Sunday, November 6, 2011

Pumpkin Bread

The Recipe

1 1/2 cups sugar
3/4 cup oil (I prefer canola, it's your choice)
4 eggs
1 1/3 lb. roasted pumpkin puree (see The Story)
2 cups AP unbleached flour
1 1/2 cups whole wheat flour
1 tsp. baking powder
2 tsp. baking soda
2 tsp. salt
1 tsp. cinnamon
1 tsp. allspice
1 tsp or so freshly grated nutmeg
1/4 cup molasses
1 cup chopped walnuts

Grease & flour 3 8.5x4.5 inch loaf pans; preheat oven to 350.

Beat sugar, oil and eggs in bowl until very light, stopping once or twice to scrape sides of bowl. Add pumpkin, flour, powder & soda, salt and spices, and molasses; mix until all flour disappears and everything is combined, scraping the sides of the bowl occasionally, one minute on medium/low speed should do it. Don't overmix. Add walnuts and stir briefly to combine.

Divide batter evenly between pans. Bake loaves in the center of the oven for approx. 50-55 minutes, testing with toothpick for doneness. Let cool at least 15 minutes before trying to remove from pans, then let cool on wire racks. You can wrap them up before they're fully at room temperature.

The Story

These freeze beautifully. Quick breads are often better the day after they're baked, so making these the night before makes a quick breakfast in the morning. This recipe is higher in fiber and lower in sugar than most pumpkin bread recipes, so it's good for breakfast in my mind.

I make this with my own roasted pumpkin. Take one "cheese" pumpkin (also called pie pumpkins or baking pumpkins, they are the squat creamy-yellowish pumpkins that are best for baking), cut it into quarters and scoop out the seeds, and roast at 375 until done through, maybe 45 min. to one hour. Let cool before handling. Scrape the flesh out of the shell and puree in a food processor. I then fill plastic containers with 20-21 ounces of puree, just enough for this recipe, and freeze them. I can get maybe 3-4 recipes worth of pumpkin out of a good sized cheese pumpkin. This puree has A LOT more water than canned pumpkin; if you want to make this recipe with canned pumpkin puree, use one 16 oz can and 3/4 cup of water.

I've been told canned "pumpkin" is really Hubbard squash. I wonder if it's an urban legend (rural legend?). I can say for sure that the lovely big orange carving pumpkins are NOT good for baking. They're really wet and the flesh is tasteless.

Saturday, November 5, 2011

What is CSA?

CSA, or Community Sponsored Agriculture, is a great way to support local farmers, encourage a greater variety of local plantings, and get high-quality really fresh food for your family.

It's simple to do. For most farms, you pay for a share (up-front, so the farmer has money for seed and such) and then each week during the growing season, you pick up your portion of the farm's harvest. Some farms have a half-share option for smaller families; most farms have a swap area, so if your portion has something you don't like, you can leave it for someone who does and maybe you can pick up something you want instead. Many of the farms are organic (or headed that way.)

Friends of ours who have done this for years say it's cheaper than the grocery store in the long run, especially when compared to the price of organic produce. I'm just excited to get the really fresh food and support my local farmer.

Our farm has a winter option this year, using unheated greenhouses and certain crops. Our first week's harvest: 2 bins of potatoes (about 6.5 lbs worth), 9 fat lovely onions, 2 huge bunches of broccoli rabe, 2 bunches of Asian salad greens, and all the parsley and oregano we could cut. The salad greens were the star of dinner last night, and one of the broccoli rabe will go with some chickpeas & garlic for dinner tonight. I'm thinking potato pancakes and a fritatta later in the week for some of the potatoes. That's one big advantage of a CSA: eating seasonally. We get what is picked now, and we have to make meals based on it.

Our farm is Mendies Family Farm in Roosevelt, NJ. So far, we just love it.

Monday, July 4, 2011

Blueberry season is in full swing!

We picked 27lbs. of blueberries yesterday at Emery's Organic Blueberry Farm yesterday. Today, the freezing and baking begin.

Yes, we left some there for you. Go soon, though, because blueberry season is too short.

Sunday, June 5, 2011

Strawberry Muffins

The Recipe

3 1/2 cups flour
4 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup white sugar
2 eggs
1 cup half-n-half or milk
1/2 cup canola oil
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
4 cups chopped strawberries
1 tsp cinnamon mixed with 2 tsp sugar

Preheat oven to 375; oil (or line with paper) 2 12-cup muffin tins.

Mix first four ingredients in large bowl; set aside. Whisk eggs in medium bowl until light; whisk in half-n-half or milk, oil, and vanilla until thoroughly combined. Toss strawberries with flour mixture. Add liquid to dry, stirring just until most of the flour disappears. DO NOT OVERMIX! Spoon batter evenly into muffin tins. Carefully sprinkle cinnamon-sugar over muffin tops.

Bake 18-20 minutes, or until tester comes out clean. Makes 24 muffins.

The Story

So far we've picked 26 lb. of strawberries this summer at Lee's Turkey Farm. We've frozen a lot and eaten a whole lot!

I searched around on the interwebz for good strawberry muffin recipes, but there are wide variations. This is my version, the way I like them. I had half-n-half sitting around and I used it up here, it was awesome, but milk works just as well. (Just not fat-free half-n-half, it has no place in a diet for humans.)

Enjoy the end of strawberry season! Blueberries are coming on strong!

Monday, April 11, 2011

Indian-style Eggplant

The Recipe

1 tsp. brown mustard seeds 3 T. veg oil or ghee 1 onion, sliced thinly lengthwise 2 in. piece of ginger, peeled and chopped very finely 4 long eggplants (often called "Chinese"), quartered and sliced into 1 in. chunks 1/2 tsp. turmeric 2 tsp. Sambhar Masala (see The Story) 1 14oz can diced tomatoes 1 or 2 hot chile peppers, chopped pretty darn finely 1 tsp. fresh ground black pepper salt to taste 1 cup or so water, veg stock or leftover bean cooking liquid

Heat oil in large pot; add mustard seeds. When they begin to pop, add the onion. Stir & fry for a minute or two, then add the ginger, and keep stirring until the onions brown nicely. Add the eggplant; stir to coat with oil and stirfry for 5 min. Add the turmeric and Sambhar Masala; fry for a minute until the kitchen smells heavenly. Add the tomatoes & your choice of liquid, the pepper, some salt, and the chile(s). Stir well; bring to boil, reduce to simmer, and let cook for a good half hour, until the eggplant is lovely soft and the chiles have made it spicy. Serve over brown basmati rice.

The Story

Was going to pick up the ingredients for dinner, but too expensive. I pretty much invented this out of what I had in the fridge. Nice hearty stewed dish. I served it with roasted cauliflower & sweet potatoes (cut into similarly-sized pieces, toss with oil and a few cumin seeds, roast at 375 until brown in spots, turning occasionally, about 30 minutes; dust with Garam Masala and you're all set.)

This is about as traditionally Indian as I am- not at all. But it's inspired by those flavors, and I did get some of the ingredients at the local Indo-Pak grocery. That's something, isn't it?

*Sambhar Masala is a spice blend, like curry powder and Garam Masala. I made my own from a recipe in a book. Here are some places if you want to make your own:'s Sambhar Masala or's Sambhar Masala. A quick Google search reveals, as expected, that there are as many versions of this as there are Indian cooks. I bet you could buy one from a quality spice vendor, too.