Saturday, October 10, 2009

I Love Pumpkin!

"...and I'll water you and feed you until you grow BIG and strong, like me...."

"...and I'll never, EVER, let Mommy use her big, sharp knife on you..."


To be honest, I had never really cooked with pumpkin until just a couple of years ago. One fateful bite of a Dunkin Donuts Pumpkin Muffin, and I realized I had been missing out.

So what have I done (so far) with this year's batch of pumpkin puree?

You might recall I set aside one hunk of pumpkin when I was roasting the rest for my pumpkin puree. Well, I took out my box grater and shredded it to make this...

Pumpkin Apple Salad from Allrecipes

Shredded, raw pumpkin, grated apple, raisins, lemon was missing something! I had never tasted raw pumpkin before and I thought it was pretty bland. I added some onion and nutmeg. I'd recommend trying something with a little heat, too.

Last year, my favorite muffin had been these...

Tender pumpkin muffin, chunks of apple, spices and a sweet, crumbly topping - Good Stuff! I almost made them again, but there are so many others I wanted to try.

Pumpkin Wheat Honey Muffins from (three guesses?)

I used dried cranberries instead of raisins - I LOVE cranberries in any sort of pumpkin bread! These are awesome! Moist, flavorful, the right amount of spice!

Now this was something I've wanted to try for a long, long time - Pumpkin Butter.

I used Pumpkin Butter I from Allrecipes, but used my own Pumpkin Pie Spice Blend and apple cider for the apple juice. It came out very good! A great topping for toast or even crackers, to get that salty-sweet combination. I even used some to sweeten and flavor a breakfast smoothie!

Like...THIS ONE!
Autumn Pumpkin Breakfast Smoothie:

1/2 frozen banana, sliced
1/3 cup nonfat plain yogurt
1/3 to 1/2 cup orange juice
1/4 cup pumpkin puree (fresh, if possible)
1 heaping tbsp. Pumpkin Butter

Throw everything in a blender and blend for about 20 seconds.

I DO highly recommend fresh puree in that one - while I do use canned for baked goods, when used in something uncooked I can detect that "tin can" flavor.

Some other ideas? How about a nice warm, fruity, spicy hearty breakfast?
My variation of Pumpkin Oatmeal from Allrecipe was such a treat! Big tweak though - it needed sweetness! Once again I added dried cranberries, but also some brown sugar. Made this before I made my pumpkin butter, but I bet that would have been great in this, too!

Or a rich creamy dessert?
Pumpkin Crunch Parfaits - I used butterscotch pudding mix to make it richer. Nice when you're craving a non-chocolate dessert (for once in my life.)

Or one of my favorites, PUMPKIN PANCAKES!!

And finally, what to do with all those seeds? ROAST 'EM!
This time I used this recipe from Allrecipes, but there are countless ways you can spice them up.

So there you have it! A sampling of some pumpkiny no pumpkin is safe!!!

Friday, October 9, 2009

Many Thanks!

I have been so remiss in acknowledging some of the wonderfully sweet awards my blogging buddies have bestowed upon me that I hope I'm not forgetting anyone!

Two wonderful blogging buddies of mine have shared this award with me:

Polly and Willoughby, thank you so much for thinking of me! If anyone here has NOT visited The Fifth Sister or This Stop Willoughby, please stop by and say hello! I'm sure you will enjoy their blogs as much as I do!

In return, I am supposed to give one word answers (lotsa luck!) to the following questions.

