Category Archives: Celebrations

Roasted Pumpkin Pie

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pumpkinpies

Last year’s pies made from home grown organic pumpkin made into pumpkin pies

Every year my sons (and daughter when she is here) declare that my pumpkin pie is the best in the world. I must confess: it is delicious.

Yesterday, after forgetting to get celery and pumpkin pie fixins’ I was planning out my Monday shopping trip to pick up the items I forgot yesterday.

My 20-year-old son buys organic pumpkin puree and keeps it in the pantry as a reminder that he wants me to make pumpkin pies whenever I can.

But I don’t use canned pumpkin puree in my pies.

I use something better: roasted sugar pumpkin.

pumpkin

Sugar pumpkin ripening

And then it hit me; it is the roasting of the pumpkin that gives it that rich, most amazing flavor.

The years that I grew my own organic sugar pumpkins (above), of course, resulted in the best-tasting pies of all.

But this year I must locate a farm-grown sugar pumpkin for my Thanksgiving pies.

For those who don’t know, sugar pumpkins are a specific variety of pumpkin that has just what it says it has: more sugar in the flesh.

A few years ago I paid $.79 a pound for a sugar pumpkin. I have no idea what it will cost me this week.

Roasting a pumpkin

Prepare the pumpkin

Wash the entire outside of the pumpkin with room-temperature water and a vegetable brush. Dry with paper towels (or a clean cloth towel).

Cut the top of the pumpkin around the stem out, but not large as you would for carving a Jack-o-lantern. You want as much of the flesh to remain on the pumpkin as possible (it is precious, delicious, wondrous).

Cut the pumpkin in half down the center from top to bottom (not side to side). I use a large carving knife for this job.

Scrape out the seeds and strings, leaving as much flesh as you can. Do not be afraid of a few strings remaining.

Roasting time

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F.

 

  • Large baking dish (13×9 inch)
  • cup of water (or more so there is about 1/4 inch of water in baking dish)
  • 2 pumpkin halves

 

Pour water in baking dish and place pumpkin skin-side up, flesh facing down in the dish. (No need to oil the dish.)

Roast the pumpkin for an hour or more until the flesh is tender. It will change to a darker orange color throughout when it is completely cooked.

Allow to cool for 10 minutes (or until it is cool enough to handle).

Scoop out the flesh. It is easier than cutting off the skin which can result in wasted pumpkin (again, it is precious, delicious and wondrous).

Refrigerate until ready to use.

Pumpkin pies made with this roasted sugar pumpkin will knock your socks off. The recipe I use is below (comes from Joy of Cooking 1975 edition – a gift to me from my mom when I was 15 years old).

Pumpkin Pie

Makes one 9-inch pie (so I double the ingredients and make two pies, always).

Preheat oven to 425 degrees F.
  • Pie shell (unbaked) in pie plate.
  • 2 cups cooked pumpkin
  • 1-1/2 cups cream, condensed milk or whole milk (I always use whole milk)
  • 1/4 cup brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1/4 teaspoon nutmeg or allspice (I use nutmeg)
  • 1/8 teaspoon cloves
  • 2 slightly beaten eggs

Directions using a mixer: Beat the cooked pumpkin first to break it down a little (I don’t puree it ). Combine all ingredients with a mixer. Pour mixture into pie shell(s) and follow the next part of the directions CAREFULLY:

Bake at 425 degrees F. for 15 minutes.

Reduce oven temperature to 350 degrees F and bake for 45 minutes more or until knife comes out clean.

Serve with fresh whipped cream (whip heavy cream adding in teensy bit of sugar and vanilla after the initial whipping).

Give roasted pumpkin pie a try and let me know what you think.

Happy Thanksgiving to those who celebrate, and Happy holidays to all!

[Use any leftover pumpkin to make pumpkin pancakes. Yummy!]

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GMO-free Super Bowl 50: Dips and Spreads

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GMO-free Super Bowl 50: Dips and Spreads
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Homemade Salsa

Tortilla, potato and pita chips cannot show up on Super Bowl Sunday alone, can they? And if you want people to eat what’s on that veggie platter, you better have something good to dip those veggies in.

Here are some of my favorite dips.

Salsa

I usually spend a little extra and purchase organic salsa or make my own. Here is my recipe for a Fast and Easy Salsa.

What’s wrong with conventional salsas? There are usually one or two potential GMOs in salsas: corn and vinegar.

Southwestern style salsa contains corn kernels, and they might be the recently-approved GMO sweet corn.

Vinegar in an ingredient list means white vinegar made from GMO corn.

Guacamole

This is such an easy dip to make that buying it seems silly (I did not check ingredient lists on premade guacamole so I don’t know if it contains GMOs).

  • Cut two ripe avocados in half, remove pit. Scoop fruit into mixing bowl.
  • Mash well with a fork
  • Add
    • salt
    • pepper
    • garlic powder or fresh crushed garlic
    • lemon or lime juice (fresh, please)
    • cumin (sorry, I don’t measure)
  • Special ingredient: 1-2 tablespoons of hot salsa
  • Serve immediately

Other Dips

French Onion Dip with potato chips is a tradition in my house for Super Bowl Sunday.

