Growing, storing and Using Pumpkins

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Pumpkins would have to be one of the cheapest and easiest vegetable we grow, though they do spread out taking up alot of room they are great for those areas not alot else can be grown in. This past Spring we planted them on a pile of compost created over winter and on top of an area of lawn that allowed for plenty of growth. Pumpkin scraps and seeds are just thrown on top as we discard them, they don’t really need starting in pots and alot of TLC babying them along.

The only problem we ever experience with them may be powdery mildew which is (usually) easily fixed with milk sprays. Homegrown pumpkin is so much better than store bought, they are hardy both in growing and storage. We harvest after the plants have died off and we leave most of them to get a couple of good frosts…this gives a deep dark orange flesh and a rich, sweet flavour. Pumpkins should be harvested with a two cm stem on the fruit and stored, not touching each other, in a cool and dark airy place. They generally last up to 9 months but do need to be checked.

This week I have been going through our stored pumpkins and removing any that are showing signs of deterioration. Offending areas can be cut out and the rest used. Any excess can be just cut and frozen raw in bags. They won’t lose flavour but the texture is affected, they break down quicker on cooking.

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I also cook pumpkin in salted water and mash it, freezing the puree in 1 cup quantities to use for baking. I also tend to make vegetarian lasagne, or a mixture of beef and vegetable, when I have the pumpkin already cooked and on hand to use.

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In New Zealand pumpkin is used alot as a vegetable, eaten either roasted, boiled or mashed. My son’s new wife is from Indiana, USA, and she was surprised by this, telling me her family have bought pumpkins to hollow out for Halloween but the flesh has always been thrown away !! We don’t really celebrate Halloween here but pumpkin is a common fresh vegetable in meals. Canned pumpkin has never made the shelves in supermarkets here (as far as I know).

I have tried roasting pumpkin seeds a few times but have never got them quite right, I don’t know that I will try again. Pumpkin flowers, like zucchini, are delicious fried in batter and both the vegetable and the flower can end up on a platter of Beer Battered Tempura Vegetables.

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We also use pumpkin, often leftover roasted, in vegetable quiches. Our absolute favourite though is this Pumpkin and Silverbeet Quiche

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Though Roger isn’t much of a soup eater I could live on it. Pumpkin soup with a little bacon, Pumpkin and Sweet Potato and Roast Pumpkin and Carrot soups are all very yummy but my favourite is the Spicy Pumpkin and Lentil.

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Pumpkin and Vegetable Bake (a terrible photo I have forgotten to sort!) and variations on Pumpkin Chickpea Patties are both good!! We also enjoy Roast pumpkin Hummus.

A recipe for Pumpkin Walnut and Raisin Bread here

Two things I still have not tried is the famous pumpkin pie and these yummy looking pumpkin pancakes at the wonderful Chocolate Covered Katie site.

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Pumpkin, Walnut and Raisin Loaf

I just ended a three month baking hiatus and this was a yummy way to end it 🙂 I will put the original site I got the recipe from but I did change it just a little, increasing the amount of butter, walnuts, raisins and spice and I made the method easier. Served hot with butter it’s very delicious, on day 3 it still has a nice and moist texture.

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4 oz (100 g) butter

1 1/3 cups sugar

2 eggs,

1/4 cup water

1 cup pumpkin puree

1 2/3 cup flour

1 tsp baking soda

1/3 tsp salt

1/2 tsp baking powder

1 tsp cinnamon

1/4 tsp ground cloves

1 cup walnuts

3/4 cup raisins or sultanas

Preheat oven to 350 (180) deg and prepare 1 large or 2 small loaf pans.

Soften butter and cream with sugar. Add eggs and beat, add pumpkin puree and water and beat well. Add sifted dry ingredients – the flour, spices, salt, baking powder and soda. Fold in the walnuts and raisins, pour into tins and bake a large one 55 – 60 minutes, smaller ones around 35 – 40 minutes.