1. Where is your cell phone? The Zone...The Phantom Zone (see I told you this one word thing wasn't gonna work!)

2. Your hair? Wheat

3. Your mother? Worried (that her daughter may try to eat her own hair…kidding!)

4. Your father? Awesome!

5. Your favorite food? Salmon (huh? I thought I’d say chocolate for sure!)

6. Your dream last night? SMILES!

7. Your favorite drink? Coffee

8. Your dream/goal? HobbyFarm (I made it one word… oops! Sorry!)

9. What room are you in? Office

10. Your hobby? Daydreaming

11. Your fear? Cancer

12. Where do you want to be in 6 years? Healthy

13. Where were you last night? BJ’s/Home Depot

14. Something you aren't? Confident

15. Muffins? JordanMarshBlueberry (don’t give me that three word crap…there’d be spaces if it were three words!)

16. Wish list item? Espresso maker

17. Where did you grow up? Massachusetts

18. Last thing you did? Sip (tea)

19. What are you wearing? Business-casual

20. Your TV? Husband’s

21. Your pets? Misfits

22. Your friends? Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious

23. Your life? Evolving

24. Your mood? Bummed

25. Missing someone? Co-workers (out on maternity! How dare they…)

26. Vehicle? Toyota

27. Something you're not wearing? Nail polish

28. Your favorite store? Yankee Candle

29. Your favorite color? Purpley-Blue

30. When was the last time you last time you laughed? Now

31. Last time you cried? Tuesday (because I was laughing too hard)

32. Your best friend? God (for giving me more than one)

33. One place that you go over and over? Childhood

34. One person who emails you regularly? Brenda

35. Favorite place to eat? Bocado

Someone beat me to it...I see Chicago Mom at What's For Dinner already got this award....well, now my dear you have bookends! Teach me how to parallel park and we'll call it even!

And I want to acknowledge two new blogs that I've been following - a very touching yet funny blog about caring for one's elderly grandmother, Managing Mimi, has had me reminiscing about my mother-in-law, Pat, who we lost this year, and also looking to the future as my parents get older.

And if for some filling vegetarian meal ideas, pop on over to The Hearty Herbivore for some great menu ideas. I don't know about you, but I never would have thought of a potato salad sandwich! And I want one. Now. :)

And from Chicago Mom, The B.I.N.G.O. award! Thank you for the wonderful props! (She called me Beautiful!...Well, my blog anyway! Ha ha!) Looking for a good meal, friendship and some laughs, head on over to her blog!

I have to tell you, five blogs to share an award with is easy, but I am having a tough time with the adjectives! I need to browse through my thesaurus, and I'll return to this one soon, I promise! Just wanted to say thank you to Chicago Mom for sharing!

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Pumpkin Puree For My Pal

Ah! I love these early days of Autumn!

While today was nearly summerish here in New England - mid-70's and sunny - yesterday was cloudy, misty, cool, and later in the evening when the temperature crept up from the mid-50's to the 60's, a bit foggy. And I loved it! I love that first brisk fall day, when you walk outside, particularly if it's in the evening, and you get goosebumps. Funny thing about goosebumps - whether you get them from being chilly or being spooked, they leave you with the same feeling. Excited, on edge, a little uncomfortable and maybe a little giddy at the same time. You know, like how some people laugh when they're nervous? I love it.

And today I was just a bit spooked. Last night I was awoken a few times but the hooting of an owl. Owls are cool - I actually saw one perched on a tree branch at twilight once - but this time of year, with the chill in the air, scary movies on television and Halloween approaching, I remembered that owls can be a predictor of death.

So, to protect my family, my friends, my pets, I decided that perhaps a pumpkin sacrifice was in order. Besides, Lissaloo was looking for tips on making her own pumpkin puree...

(Insert scary psycho slasher sound effect here)


First, one must acquire one's victims..I mean, pumpkins! I picked up three sugar pumpkins today. These are the ones best suited for eating, in my opinion, although I have chopped up and roasted carving pumpkins. Just not the huge blue-ribbon, need-a-crane-to-lift pumpkins at the county fair. I just don't have the counter space for those.

Start by cutting them in half. I like to start at the top...

...Then carefully press down firmly to slice through the side.
Then the bottom, and by this time the pumpkin gives up and pretty much splits on half.
Next you clean out the entrails, I mean...well, yeah, entrails, but there's no blood. Save those precious seeds! We have plans for them later...Mwah-ha-ha-hahah!
Just reach in and squeeze them out of the stringy stuff and into a bowl for now.

When you've got them pretty much out, scrape the inside of the pumpkin cavity with a spoon - just to get the real tough stringy bits out. Don't work too hard though, because pumpkin flesh is pretty fibrous and stringy anyway.
Next, cut up the pumpkin into manageable pieces - I like them to cook a little quicker, so I cut them into a bout three or four inch chunks. You could actually just place the pumpkin halves, cut side down, on a baking sheet. But you know how I love my knife...