Non-organic sour cream-based dips contain MSG, corn syrup, vinegar, and other GMO ingredients. Glutamate is the worst offender in these dips (I cannot eat glutamates). Buy organic or make your own.

Onion Dip Recipe

  • 1 16-ounce container organic sour cream
  • 1 teaspoon onion powder or finely minced fresh onions (yellow onions can be hot)
  • Dash of dried dill or parsley; rub between hands to release flavors
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Combine ingredients and refrigerate for 1 hour or overnight. This really does taste better the next day. Adjust salt and onion powder to taste.

You can add roasted peppers, roasted garlic, red onions, or anything you like to make your own custom dip for chips or crudités.

Faux Goat Cheese Spread

I love goat cheese, but it is crazy expensive here in Connecticut. Hey, if you can afford it, buy it. It is delicious and healthy.

I discovered that if I drain organic yogurt (flour sack cloth overnight hanging over a bowl to catch whey), I end up with this delicious yogurt cream cheese that begs for the addition of dill, garlic, onion, or roasted red peppers.

Combine yogurt cheese and flavor addition, wrap in plastic wrap or place in a glass canning jar and refrigerate overnight.

This is delicious spread on Mary’s Gone Crackers gluten-free, GMO-free organic crackers, cucumber slices and crudités.

Did I mention that this spread contains beneficial bacteria (probiotics)? Bonus!

(Use the whey in smoothies, baking or fermenting.)

Hot Dips

screenshot paula deen dip recipeI love the Food Network spicy spinach and artichoke dip. I substitute ground red pepper and a teensy bit of apple cider vinegar or my homemade pear vinegar for the hot sauce in recipes. Other substitutions include caramelized onions for the artichoke hearts (which can be expensive) or roasted garlic. Be creative.

The main problem with this recipe is the mayonnaise. I buy non-GMO or organic mayonnaise. Target was the first store to carry my favorite mayo, but now my local grocery store carries it as well.

Just Mayo from Hampton Creek is Non-GMO Project Verified, egg-free and absolutely delicious.

Or make your own mayonnaise. I make one mayo from the egg yolks and then a white mayo from the egg whites. I use a hand blender with a whisk attachment and drizzle the oil in to create the emulsion. The key is to add mustard, vinegar, etc. to get the flavor YOU want.

Don’t fall for this Big Food deceiver which is not GMO-free:

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Smart Balance Mayo is NOT Non-GMO. The label is deceptive.

The label on Smart Balance mayo states that it contains “Non-GMO Oil.” Lovely. But what about the GMO sugar and GMO vinegar? Other concerning ingredients include modified food starch (could be made from GMO corn) and TBHQ (a questionable preservative).

Bean Dip

Combine:

  • 1 can of black refried beans
  • 1/4 cup hot salsa
  • 1/4-1/2 cup grated cheese of your choice
  • More grated cheese to sprinkle on top

Stir and either bake in oven for 20-30 minutes until hot or microwave for a few minutes.

Serve with organic tortilla chips.

And for those veggie platters, you need a tasty, non-GMO dip that doesn’t contain glutamates.

Veggie Dip

Simply add what you would like to organic or Non-GMO mayonnaise:

  • Onion powder gives it a ranch dressing kind of flavor
  • Garlic powder, fresh garlic, or roasted garlic
  • Dried  and fresh herbs such as dill, chives and parsley
  • Finely chopped red bell pepper
  • Ground red pepper for a spicy zing or a little hot sauce
  • 1/8 – 1/2 tsp of apple cider vinegar or other non-GMO vinegar
  • 1/2 tsp lemon or lime juice
  • Ground mustard powder or organic mustard (non-organic prepared mustard often contains GMO vinegar — read labels). I favor Dijon Mustard.
  • Salt and pepper (optional) to taste
  • Add milk and/or sour cream until it is the consistency you desire

Refrigerate for an hour or overnight to meld flavors. Taste before serving and add salt to taste.

 

GMO-free Super Bowl 50: Beverages

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GMO-free Super Bowl 50: Beverages

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Ready to head to the grocery store to stock up on junk food and beer for Super Bowl 50? Here is a simple guide for ensuring that your food and drinks are GMO-free.

Anything labeled as Certified Organic is GMO-free. It’s supposed to be that simple. GMO-Awareness has an article that declares that this is not always the case. There are non-organic products that are GMO-free.

Non-GMO Project is a great resource for finding what you want. Visit this site before making  your shopping list.

screenshot nongmo

And just because your favorite product is not on this list doesn’t mean that it contains GMOs. Let’s be fair to the companies that produce naturally GMO-free products who have not gone through the time and expense of Non-GMO verification.

Beverages

Beer, ale, stout and lager

Beer producers are not required to label ingredients. How do we know what is in our favorite brews? Good question.

Buy organic.

I read that many of the local microbreweries source non-GMO ingredients. I would need confirmation. We need ingredients listed on alcoholic beverage labels.

Non-GMO brews

Peak Organic Brewing Company produces a variety of ales, stouts, IPAs, etc. that are GMO-free.

