Sunday, October 30, 2011

Pumpkins . . .

I'm finally getting my Halloween post up. Our internet was down since Wednesday (and I was a few days later than I wanted to be anyway). So now I can share our kid pictures, pumpkin recipes, and costumes.

Owen and I had our system down this year and I think we did two pumpkins in the time it took us to do one last year (probably because I didn't help him at all last year, I guess I was with Abigail?). So the kids described what they wanted, I sketched, Owen scooped out, I did detail carving, viola!

I hate throwing out two whole pumpkins, so I tried to be very resourceful with the scraps.

Besides saving the seeds to roast, I cut all edible pieces out of the trash pile to cook.

The eyes, mouth, and nose all got saved (and just the thin dark orange skin peeled off); then I cut out pieces of pumpkin from inside the pumpkins where possible (made the lid thinner, hacked off pieces where it wouldn't be noticeable, thinned the rind in places) and loaded it into my crock pot.

At that point it was late enough at night that I didn't want to deal with the seeds or the flesh, so I left the seeds to dry on a tray and put the crock pot into the refrigerator.

The next morning I loaded the pumpkin into the crockpot and cooked it a good long time. Later in the day I blended it and cooked it a while longer to make pumpkin puree.

I froze some of that into one cup cubes because I was warned by Marissa from Food in Jars that you can never can pumpkin except in chunks. Then I continued cooking the rest in the crock pot with a little sugar and made one jar of pumpkin butter (we just finished that yesterday).

All in all, I found the pumpkin products very successful. We ate the seeds and pint of pumpkin butter for two weeks, and we really enjoyed them. The pumpkins looked great for Halloween and we tried a new trick we read to coat the insides of the eyes mouth and nose with Vaseline to keep them from mold. That worked until it rained really hard a few days before Halloween, then the insides got moldy. I have puree in the freezer to make pumpkin muffins later.

This is the season where I start storing up for the winter with fruits and veggies that store well. So this weekend we got some onions, potatoes, butternut squash, and cooking pumpkins.

So we should be all set in the pumpkin department. I may have to try a pumpkin flan or pie or something. :)

Happy fall!

Friday, October 28, 2011

Agricultural Budget Cuts

Well, as Congress tightens our belt for us, there are actual cuts that could help small farmers--cuts to subsidies of corn and soy. Those subsidies are responsible for keeping our junk foods cheap and go toward growing corn for ethanol or animal feed. They are backed by Big Agriculture. What is more likely to be cut are programs to help small farmers and people on WIC or food stamps. Here's a great related article put out by Slow Food USA:

Sunday, October 23, 2011


I thought these pictures were just a little too cute to keep to myself! :)

Sometimes (especially when the kids are getting along and engaged and not whining or fighting or strewing toys all over the floor) I am completely overwhelmed by how blessed we are.

Watching Abigail on the stairs playing with my keys made me feel that way--and then her brothers were more than happy to jump in ("Photo op!").

Monday, October 17, 2011

Sweet Potato Harvest

I kid you not--these came from my front-yard garden, and some pots on our stairs all summer!  Can you believe it?  City spuds?  :)  I almost forgot about them, they looked like an uglier version of the decorative sweet potato vines people grow for looks.  They were wound in around my tomatoes and curving all over my stairs.  (The big ones came from the plant that got a lot of sun and was in the ground).  But the little ones from the pots did well enough that I will actually bother next summer.  

I started them from slips in May.  To find somewhere to buy them I had my mom ask around in Lancaster at nurseries and people she knew who might know.  Then we drove down a rural road in Lancaster where she heard that an Amish farmer sold them until we saw a sign outside of a farm advertising them.  It was a culturally surreal experience.  We pulled up to their house around lunchtime and didn't see anyone around.  One of the kids came outside to ask if she could help us and then told us to knock on the door of the smaller house right next to theirs where her grandparents lived.  So then her grandmother graciously interrupted her dinnertime (usually the big meal of the day for Lancaster farmers) to pull us some slips growing behind her house for a very modest price.  I actually bought more than I should have because they were so cheap--which led to the temptation to put in too many per pot.  Next year, one to two, MAX!  

I have two pots left to harvest yet, I just need to beat the frost.  Overall, considering my expectations of tiny potato marbles only, a smashing success.

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Butternut Squash-Pesto Ziti with Eggplant

I was having a friend over who didn't eat red meat and I didn't really have a chicken option handy, so I decided I'd make vegetable ziti.  I wanted to play with a way to imitate the taste of meat in the dish (since I couldn't add sausage or ground beef) because let's face it, meat is tasty.  And I found that the combination of the pesto and butternut squash and ricotta and tomato sauce and eggplant was really fantastic. And I thought I'd post it because, as usual, I couldn't find the exact recipe I was looking for online--this time I couldn't even come close.  And after wasting a bunch of time googling all of the ingredients in hopes of finding them all in one recipe, I decided, as usual, to do what I wanted and forget about finding a recipe.

Here's what I did, to anyone who's interested:

Butternut Squash-Pesto Ziti with Eggplant 
Pre-heat oven to 375 (you could do 350, I'm just always running late and push it a little higher).
Roast a butternut squash.  I must admit I don't actually know what kind of squash I used.  It was that mystery volunteer squash that appeared in my garden, but it was in a similar taste family to butternut.  I did this step beforehand.
Cook a package of ziti or penne noodles.
Make pesto:  I used olive oil, basil, kale, marjoram, cashews, almonds, parmesan cheese, salt, and garlic.
Grill thin slices of eggplant (to put on the top of the completed dish).
Take the squash out of the shell, cut it up into small pieces, and mix with the pesto and a container of ricotta.
Add a pint of tomato sauce, a quart of diced tomatoes, and an egg to the pesto/ricotta mix.
Stir in the ziti noodles.
Cover the top with mozzarella.  Sprinkle with parmesan cheese.
Bake at 350 (or 375 if you're in a hurry, like I was) about 45 min. to an hour.

I actually decided that the ziti noodles were better with the pesto than lasagna would be, don't know if that's true, just a feeling I had.  A very tasty treat, all told.

Saturday, October 8, 2011

A Business Venture . . .

So I'm going into business. A small business, at this point. One very conducive to stay-at-home momming. A friend of mine started an editing business where we do creative editing for writers. I just completed editing my first manuscript (I guess it's more like "coaching" than "editing," really, more giving feedback about plot and characters and style than grammar) and having phone conferences with the author. I have one more phone conference for this book. It's very exciting. We have a website if anyone's interested in checking it out:

Wish me luck!