Place them on a baking sheet, and sprinkle a little water over them - maybe like 1/4 cup for this whole sheet. Some people cover in foil to, in effect, steam the pumpkin. But this works too. You could also just boil the pumpkin, but you'll lose a lot of nutrients and flavor in the water.

I guess. I don't know, I just made that up, but it makes sense, don't it? Besides, roasting gives it such nice flavor.

Into a preheated 375 degree oven, for about 30 minutes or until fork tender.

Remove from the oven and let cool until you can handle the pumpkin, then you'll want to remove the flesh from the skin. And as the saying goes, there's more than one way to skin a pumpkin! Scrape the flesh from the skin with a spoon...
Or peel with a vegetable peeler or paring knife.

(Blurry picture - use your imagination here!)

Some pieces you may find that you can peel the skin right off with your fingers. You decide what works best for you when you do yours.

And you should end up with this - this was one and a half pumpkins. I kept one half raw to use in a different recipe, and I made the third one watch the carnage. Mwah-ha-ha-haha!

Next, cut any big pieces into smaller chunks and toss into a food processor. Since we roasted, these pieced are a bit dried out, so we need to add some water - just enough to make the pumpkin into puree. I used 1/4 cup per batch, and this yielded three processing batches.

Puree for twenty seconds or so, scraping down the sides and/or adding more water if necessary, until you've reached the desired consistency.
And Bob's your uncle....
Pumpkin Puree!

Now, do I think there's anything wrong with the canned stuff?

Not really. I've used it many a time. But I think I do prefer the fresh kind. I just like the flavor better.

This freezes beautifully - in plastic zipper bags or if you have one, a Seal-A-Meal or Foodsaver kind of thing.

But I didn't do that today...I have big plans for my pumpkin puree!


Saturday, October 3, 2009

A Word (or Five) from Willoughby!

My good friend, Willoughby, from This Stop Willoughby, who always has an interesting challenge for us, has given me five words. My mission? To explain what those five words mean to me. Here goes!


Why do I think of laundry when I think of the word delicate? Because I'm weird, and I get great joy out of sorting my laundry and coming across those rare articles of clothing in my wardrobe (of mostly jeans, t-shirts and sweatshirts) that give me the opportunity to say...."These things must be done DELicately!" in my best Wicked Witch of The West voice! "Or else you HURT the spell..."

Actually despite my love of hockey, I do have a fondness for things of a delicate nature - I love lilacs, and one of my favorites are the Korean lilacs in my back yard. They bloom later than the typical ones - just as the common and French hybrids on our property are losing their color and scent, the Korean ones open up. The clusters of flowers are tiny, each one less than 1/4 inch in diameter, each cluster a mere two inches long. But the aroma from these delicate little flowers is proof that big things come in small packages.


There was a time where the mention of this word meant music - loud, raunchy, shrieking music. And that's all it meant! My first favorite band was Led Zeppelin, their first four albums handed down to me by my sister. After that, it was KISS (I STILL haven't explained the Gene Simmons/Ebenzer Scrooge connection, have I?!?! At this point, you'd be disappointed...It's been so built up!) Then Van Halen, and when David Lee Roth started losing his hair and getting all weird, it was Motley Crue. I listened to pretty much anything else, and the highlight of my Saturday nights was always Headbanger's Ball on MTV.

Now? I think of how funny it is when my co-worker brought her 4 week-old baby to the office for a visit and we all took turns holding him. Even if it wasn't your turn, you still found yourself rocking back and forth. Or I look at one of the rocks on my kitchen windowsill, a keepsake from a long ago trip to Prince Edward Island, where the rocks are worn into smooth ovals by the pounding of the Atlantic. The rocks I find in my daughter's coat pocket when I'm getting ready to throw it in the wash - the results of her many "treasure hunts". Or I think of how here in New England, you can't stick a spoon in the soil without hitting a rock. And how we'd find pieces of shale when we were kids, squinting and staring until we convinced ourselves we had found an arrowhead. Climbing that huge rock at the end of Fairhaven Town Beach on West Island, and wondering if it's really as big as I remember it to be. And how along the highway as I drive home from work the road has been cut through bedrock, and these fast-growing birch trees have sprouted out of seemingly nowhere out of the rock. Or how I used to love watching the Flintstones.