Reported by company:

Updated 2-1-2016: Guinness responded to my inquiry and stated that “Guinness does not contain High Fructose Corn Syrup. Guinness’ ingredient list is short: malts, barley/roasted barley, hops, and water. We do not use any GMOs in any of our products.”

I confess that I am a Guinness Extra Stout lover. I was thrilled to receive the information above. No, this is not legally binding, nor is it an affidavit or proof that Guinness products contain no GMOs, but until there is legislation requiring labeling of alcoholic beverages, this will have to do.

Liquor

Liquor is challenging. Apparently there is some governing body that declared that no alcoholic beverages can be labeled non-GMO.

I have started emailing individual companies asking them to verify whether their products contain GMOs. If enough of us did this, they would be forced to address the issue (and maybe source non-GMO ingredients).

Tequila: any of the 100% agave should be non-GMO. Mixto tequilas use a sugar syrup, but there is no ingredient labeling on tequila, so is the sugar from sugar cane or GMO sugar beets? It doesn’t say.

Best to avoid the mixto tequilas such as Jose Cuervo Especial and purchase organic varieties such as Republic Tequila. Reposado and Anejo tequilas are made with 100% blue agave even if they are not certified organic.

Gin & Tonic: It might not be the gin in this drink that is GMO, though we don’t know for sure.

Most tonic water contains corn syrup (over 80% of corn produced in the U.S. is GMO) or artificial sweeteners. Look for organic tonic water or one sweetened with agave syrup or real cane sugar. Remember, if a label says “sugar” that means GMO sugar beets; it must read “cane sugar” to be non-GMO for certain.

I just use sparkling water with nothing added myself.

Organic gin is the only way to know absolutely, positively that you are not getting any GMOs in your gin (though I have emailed Hendricks asking them to verify that they do or do not use GMOs in their gin).

Vodka can be made with grain or potatoes. I purchase organic or potato vodka (though GMO potatoes are grown in other countries, so might be best to avoid these).

Since I make a lot of my own extracts, I keep a bottle of vodka in my pantry at all times. I have emailed Luksusowa to ask whether their vodka is made with GMO potatoes. Poland banned GMOs, so probably not, but I want to confirm.

Non-alcoholic beverages

Soft drinks are mostly to be avoided except for organic or some small brewing companies such as Virgil’s Cream Soda. I personally buy Virgil’s for my kids. They are delicious.

Fruit juice, coffee and tea are fairly simple to divide into GMO and non-GMO by simply reading labels, right? I recommend referring to the Non-GMO Project list for these.

All commercially-grown, non-organic Hawaiian Papaya is GMO. That is the only GMO fruit so far (although GMO apples have been approved).

Since many juices have additives, it is safest to buy organic or buy 100% fruit juice juices.

Coffee: unflavored ground and bean coffees do NOT contain GMOs. Powdered instant coffees and teas, however, can by the inclusion of GMO sugar, dextrose, and corn syrup solids. Avoid instant coffees and teas especially those that contain artificial sweeteners.

Coffee flavorings and creamers contain GMOs unless organic. Avoid liquid and powdered creamers. I use Non-GMO almond or coconut milk and raw agave syrup in my coffee, though I often drink it black.

Store brand powdered coffee creamer ingredients:

  • Sugar (GMO)
  • Vegetable oil (GMO)
  • Contains one or more of the following: Palm oil, palm kernel oil, coconut oil, soybean oil (GMO)
  • Corn syrup solids (GMO)
  • Soy lecithin (GMO)
  • Natural and artificial flavors (may be GMO)

One exception to unhealthy coffee creamers is the one below which seems strange nestled between two creamers that are full of GMOs and other unhealthy ingredients. The “Natural Dairy Creamer” contains dried non-fat milk. That’s it.

Oh, in our house, we add heavy or light cream, half and half, or, in my case, unsweetened almond milk to coffee and sweeten with cane sugar or raw organic agave syrup.

Tea bags get a little complicated with all of the fancy flavors out there. I buy only organic teas or Non-GMO Verified teas. Loose leaf tea is available in health food stores.

Avoid powdered tea mixes due to GMO sugar and artificial flavors and colors. Same for drink mixes, sports drinks, etc.

Bottled iced tea? Sigh. Brew your own tea and add healthy sweeteners and even fruit or lemon if you like. The ingredients listed on bottles of iced tea drinks are concerning.

Bottled water: many of the flavored waters are sweetened with artificial sweeteners and/or corn syrup. And all that plastic. Try to avoid bottled water.

Make your own flavored waters with tap water and fresh fruit and vegetables. Cucumbers, berries, lemon, lime, and so on make great flavored waters. Just add the fruit or veggie and let it sit for a few minutes. If you want it sweetened, add a little organic sucanat, cane sugar, organic raw agave syrup or raw honey (no grocery store honey unless listed as raw).

Kombucha: one of my local markets now has a Kombucha bar. I can purchase a half-gallon of Kombucha using reusable glass bottles. This is a great option.

Conclusion

It takes a little work, but it is not difficult to serve and enjoy GMO-free beverages.

I will update this post if and when I hear back from brewers and distillers.