Tag Archives: thanksgiving

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!]

Warm and Cozy: Winterizing and Indoor Air Pollution

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Here in New England, cold weather has finally arrived, signaling to all of us that it is past time to put up those storm windows, check that weatherstripping, and lock those windows tight. But with the winterizing process, with shutting out the cold, comes a loss of fresh air in our homes.
bootsonstump
When we bought this house in 2000, my husband was thrilled (energy conservation engineer). This house had enough insulation for two houses, amazing windows that seal tightly, a design that was energy efficient by nature, and a decent furnace that my husband made more efficient by installing a hot water storage tank (so every demand for hot water didn’t trigger the furnace). All wonderful features that would thrill anyone concerned about conserving energy.

It also had wall-to-wall carpet except for the kitchen and bathrooms. That carpet was dated then. After a few years, I developed fairly serious allergy problems from mild asthma to cold urticaria. I had experienced two separate episodes of hives, the second being much worse than the first. And then my youngest son was diagnosed with asthma (he also attended a sick school, getting a double whammy).

After pulling up all of the carpeting, putting in hardwood floors and changing to leather furniture, we all began to do much better; however, I still struggle with strange allergic reactions to unknown irritants. With my chronic Lyme disease, this type of irrational immune response is not uncommon.

Finally, my husband identified that the house was entirely too “tight” for anyone with breathing problems and allergies. He talked about installing an air exchange system.

Winterizing means shutting out fresh air. This traps indoor air pollution inside the house, putting each member of the household (and your pets) at risk. Indoor air pollution is a huge problem here in the United States because of all of the new “stuff” we bring into our homes every week. We buy lots of plastics, new appliances, furniture, items in packaging that is made using a variety of toxic chemicals. Nonstick cookware, hair products, lotions, even those cute little air fresheners and candles that we use to make our homes smell good, all release polluting chemicals that our bodies must then deal with.

The following are a few simple steps you can take to ensure that you are breathing cleaner, healthier air over the winter.

Crack a Window

If your house is not naturally drafty (if it is drafty, ignore this section), if you do not feel a slight draft on occasion, good chances are that you do not have sufficient air exchange. Air exchange means changing out the stale air inside a home or building with fresh air from outside. Commercial buildings usually have an air exchange system built in to the heating and air conditioning systems, but single family homes typically do not, at least not up here in New England where most of us use either oil, propane or wood heat.

We have no vents in our house, just baseboard units for the oil heat system and the same connected to our wood boiler. If you have a wood stove, you typically just have heat radiating from a single source. Some people actually do use fans to circulate the heat better within the home, but rarely have I heard of a home having an air exchange system.

I keep two windows cracked just a teensy bit until I feel the slightest draft when the wind is blowing, and usually nothing when it isn’t. I know this sounds counter-intuitive to what we are being taught about making our homes energy efficient, but a completely sealed up house is not healthy for humans. There must be some way for indoor air pollution to be removed.

House Plants

I grow a fairly substantial organic garden over the spring and summer, but had given up trying to grow houseplants because of the challenges of doing so over the winter. When I lived in the southern part of the country, I always had lots of houseplants — I love green, growing things.
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I recently read a chapter in my Environmental Science textbook on indoor air pollution and was reminded that I need to take as much care with the air in my house over the winter as I take with what I feed myself over the summer. It was time for houseplants.

NASA published an excellent article entitled, “Plants Clean Air and Water for Indoor Environments.” Scientists found that Volatile Organic compounds (VOC) and other pollutants that off-gassed from a completely-synthetic, sealed environment were almost completely removed when a substantial percentage of the interior was devoted to growing indoor plants.

I was in one of those large home improvement stores the other day to pick up a housewarming gift for a new friend, so I grabbed the only pothos plant they had. It was reasonably priced and in good health. I still need to give it a bath to wash off whatever toxic pesticides they sprayed on it before shipping, but it is here in my house removing pollutants and releasing fresh air. I plan to pick up at least one houseplant a week until I have a nice variety and enough to offset the mostly-closed environment we live in during the cold months in New England.

Shop Thoughtfully

Thanksgiving is next week and Christmas is right around the corner. This means lots of shopping, lots of packages, lots of new things entering your home. Consider the nature, chemical composition and packaging of any item you purchase this holiday season. This might mean NOT buying a bunch of cheap stuff, wrapping paper, shiny bows, stuff in plastic packaging, and lots of chemicals. Everything new you bring into your home off-gases. This means lots of toxic chemicals enter your home and its air which are then breathed in by family members (and your pets).

