Everything Pumpkin!

Where do I begin? That’s right.

In the beginning…

To this day I have a vivid memory from when I was about 8 or 9 years old. Our neighbor lady up the country road told my mother she had made her own pumpkin puree and it was just HORRIBLE! She told my mother not to ever bother wasting her time growing or making her own pumpkin puree for pies, etc.

Oh dear.

I have no idea what method or what kind of pumpkin that lady used in her attempt. I suspect it was not a baking type. Who knew there were different types?

I was just a kid back then. So yes, I’m sorry to say that cooking tidbit stuck with me for nearly 50 years! And even as a pumpkin lover, I never questioned it. That’s right, every year (until this one) I have purchased the canned stuff (which is fine if that’s all you have access to–I’m not judging anyone). But seriously, HOW silly of me not to push a little harder and try things for myself?!

Fast forward 47 years +/- and here I am growing my own heirloom baking pumpkins. And YES! I use them to make my own puree for pies, pancakes, cakes, breads, scones, soups/stews and so much more! I can’t even believe how easy it is to do. Or how delicious it is compared to the store-bought stuff in a metal can.

After I did it the first time, I had a face-palm moment. HOW on earth could I not allow myself to try this sooner? Sheesh!

Well…I absolutely adore growing these pumpkins because we use the ENTIRE thing. Nothing is wasted. At all. The skins get chopped up, simmered and fed to the chickens; the stringy guts also get fed to the chickens. Did I mention that my chickens LOVE pumpkins?

Even the seeds are used. The seeds get cleaned. Some of them get saved for planting next year. The rest get brined, roasted and seasoned for a delicious, nutritious snack OR saved roasted and unseasoned in an airtight container to be used in making granola, etc. Be sure to check out next week’s post on roasting pumpkin seeds and making pumpkin granola (it uses puree and seeds)!

Even the hard stem goes into the compost.

Part 1: Choose, Clean, Cut, Roast, Puree–>Then Use or Freeze!

You’ll want to choose a nice baking style pumpkin which is usually going to be about the size of a volleyball OR SMALLER. Giant pumpkins are tempting, but they are not ideal for the flavor profile you want in a baking/cooking pumpkin. Look for heirloom “sugar pie” or “baking” types. If you have a local farm store or farmers’ market, that’s often a great source. Plus, supporting your local growers helps keep your food producer in business and a strong food supply chain close to you. That’s especially important these days, right?

Once you’ve chosen your pumpkin and you’re ready to make some puree, give it a good rinse, clean and pat it dry. Place it on your cutting board. Poke your knife into the top at one side of the stem and carefully cut down the outside curve until you reach the center bottom. Pull the knife out. Turn the pumpkin and repeat on the opposite side of the stem, cutting until you reach the bottom center and the pumpkin split is complete, except for the stem. Please don’t try to cut the stem, it will ruin your knife. Set your knife aside, insert a finger or two inside the split at the bottom. Use both hand to grasp each side of the pumpkin bottom and pull it apart. The stem should snap right off from one side or the other at the top.

Place one half in a colander and scrape out the seeds and guts. Repeat with the other side. SAVE your seeds!

While your pumpkin is roasting, you can clean the seeds to roast separately. If you have chickens, they will love the stringy guts. If not, the guts are great to compost along with the stem (and skins after roasting).

Now let’s get roasting. Preheat your oven to 325 degrees. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Sprinkle the inside flesh lightly with salt. NOTE: The salt is optional, so if you don’t want it, can’t have it or don’t like it, don’t use it! Place flesh side down on your parchment lined baking sheet. Depending on the size of your pumpkin(s) and your oven, you’ll roast them anywhere from approximately 30 minutes to 1 hour +/-. You’ll know the pumpkin is done when the skin is golden, wrinkly and you can easily pierce the pumpkin all the way through in several places with your knife.

The pumpkins below are done and cooling.

Once the pumpkin is cool and able to be touched, flip over and scoop the soft flesh into your food processor. Process/puree until pumpkin is smooth.

You can use the puree now, save it in a sealed container in your refrigerator for up to about a week OR freeze it. It lasts in the freezer for 3 – 6 months (or more)!

Here you can see the load of frozen pumpkin I made from our early harvest in September (because it SNOWED the Wednesday after Labor Day 2020). I’ve made a bunch more since then and I still have over 50 pumpkins to process. Thankfully, they are very good keepers and I can work on them a few at a time.