Then I start thinking about rock n roll again.


Bobby Orr...flying through the air, parallel to the ice at Boston Garden after scoring the goal that won the Stanley Cup. My Dad, the way he throws his arms up and yells "HEY!" anytime his team scores a goal, hits a home run or gets a touchdown. Wedding receptions, although I hate to say I find them usually incredibly boring (the product of being a bridesmaid too many times, I suppose!), but I love watching the first introduction as husband and wife, the first kiss, the first dance. Pregnancy and the miracle of birth. First smiles, first words, first teeth, first steps...each will be repeated thousands and thousands of times, but the firsts are always a cause for celebration. Thanksgiving and Christmas, for many reasons ranging from the true meaning to the commercial side of each holiday. Every pound I lose, every blog I write, every recipe I make that turns out right. Every tax return that ends in a refund...but not TOO big a refund, because the IRS doesn't pay interest on the money they so kindly hang on to for you! Every day on borrowed time with my Mom and Dad. Family reunions. Every friend I've ever had. Every friend I've ever lost. Yes, even when you "celebrate" the life of someone who has died - whether it was our friends' 20 month old-daughter or a 99 year-old great aunt - I try to make myself celebrate the fact that they lived, they were a part of this world and a part of my life.


I love that first spring day when I open up all the windows, even if it means putting on a sweatshirt so I won't freeze, and counting the seconds it takes for all three cats to each pick a windowsill to perch on as they sniff the smells that I can't detect floating in on the breeze. I love being able to open a jar of pickles or applesauce all by myself...and I also love having to ask my husband to do it. I love when a stubborn, afraid of change person like myself decided to be open-minded and it pays off! I love when a friend opens up and confides in me, because I know better than they do that I never share a secret - like being the first to know she's pregnant, or that he just scratched a lottery ticket worth...a lot! I love when I took horseback riding lessons, many years ago, that one summer night when the indoor arena was too stuffy and Joe took us out into the big field where we felt like we were free, like we understood what the term "wide open spaces" meant. I love diners that are open all night, so after a concert or a formal event or a late movie, we can go in and have breakfast at 2:00 A.M. I love watching someone open "THE" gift. Especially when it's from me!


I used to work for a company that printed business forms. By the time I got there, the need for certain forms were beginning to dwindle. Why would you need carbon paper when there was carbonless? Then why would you need carbonless when these days everyone had a photocopier? Why do you need to print up forms to use as sales receipts when those little machines now print out detailed receipts? Why do you need a customized form when you have a computer and can design and print them as needed? Then came the internet....and sales of printed checks decreased. Eventually the big presses and collators, while not totally obsolete, were vaguely beginning to resemble dinosaurs. Now the money was in barcodes and labels, and we only needed a couple guys sitting at a computer to handle most of that work.

But back in the day, the guys in our plant were not only highly skilled workers, they were at a level in their careers that took years of learning to attain. You didn't just walk in and land a job running a press, you had to apprentice. Not only could one little mistake cost the company a fortune and waste a lot of resources, it was so easy to lose a finger, a hand or worse. There was a precise technical side to the job as well as a bit of an artistic side. They could see subtle difference in color that my eyes could not pick up. And when there was a market, there was money to be made.

When I read that I had been assigned the word "Form", the first thought that came into my mind was a story that had been passed around often when I worked for this company. It happened long before I entered the working world, although the pressman and the president of the company were still there when I came to work for them ten years later. It was early 1978, and anyone who lived in New England at the time can probably guess where I'm going with this one - we got hit with a blizzard in early February.