Consider packaging when choosing items. Consider buying in bulk, or buying items that don’t have extensive packaging. Think about the impact each purchase you make this year can have on your home’s air quality and that of the ones you are bestowing gifts.

If you have never visited your local health food store and checked out the bulk bins, this might be a good time to do so. You could buy a case of pint-sized canning jars, buy some organic tea, herbs, yummy treats, and more, put them in canning jars and wrap in a cloth napkin tied up with a cloth ribbon.

Try to avoid anything that is made from plastic, has strong dyes or a foil appearance. Think natural. Think organic (meaning from nature).

Gift your friends with air-purifying houseplants this winter. Give them a pound of organic coffee or chocolate or a unique extract.

Rosemary plant I grew outdoors over the summer. I just brought it indoors and placed it in my south-facing bay window where it will purify the air inside my home.

Rosemary plant I grew outdoors over the summer. I just brought it indoors and placed it in my south-facing bay window where it will purify the air inside my home.


Buy a package of brown paper bags (like lunch bags) to use as gift bags, tied up with a fabric ribbon.

Think outside the box, so to speak, while shopping this holiday season.

Oh, and as much as we love our Christmas trees, what are live cut trees sprayed with? What are artificial trees made from? I have an older artificial tree (actually 3 small ones) that I might use this year, or I might cut down a small bare sapling and decorate that instead.

But I need that new 60-inch flatscreen TV

I hate to tell you, but all of that amazing new technology that we buy, the latest television, that new computer, even that gaming console, are made using toxic chemicals, and they will off-gas after you take them out of their boxes.

You might consider unboxing and leaving that product in a basement — but who is going to do that?

Okay, buy a bunch of large houseplants and place them around that new technology. That should help.

Sigh.

Sustainably Produced, Non-Toxic Products

Again, my science textbook provided some interesting information on the availability of products manufactured with the goal of being environmentally safe. What a novel concept! Products that don’t contain carcinogens and benzenes and formaldehyde. Why didn’t anyone think of this before we were all exposed to hundreds of toxins by the time we were born.

Many furniture chains are selling low-toxicity furniture and products that were made with sustainability in mind. If you must buy new furniture before the holidays, please keep in mind that furniture, especially, will off-gas lots of dangerous chemicals.

One solutions is to buy vintage and antique furniture that has not been refinished recently. It is better to buy a piece of furniture and refinish it yourself using low-toxicity products than to buy a new piece of furniture unless it is certified low-toxicity.

Green Guard is a certification organization created to ensure the low-toxicity of products in particular.

Keeping in mind that new products are made using chemicals, most toxic to humans, and that those products will off-gas after they are brought into your home (even the packaging they come in), can direct each of us to thoughtfully choose what we purchase.

Flame Retardants

Flame retardants are made with chemicals that are toxic to humans. And, sadly, they have not been proven to actually accomplish anything worth the chemical exposure.

When my children were little, I bought all-cotton underwear for them that I then used as sleepwear. When I moved up here, I bought those really warm sleepers made from who knows what and treated with who knows what dangerous chemicals. If I had known what I know now about the chemicals that are used to make flame retardants, I would have sewn sleepers from organic fleece for them.

Since this blogger wrote such an amazing article on flame retardants in children’s sleepwear, I will just link to that article instead of regurgitating all of the carefully-compiled information.

Flame retardants are toxic to humans, period.

Consider buying all-cotton underwear such as Carters union suits (I loved these things) and layering them as a way to avoid using synthetic fabrics in children’s sleepwear, most of which are treated with flame retardants. It is the law that any loose sleepwear, such as little girls’ night gowns, be treated with a flame retardant. Simply avoid those kinds of sleepwear.

Read Labels

Although manufacturers are not required to label the chemicals used in the making of a product’s packaging, you can read labels on sleepwear, cookware, furniture, and so on. Ask salespeople where products are manufactured before purchasing, and then do a little internet research into products made in that region. Research companies, distributors, and then, as a first resort (not as a last resort by any means), use common sense. If a product is made from a synthetic of any kind, it will contain toxic chemicals. Most furniture is treated with something before it leaves the factory. Fabrics are treated with sizing, so wash linens, towels, and clothing immediately.

Here is a great article on fabric treatments that are toxic. Eye opening to say the least.

You know that new car smell Americans love to love? That is a myriad of materials off-gassing all at one time. This happens in your car and it happens in your home. It can even happen in your office space. Keep some indoor plants in your own workspace, too.

We can deal with indoor air pollution through some simple and inexpensive actions and choices. I will be working on my home’s air quality. I hope you think about doing the same in your home.