How about you? Have you ever made your own pumpkin puree before? I’d love to hear about it. Tell me about your pumpkin puree making experiences in the comments below.

Note: In order to protect our readers from nasty spam, I have to approve all comments. Sometimes it takes me a while to get to that. I promise I will read and approve all legitimate, constructive comments.

SewThankful Triple Chocolate Zucchini Bread

Moist, dense and DEEEEElicious! It’s got nutrition too.

Tis the season for zucchini. LOTS and LOTS of zucchini. This year, after several bountiful harvests, I was inspired to create a Triple Chocolate Zucchini Bread to help use up some of the “bounty”. Needless to say, it has been one of the most popular things I’ve ever made with Zucchini. Jeff asked me to make at least 10 more loaves to put in the freezer–yes, it freezes fabulously.

Recipe yields 2 loaves

INGREDIENTS:

  • 2 sticks (1 cup) unsalted butter (or coconut oil)
  • 1.5 cups brown sugar, packed
  • 4 eggs
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 3.25 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2/3 cup cocoa powder
  • 1.5 teaspoons salt
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • OPTIONAL INGREDIENT: 1 teaspoon espresso powder OR instant coffee. NOTE: Espresso powder OR instant coffee is OPTIONAL – but this ingredient adds another level of subtle, uniquely rich deliciousness. You can purchase espresso powder or make your own if you wish. There are lots of instructions online for how to make your own espresso powder. Choose your favorite browser and search away.
  • 4 cups shredded zucchini, packed (a little extra is OK)
  • 1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips (or dark chocolate chips or milk chocolate chips, your preference)
  • 1 cup white chocolate chips

INSTRUCTIONS:

Prepare 2 loaf pans using your preferred method. (I use non-stick spray or butter depending on what I have on hand.)

Preheat oven to 350.

Melt butter until just barely melted (microwave or stovetop methods are both fine). Pour melted butter into a large bowl. Use a whisk, fork or wooden spoon to add brown sugar and stir well until the mixture is smooth. Stir in eggs, adding one at a time until each one is well incorporated.  NOTE: Do NOT add eggs before combining butter and brown sugar. Once you have combined the butter and brown sugar, make sure your butter/sugar mixture has cooled enough so that it does NOT cook the eggs. Stir in vanilla. Is everything evenly combined and smooth? If not, stir gently until it is.

In a medium size bowl, add all dry ingredients: flour, cocoa powder, salt, baking powder, baking soda and espresso powder/ instant coffee. Use a fork or whisk to evenly combine all dry ingredients.

Pour dry ingredients into the large bowl of wet ingredients. Stir with wooden spoon or spatula until all ingredients are evenly combined but do not “over” stir. This mixture will be quite thick. Add zucchini, chocolate chips and white chips. Stir with wooden spoon or spatula just until evenly mixed.

Divide batter into the prepared loaf pans. Bake for 55 – 65 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the middle of the loaf comes out clean and batter-free. Note: melted chocolate chips can/will stick to the toothpick even if the loaf is done so pay close attention if your toothpick does not appear to be clean.

Allow loaves to cool for 10 – 15 minutes before turning them onto a cooling rack.

The bread tastes delicious when warm; but be advised that slicing it before it has completely cooled may result in lots of crumbling!

These LOAVES FREEZE very well and are good for up to 3 months or so. If you want to freeze your loaf/loaves, allow to cool completely then wrap snugly in plastic wrap then either place in a freezer bag and press out air or wrap foil securely over the plastic wrap.

Want to print print this recipe? Click here for the PDF

Fresh from the Garden: SewThankful Zucchini Breakfast Hash with Scrambled Eggs

My Favorite Summer Breakfast that’s also delicious for lunch or dinner!

INGREDIENTS:

1 or 2 small zucchini quartered length wise and chopped

1/4 cup diced onion

1 clove minced garlic

1 Tablespoon olive oil or butter

Salt & Pepper to taste

Optional: 1 or 2 slices of previously cooked bacon, crumbled

1 or 2 prepared scrambled eggs

Optional: 1 Tablespoon grated cheese (choose your favorite)

DIRECTIONS:

Heat oil or butter in a medium to large size heavy skillet over medium high heat.

