I prefer – the second or the third. In the future, I’ll probably try making the second version, and resorting to the third if my emulsion breaks again.

    Be warned – it’s a lot of garlic and it’s intense! But delicious :)

    Farfalle with Cauliflower and Raisins

    I don’t know if your kids will like this (mine didn’t), but I thought it was a nice pasta salad and a pleasant change of pace from the usual pasta dish.

    Farfalle with Cauliflower and Raisins
    Serves 4-6

    1/2 cup raisins
    1 cup hot water
    2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
    1 large head of cauliflower, broken into small florets
    2 cloves garlic, minced
    1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes
    1 2-oz can oil-packed anchovies
    3/4 cup chicken broth (or white wine)
    12-16 ounces dried farfalle, cooked according to package directions
    1/4 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese

    1. Combine raisins and hot water and set aside.

    2. In a large skillet, heat the olive oil over medium heat. Add the cauliflower and garlic and saute until the cauliflower is lightly browned (about 10 minutes). Add the red pepper flakes and anchovies, and stir until the anchovies have mostly dissolved. Add the broth or wine and simmer until the cauliflower is “al dente” and the liquid has reduced by half (about 15 minutes). Stir in the pasta and drained raisins. Serve with Parmesan cheese.

    Note: I cooked the pasta first until it was al dente, then drained it and covered the colander with the lid while I cooked the cauliflower in the same pot. (I set aside some pasta tossed with a little butter for the boys.) This dish is great cold the next day.

    Martha Stewart’s Basic Vanilla Cookie Dough

    I have a free subscription to Martha Stewart Living, which might just be my favorite magazine. (I tweeted about the free subscription back when it was available from Rewards Gold – I’ll often do that when there’s a time sensitive deal that won’t be active by the time of Morning Coffee. You can follow me on Twitter here.)

    I love to look at all of the lovely crafty things in MSL, which I am unlikely to ever do myself but which are fabulous to behold.

    Most of the MSL recipes I’ve made have been good, though once in a while there’s a dud. In the December 2010 issue, I was captivated by the One Basic Dough, 30 Kinds of Cookies feature. The pictures are so much fun, so my saying here that the myriad assortment is colorful and captivating just doesn’t do it justice.

    I’ve never liked sugar cookies much, but I made the Basic Vanilla Dough and I’m a fan. You can treat it like a regular sugar cookie dough, so refrigerate and then roll it out and then use cookie cutters. I left it in the fridge overnight and found it was too firm to roll. If I’d had time, I would have let it soften, but instead I sliced them and cut stars out of the center. The dough makes beautiful icebox cookies too.

    Martha Stewart’s Basic Vanilla Cookie Dough
    December 2010 Martha Stewart Living

    3 cups all-purpose flour (I used unbleached)
    3/4 teaspoon baking powder (omit if making thumbprint, ball or spritz cookies)
    1/2 teaspoon salt
    2 sticks (1 cup) unsalted butter, softened
    1 cup sugar
    1 large egg
    2 teaspoons vanilla extract

    Whisk together flour, baking powder and salt in a large bowl. Beat butter and sugar with a mixer on medium-high speed until pale and fluffy. Beat in egg and vanilla. Reduce speed to low. Add flour mixture and beat until combined.

    At this point, I rolled my dough into a log, wrapped it in plastic wrap, and parked it in the fridge. I would recommend making two logs or discs before refrigerating the dough. Bake at 350 degrees for 14 to 16 minutes or until very lightly browned at edges.

    You can refrigerate the dough overnight or freeze for up to one month.

    Pumpkin Waffles

    Again, I neglected to take a picture of the finished product, but my waffles aren’t very pretty anyway. Having had the experience of overflowing my waffle maker, I now tend to always put in too little batter and end up with diamonds instead of circles. I’m not a fan of Belgian waffles, so I got this Cuisinart Classic Waffle Maker a while back and it’s served me well. The only thing I don’t like is that if I put fruit (like blueberries or bananas) in the batter, it tends to stick. So I was rather pleased when I thought of putting pumpkin puree in, because it doesn’t stick and still gives it a special flavor.

    Pumpkin Waffles
    Makes approximately 12 traditional waffles

    1 cup all purpose flour
    3/4 cup white whole wheat flour
    1 tablespoon baking powder
    1/3 cup packed brown sugar (dark or light)
    1/4 teaspoon fine sea salt
    1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
    3 eggs, lightly beaten
    8 tablespoons melted butter
    1 cup reduced fat milk
    8 ounces pumpkin puree (or canned pumpkin)

    1. Preheat your waffle maker according to the manufacturer’s instructions.

    2. In a medium bowl, whisk together the flours, baking powder, sugar, salt and cinnamon.

    3. In a small bowl (I use my 4-cup measuring cup), whisk together the eggs, butter, milk and pumpkin. Pour the liquid ingredients over the dry ingredients and whisk together until almost smooth. (Unless you sifted your brown sugar, there will be small lumps which will be extra tasty in the cooked waffles.)

    4. Pour batter into your waffle maker and cook according to the manufacturer’s instructions. Serve with warm maple syrup.

    Note: For breakfast on the go, you could substitute 1/4 cup of the milk with 1/4 cup maple syrup so your waffle has the maple syrup flavor built in.

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