Non-GMO Thanksgiving plus Cane Syrup Recipe

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Home grown organic pumpkin made into pumpkin pies

Home grown organic pumpkin made into pumpkin pies

This is the time of year when grocery shopping for holiday meals and treats becomes quite a challenge. We all have family recipes that everyone wants at Thanksgiving and Christmas, if you celebrate those holidays. And I discovered the kosher foods are not GMO free at all. I will be evaluating common holiday recipes, providing GMO-free alternatives. We must be creative at times, and definitely will need to do a little cooking from scratch. Sorry, folks. (This spoken by a person who cannot make a pie crust from scratch and actually has two packages of store-bought crusts in her fridge. Yes, I confess.)

I will deal with a typical Thanksgiving meal first. Let’s look at a possible menu:

  • Turkey — easy — buy fresh, not frozen, with no injected additives. Local, small markets carry these birds, and you will never buy a frozen turkey ever again after eating one of these birds.
  • Stuffing — Pepperidge Farm Herb Stuffing and other packaged stuffing mixes contain many GMO ingredients such as soy, canola, and corn. Make your own from organic or homemade bread. Cut into cubes, allow to dry (or toast in low oven). Add your own herbs, and you have herbed stuffing mix.
  • Vegetables — no green bean casserole if you want to avoid GMOs. Steam your vegetables and just butter, or serve plain so people can butter, salt and pepper their own: broccoli, squash, brussel sprouts, carrots, green beans, corn. Or bake sweet potatoes as a nice alternative for each person to butter and top. I make a yellow squash casserole every Thanksgiving using fresh yellow squash, sliced organic onions, organic eggs, organic milk, organic crackers, cheese, salt and pepper. So easy. Candied yams, simple if you use fresh yams (avoid canned), boil, then use real sugar and spices.
  • Salad — I make a marinated salad from hothouse cucumbers, colorful bell peppers, grape tomatoes, red onions and feta cheese making my own vinaigrette marinade. This can be made the day before and is really popular with my kids.
  • Mashed potatoes and gravy. Cook organic potatoes, mash, rice or cream with butter, organic milk or sour cream, fresh garlic, salt and pepper. Gravy is so easy made from scratch and takes less than 10 minutes. Pour drippings from turkey into a saucepan, adding flour mixed with a little cold water (I whisk these together in a measuring cup and pour into the hot drippings) — 1 Tbsp organic flour per cup of gravy — boil gently for a few minutes. Season to taste.
  • Pies — I grow my own sugar pumpkins, cooking and pureeing days ahead, then refrigerating. I will attempt to make my own pie crusts this year — I admit to being inept at pie crusts. Use organic ingredients and you will be fine. Avoid canned pumpkin, corn syrup and sweetened condensed milk. I use organic whole milk when recipes call for evaporated milk — you can use half and half or cream as well. Corn syrup substitute recipes are below. Organic apples make for a delicious apple pie. Pecan pie will require a homemade simple syrup (corn syrup substitute — see below).
  • Homemade rolls — avoid canned and bakery rolls. My bread recipe can be made into rolls. Timesaver: bake rolls a few days before Thanksgiving, double bag and freeze. Take out of freezer early in the morning on Thanksgiving day and pop into the oven to warm up right before dinner is served.

Corn syrup substitutes

For baked goods, such as cookies you can simply substitute 1 cup sugar plus 1/4 cup water for 1 cup of corn syrup.

For other purposes, where you need that syrup, just make your own cane syrup. Learning to make syrup from sugar will be priceless when you are out of pancake syrup or maple syrup and your family wants pancakes or waffles. We make all of our own pancake syrup (even my kids know how to make this and do so regularly).

Cane Syrup – Small batch (makes 1 quart)

2 cups cane sugar
1 cup water
1/2 tsp cream of tartar* (optional)

Cane Syrup – Large batch (makes 2 quarts)

4 cups organic cane sugar
2 cups water
1 tsp cream of tartar* (optional)

Combine all ingredients in saucepan on medium-high heat, stirring until sugar is dissolved; bring to a gentle boil. Cover and allow to boil for 2 minutes (this sweats any sugar crystals off side of pan). Remove lid, and insert candy thermometer; monitor temperature until just before it reaches 240° F. Remove entire pan from heat and place on cool surface. Allow syrup to cool to barely warm before pouring into clean glass 1-pint canning jars. Store at room temperature for up to 2 months.

*Most recipes call for cream of tartar to hinder the formation of crystals during storage. I read that the cream of tartar changes the sugars, though, so I leave this out myself.

Sugar pumpkin

Sugar pumpkin