The original recipe was found at About.com – submitted by Diana Rattray

 

 

 

Dark Chocolate and Beetroot (Beet) Mudcake

I have tried chocolate and beetroot cakes in the past but this one is by far the best. This is not too rich, heavy or sweet and both the texture and flavour are perfect. This recipe is by Gretchen Lowe and Homestyle Magazine, April/May edition.

This uses 250 g of pureed beetroot and I will be cooking some up to keep in the freezer for future cakes. The icing I used was a normal chocolate butter icing (a cheaper option for me) but I will give the recipe for the chocolate ganache she used.

200g Dark chocolate (at least 62% cocoa)

4 tblspns hot espresso

200g butter

135 g flour

1 1/4 tsp baking powder

3 tbsp cocoa

5 eggs, separated

250 g cooked and peeled beetroot, pureed

190 g castor sugar (this can be made by putting normal white sugar through a blender)

GANACHE:

400g dark chocolate

400ml cream

ALTERNATIVE CHOCOLATE ICING:

50 g butter softened

1 tablespoon cocoa

little boiling water

1 tsp vanilla

approx 2 cups icing sugar

Preheat oven to 180 deg C. Line a 20 cm cake tin with baking paper.

Melt the chocolate in a bowl over a saucepan. Then pour in hot coffee and stir in the butter, leaving till softened. Remove from heat and cool slightly.

Meanwhile sift flour, baking powder and cocoa into a bowl.

Separate the eggs and whisk yolks until frothy. Stir the yolks through chocolate mixture then fold in pureed beetroot.

Whisk whites till soft peaks form. Fold in sugar. Fold into and through the chocolate mixture then fold this mixture into the combined dry ingredients.

Pour batter into prepared tin and bake 35 minutes. Do not over-bake.

When cooked leave to cool before turning out of tin to decorate. When cold the cake can be cut into two layers.

CHOCOLATE GANACHE:

Place chocolate into a bowl. Heat the cream till nearly boiling then pour over chocolate, stirring gently till combined. Leave a room temperature till ganache has reached a spreadable consistency. Smooth generously between the layers and around the sides of cake. Cake can be topped with fresh berries or figs.

CHOCOLATE ICING:

Melt butter, add cocoa and vanilla. Add icing sugar and beat into a thick cream, adding boiling water as required to make a soft consistency. Icing will firm on cooling.

I made in a larger tin so only had one layer. Nice served with whipped cream.Image

 

 

 

Chocolate Almond Buckwheat Clusters

When Fran (from The Road to Serendipidity) posted her recipe for Narf’s Bolshie Blissful Buckwheat Granola Clusters I knew I had to try these. After going gluten free several month’s ago I was really missing the muesli I used to make. As always I have tweaked the recipe to suit what I had or made wee changes in the method. I did not use apple sauce or date paste as Fran did because I rushed to make these one morning before work and had neither on hand. This is a delicious cereal with the potential for many variations.

Specialty breakfast cereals similar to this retail here (NZ) for $12 – $16 a packet, way beyond my budget, or desire to pay that much! You need to make sunflower seed butter first for this  I worked out that both a batch of butter (around 2 cups)  and 1 batch of clusters at 1.2 kg cost me around $12 to make. The sliced almonds were purchased at a bulk store as was the buckwheat. I always have alot of sunflower seeds on hand anyway but these are also purchased from bulk bins.

My recipe:

3 cups buckwheat groats

1 – 1 1/2 cup almond pieces (or other nuts)

3/4 cup sunflower seed butter

1/2 cup ground sesame seeds

3 good tablespoons honey

1 tablespoon molasses (optional)

3 tsp cinnamon

1 tsp salt

1/2 cup coconut sugar

2 tablespoons cocoa

2 tsp vanilla

2 tablespoons coconut oil

2 cups chopped dates

Preheat oven to 320 F and lined a large roasting dish with baking paper. Mix the dry ingredients in a large dish/bowl.

