Sunday, October 21, 2012

Squashes and Pumpkins

Today was a day of fall-ish things; we went to get pumpkins, stopping at two different places to get them. Kenzie and Nick bought enormous ones at Wildwood Farm, and I picked up four more sugar pumpkins to make more pumpkin puree.  Then we went to DD Farms to pick up a few more pumpkins, and I spotted a spaghetti squash, which got me pretty excited because I have wanted to try them out.  No pumpkin carving for me tonight - I had far too much to cook and bake!

First I dealt with my spaghetti squash.  Basically all I had to do was cut it in half, salt and pepper it, and bake it for an hour.  Then I took a fork and scraped out the insides.  It was actually really fun, because it was so cool to see the squash coming out in spaghetti-like strands!  I am not sure what to make with it yet, but I am excited to give it a try.  Do you have any great spaghetti squash recipes that I should know about?

looks like spaghetti... but it's squash!

Then since everyone else was carving their pumpkins, I tossed two of my sugar pumpkins in the mix and had them cut them for me.  I scraped them out and saved the seeds, and then I roasted the pumpkins to make another batch of my own puree.  I used the last of my last batch in the next recipe, and I really think it makes a difference to use real fresh pumpkin as oppsed to canned.  It's so easy to do that it seems ridiculous to use a can. And the difference in color is enough to prove that the canned stuff is just not good enough.  

We of course also saved all our pumpkin seeds from the billion pumpkins we carved.  They are currently in the oven after getting tossed with olive oil, salt, pepper, and garlic powder.  They smell delicious!

 My baking of the day, as I said previously, used up the rest of my first batch of pumpkin puree.  I asked Kenzie to choose a recipe for me, and she chose pumpkin cream cheese muffins.  This sounded very similar to my inside-out carrot cake muffins, which I loved, so I gave them a try.  The cream cheese filling was an interesting experience; you mush together cream cheese and confectionary sugar, and then put it on plastic wrap and roll it into a long, thin log.  It has to be frozen for two hours.  I did not wait the full two hours, and it was quite obvious when I took it out of the oven and started to cut it into 24 discs to put one in each muffin.  It didn't slice at all; it just mooshed.  But it was okay, I just scraped it up and schlepped it into the muffin tins.  They were a bit more work than normal muffins, what with the muffin batter, the cream cheese filling, and the cinnamon-butter topping, but they seem to be worth it: they are a huge hit.  Gram said they were delicious, and one of my sisters - can't remember who - said it was my best.  Mark loved his, and Rachael was so eager to eat one that she ate it steaming out of the oven and burned her mouth! Beware: the cream cheese turns molten and will nearly kill you.  I tried to get my family to wait, but that did not go so well :)

roasted spaghetti squash
pumpkin cream cheese mufins

homemade pumpkin puree
adapted from the Pioneer Woman

1)  Use two sugar pumpkins. Cut the pumpkins in half. With a spoon or a scoop, scrape out the seeds and pulp from the center.  Place all the seeds into a bowl (you can roast them later like we did!) Repeat until all the pumpkin pieces are largely free of seeds and pulp.

2) Place pumpkin pieces on a baking sheet and roast in a 350-degree oven for 45 minutes, or until pumpkin is fork-tender. They should be nice and light golden brown when done.  It usually takes me longer, more like an hour.

3) Peel off the skin from the pumpkin pieces.  Throw in a few chunks of pumpkin into the food processor at a time.

4) Pulse the pumpkin until smooth. If it looks too dry, add in a few tablespoons of water during the pulsing to give it the needed moisture. (Note, if the puree is overly watery, you should strain it on cheesecloth or over a fine mesh strainer to get rid of some of the liquid.)

5) You can either use this immediately in whatever pumpkin recipe you’d like, or store it in the freezer for later use. To store in the freezer, spoon about 1 cupful of pumpkin into each plastic storage bag. Seal the bag with just a tiny bit of an opening remaining, then use your hands to flatten out the pumpkin inside the bag and push out the air. Store them in the freezer until you need them.

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