I was 12 going on 13, and the night it hit my mother, sister and I were out there every hour on the hour trying to keep the end of the driveway reasonably clear. My dad drove a truck for a living, and while he usually made it home by 8:30 or so, here it was 10:00 P.M. and he was still out there. We didn't worry about clearing the driveway, just the huge snowbank that kept appearing at the end where the plows were piling up the snow. Shortly after 10:00, my dad called - he was stuck at a school in Southborough, normally a twenty-minute ride from here, but tonight, inaccessible. His tractor-trailer was stuck on Route 9 and the State police had rounded up him and every other stranded motorist and brought them to various shelters. Two days later, he pulled into our driveway! By then, school had already been canceled and the following week was February vacation, so us kids were ecstatic! In our neck of the woods as well as many others, roads were closed unless it was an emergency. Friends across town owned a horse and took him out on deserted streets that were usually crowded with cars. We built forts made out of snow that were ten feet high, until a little boy a few towns over was killed when his fort collapsed and he suffocated. Then we built snowmen, had snowball fights, we made snow ice cream and by Thursday we had finally found my sister's Camaro. It was buried so deep, we started thinking it was just another snowbank! In fact, I'm sure we climbed it at one point!

Ten miles away, in the building where I would one day work, a pressman named Dan was extremely busy. He had stayed late the day the storm hit to finish up a job, but by the time he decided to go home, it was impossible to do so, so he slept on the couch in the office and ate and drank his way through the vending machines. The next day, a friend or relative came and got him in his massive truck and brought him home. He no sooner got home when the phone rang. Could he go back to the plant? The company got the contract to print all the forms the state needed to deal with the emergency, forms needed for claimants to request the federal money that was pouring in to deal with what had become a natural disaster. Dan not only lived closer than any of the other experienced workers, but over the years Dan knew how to run virtually every piece of equipment in the plant - from burning negatives in the composition room, to running a press to collating to packaging and printing labels for the boxes. Dan was willing, but said it took him six hours to travel the nine miles to his house. No problem, the State Police said they'd get you there safely and back again. And they did. Via snowmobile. And Dan worked the whole week, eating, sleeping, showering as needed, being joined a couple days later by some other brave souls...or guys who were sick of being cooped up with their wives and kids! And in the end, the forms were printed, and reprinted as needed, and claims were filed and reports were made.

The following week, when roads started to open and people slowly started returning to their jobs, a very important form was printed in the accounting office, where I would some day work. It was one of the 85 paychecks that got printed, and it had Dan's name on it. The president of the company laughed when he signed it. Dan had dutifully punched in and out for every break, every meal, every nap, but in the end he had still earned not only overtime, but double-overtime, and his check was even bigger than the president's. It was one of his favorite stories to tell. And my favorite one to hear!

So, apparently, when I think of the word "Form" I think of childhood and blizzards and printing presses and paychecks.

Makes perfect sense to me!


I started writing these down - you know, those little snippets of conversation that somehow strike you as hilarious, and you swear to yourself "I'll never forget that one!"

The next day, it's gone.

It's A Bird....
We were coming back from Providence, driving on Route 146, and a large, long-legged, long necked bird flies across the highway - high enough so that it's in no danger of getting hit, but low enough that we could see it in great detail.

MrM: "Look at that cool bird!"

Me: "Oh, cool! It's a heron"

MrM: "It looks like a pelican."

Me: "It's a heron - I'm not sure exactly what kind"

MrM, realizing he has misidentified the species: "That's why I said it looks like a pelican...I didn't say it was a pelican"

Me: "Looks even more like a heron"

(Note: it looked nothing like a pelican. Of course, pelicans look like pterodactyls to me.)

The Comedienne:

Punkin is learning all about comedy.

Me: Knock, Knock!

Punkin: Who's there?

Me: Banana

Punkin: Banana who?

Me: Knock knock!

Punkin: Who's there?


Punkin: Banana who??


Punkin: WHO'S THERE?!?!

Me: Orange!

Punkin: Orange who?

Me: "Orange ya glad I didn't say BANANA again!"

(Gratuitous laughter ensues)

Punkin: Knock Knock!

Me: Who's there?

Punkin: Apple!

Me: Apple who?

Punkin: Apple-orange you glad I didn't say banana!


Kitchen talk.

Punkin: "Daddy's a boy, you know."

Me: (wondering where she's going with this) "Yes, Daddy's a grown-up boy, so he's a man"

Punkin: "He's not a girl"

Me: "No, he's not. You're right!"

Punkin: "Girls know how to cook"

Me: (trying not to laugh) "Well, some boys cook. Like in the cooking shows - Emeril, Tyler, Bobby...they all cook! And some girls don't cook, like Grandma. Anyone can cook, if they want to!"

Punkin: "Not Daddy..."