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Mix the sunflower seed butter, coconut oil, vanilla and honey (molasses if using) and stir through dry ingredients, mixing thoroughly. The mixture appears quite crumbly but is ok.Image

Pour into oven dish and bake for around 15 minutes. Through this time the oils and sugars will combine to make a thick, sticky mass….you want this and it will dry out on cooking. BE MINDFUL TO STIR OFTEN, this would burn easily. After 10 minutes add the dates.

And at this stage I forgot to take photos!!

Once the mixture has started to dry out and appears crumbly again, but still sticky, remove from oven and leave to cool, tossing a few times. It will crunch up on standing and on stirring it will break into clusters.

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Fran got her recipe from Oh, She Glows! so here are three variations of the recipe to ponder on and then create your own 🙂

I expect any nut butter would work just as well as the sunflower seed butter if it’s just too time consuming to make your own.

Apricot and White Chocolate Fudge Slice

 

Apricot and white chocolate fudge

Apricot and white chocolate fudge

Every year I send this to my son for Christmas….he asks for it. Totally decadent (and NOT at all healthy) it’s a truly morish delight, even his Mum will keep a piece out for herself 🙂

It’s simple and fail proof but keep the recipe right – this should be a firm mixture and if it’s too soft add more biscuits and coconut.

1 cup sweetened condensed milk

125 g butter

350g shortbread biscuits

1 1/4 cup chopped apricots

350g white chocolate, chopped

1 cup coconut

Melt the butter and condensed milk together slowly. Crush the biscuits in a food processor (or bag and rolling pin) and transfer to a large bowl. Add coconut to the crumbs, stir in apricots and mix through the melted butter and condensed milk. Leave to cool a little then add chocolate. Sprinkle with coconut or drizzle with white chocolate. Mix thoroughly and press into a slice tin. Chill before cutting

Almond, Quinoa and Pumpkin Seed Bread

A couple of weeks ago I posted a recipe for non wheat bread using oats and psyllium husk. https://quarteracrelifestyle.wordpress.com/2013/10/26/nut-and-seed-bread-flourless/

I wanted to try making one using quinoa and googled to see if anyone had already tried this…and yes, they had! This uses quinoa flakes, almonds (ground), pumpkin seeds, flax seeds etc.

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For the full recipe please see here http://deliciouslyella.com/almond-quinoa-pumpkin-seed-bread/

I have to be honest and say that though this is nice I found the taste of pumpkin seeds too overpowering for me personally, there is 1 1/2 cups of them in this loaf, most of them processed to a flour. But, that is just me and this recipe is one that could be adapted to taste. I also used the pulped and dried almonds leftover from milk and just a little less water. Though not as economical to make as the oat one this is a good bread that is lovely toasted.

Quinoa Chocolate and Coconut Balls….2 ways

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Since going gluten free I have been baking for my husband but looking for other recipes to satisfy MY sweet tooth. There are many versions of these on the net, I looked at alot of them them then threw my own concoction together testing the flavours until I was happy with it. These are “cakey” in consistency but light, chocolaty but not too sweet or rich and they are yummy. This recipe made about 18 quite large balls, it could easily be halved.

2 cups cooked quinoa

1 cup dates

1/2 cup walnuts (or sunflower seeds)

2 tablespoons peanut butter

1 tablespoon honey

2 tablespoons cocoa

3 tablespoons coconut oil

1 tsp vanilla

1 – 1 1/2 cups (approx) coconut

extra coconut for rolling

Put the dates and walnuts in a food processor and process till crumbly. Melt the coconut oil. Add all ingredients to dates and walnuts, starting with the one cup of coconut. Process till a consistency of dough that can be formed into balls, adding extra coconut if mixture too soft. Roll in coconut and chill.

Chocolate Cranberry Quinoa Balls

The second time I made these I changed the recipe a little. I used 1 cup of quinoa, omitted the peanut butter, increased the coconut to 2 cups, added 1 cup of cranberries.

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I chilled these then dipped in melted dark chocolate combined with 2 tsp coconut oil. Chill and keep refrigerated. These were wonderful too.

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