Add onion and saute until translucent. Add garlic (don’t let the garlic burn).

Add chopped garlic.

Add chopped zucchini. Allow zucchini to cook until you see the edges turning golden brown then flip and allow the other side to cook just a couple minutes.

Add the OPTIONAL prepared, crumbled bacon. Allow to warm through .

Turn heat to low. Place previously prepared scrambled eggs on top of the hash. Sprinkle with cheese. Cover with lid for a couple minutes to allow eggs to come up to same temperature as has and for the cheese to melt.

Serve it up and enjoy!

OPTIONAL IDEAS: If you’ve got garden fresh tomatoes, dice one up and add it just before you put the bacon in. Toss lightly, allow to warm and then add bacon. Fresh/tender green beans and sliced mushrooms are also a nice addition. I like to cook my green beans and/or mushrooms with the onions and allow any liquid to cook off and them to begin caramelizing before adding the zucchini. The same goes for cabbage, kale, spinach or broccoli.

SewThankful Calabacitas (Zucchini) With Yellow Squash, Corn & Green Chile

One of our family’s favorite veggie dishes and it’s super easy to make. You may easily adjust up or down in quantity or tweak ingredients to suit your needs.

Ingredients:

2 or 3 Medium Size Zucchini sliced into 1/8th inch discs.

1 Medium Size Yellow Squash sliced into 1/8th inch discs. If you don’t have yellow squash, just add another zucchini.

1 small onion, diced

1 – 2 cloves of garlic smashed and finely diced (depending on how much you like garlic)

1 – 2 Medium Size Ears of COOKED Sweet Corn — left over grilled or flame roasted sweet corn is best but steamed or boiled is fine too–slice the corn off the cob(s), you’ll want to have approximately 1 – 1 1/2 cups. OR use approximately 1 – 1 1/2 cups of frozen sweet corn that has been cooked (microwaved corn works fine). Make sure the corn has been drained and is relatively dry.

1/2 cup chopped roasted green chile that is drained/relatively dry — you can substitute roasted bell pepper of any color if you don’t have green chile or don’t care for the heat.

OPTIONAL: 1/8 – 1/4 cup fresh grated Romano/Parmesan Cheese (or use your favorite cheese!)

2 Tablespoons Butter OR Olive Oil

Salt & Pepper to taste if desired

DIRECTIONS:

In a large, heavy skillet (I like to use my largest cast iron skillet) heat butter or olive oil.

Saute onion until it begins to brown/caramelize. Add garlic and toss lightly. You don’t want to burn the garlic.

Turn up the heat a bit and add zucchini and yellow squash. You want to quickly brown the squash on one side before turning, tossing or stirring with out allowing it to become mushy. Once you’ve got a nice golden brown, turn, toss or gently stir to brown the other side of your zucchini & yellow squash.

Add the prepared corn and green chile or bell pepper. Keeping the heat up, quickly toss/stir gently to distribute all ingredients evenly. You just want to heat the corn & green chile (as it has been cooked previously) to the same temperature as your squash.

Remove from heat. Add Salt & Pepper to taste. Sprinkle the top with cheese and allow to melt.

Serve & ENJOY!

SewThankful Kittens!

Every barn needs kitties. And these kitties needed a home. So we gave them one.

On Thursday morning I picked up some baby kitties that needed a new home. You see, we have a barn and almost everybody knows that every barn needs kitties (rodents are always an issue at farms and I don’t believe in putting poisons out).

Clockwise from the top left we have: Smoky Joe (the gray), Rengar (aka Snowball, the white with one blue eye and one green eye), Pepper (aka Peppa, the tabby), and Stormy (the other tabby to the left…what you can’t see is that his back half is frosted white!). SO CUTE. All of them are semi long-haired. Peppa and Stormy are the runts. Stormy loves to be chill and nap. Peppa climbs like a monkey and comes running every time he sees me coming to the barn!

I am thrilled to have these babies to love and care for. And the kitties are very happy to be here! These babies are so sweet (and maybe I spoil them just a little..wink, wink). Here is a pic of Peppa hitching a ride in my apron pocket the other day:

Peppa hitches a ride in my apron pocket. He’s a Pocket Kitty!

Animals and plants inspire me. How about you? What do you think of these babies? I always encourage and welcome constructive comments!