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Cooking Ripe! 2012 Review and 2013 Preview

What to do with all of those little yummies?Cooking Ripe! has moved to: CookingRipe.com – please join us on the new site!

Cooking Ripe! was launched in late August of 2012 and has had just under 3000 views so far. It’s been very exciting to get to share my garden-to-table recipes with so many people in such a short time. I’ve been learning a lot about this whole food blogging business and I am ready to take things to next level!

Coming in 2013: Cooking Ripe! will be moving to a new hosting site where we’ll have our very own domain name: CookingRipe.com. YAY! Our very own dot com address. Legit, right? With this change, you’ll notice that the blog will undergo some spiffing up and will get a new overall look. I hope to make it a little more user friendly by adding some slick tools that will make things like recipe printing and pinning a little easier. We’ll likely have a little downtime while we complete the migration process, but don’t worry – I’ll give you plenty of warning when it’s time. Stay tuned for more details on the New & Improved Cooking Ripe!

Tops in 2012: In our few short months online, I’ve had great traffic and feedback on the blog posts. Below is a list of the five most viewed posts on Cooking Ripe! in 2012. Have you tried all of these yet? If not, you better get cookin!

1. The number 1 most viewed post on the blog is Homemade Pumpkin Puree. I had a whole crop of volunteer pie pumpkins in the garden this year, so I had to learn to make my own puree. I’ll never go back to canned! It tastes so fresh and it’s so versatile. Try the many other Cooking Ripe! pumpkin recipes, too.

Roasted Pumpkin Puree

2. The runner-up as the most viewed post is the Carrot and Sweet Potato Soup. I LOVE soup and LOVE orange food, and apparently my readers share my love of soup and orange since it was the second most popular post. This is a simple and creamy cold weather soup with a little ginger kick. Check out the other Cooking Ripe! soup lover recipes.

Carrot and Sweet Potato Soup

3. Number 3 is my personal favorite, as you can tell by its title: Roasted Eggplant and Tomato Pasta – the BEST pasta you’ll ever eat! Really. You have to try this recipe if you haven’t yet. I got an eggplant in my Bountiful Basket last time and I am thrilled to get to make this recipe again this week. The Hubs doesn’t even mind repeats of this one!

Roasted Eggplant Pasta

4. One would assume this next post would have been number 1 since it includes BACON! and everything is better with bacon, right? Caramelized Brussels Sprouts – with BACON! I try not to cook or eat it very often, but once in awhile you gotta live, right? Brussels sprout lovers and haters can unite to love this recipe, I promise!

Caramelized Brussels Sprouts with Bacon

5. Last, but certainly not least in the round-up of most viewed posts is the Southwestern Green Chile and Corn Potato Chowder. Yes, another soup made the list! This one is creamy and spicy without any heavy cream at all. This is a great recipe to use up your preserved roasted green chiles and warm up on a cool night.

Hatch Green Chile and Potato Corn Chowder

Remember, you can go to Cooking Ripe’s Recipe Index for a complete list of all of the recipes. Also, if you haven’t joined me on Pinterest yet, it’s high time! And, finally – like Cooking Ripe! on Facebook to stay up to date on all blog updates and other tasty tidbits. Stay tuned for a great new year of growing and cooking!

Thank you all for your support. Cheers to a delectable 2013!

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All Natural Dog Treats

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This post is dedicated to my best friends: my Basset Hounds, Daisy and Lola. They have become more than the family dogs; they are our children. They were both rescue dogs who found their forever homes with us and have lived long and happy spoiled lives with our family. Sadly, with long lives comes geriatric health issues. In mid-November, Daisy was diagnosed with Lymphoma and is not expected to have more than a few more months with us. While we were still adjusting to that sad news, Lola was diagnosed with a liver condition and she declined very quickly, so we said goodbye to her just last week.

Lola

Lola

Daisy

Daisy

So, in their honor, I write this post about making their homemade doggie treats. I make these about every two or three weeks and have meant to post the recipe and pictures, but just haven’t taken the time until now. I started making these when we realized that our cheaper dog food and treats were causing some digestion issues for both dogs, but especially Lola. I started reading about and buying healthier grain-free foods for them and then I found some recipes for dog treats and figured that if I made them, I would know what was in them and it would likely be less expensive than the store-bought fancy kind.

I use a version of the Woofies recipe found on the Kitchen Muse blog. I add carrots and usually use about 1/2 white and 1/2 wheat flour. I have also used mashed sweet potatoes and spaghetti squash in place of the pumpkin when I had those leftovers. Dogs can eat many of our household veggies and fruits, but be careful as some are not safe. According to WebMd, we should NOT feed our dogs the following vegetables or fruits:

  • Avocados
  • Onions
  • Garlic
  • Grapes (or raisins)
  • Persimmons
  • Peaches
  • Plums

On the safer side, we can share these:

  • Apples
  • Oranges
  • Banannas
  • Watermelon
  • Carrots
  • Green Beans
  • Cucumber
  • Zucchini
  • Cooked potato

Here’s how to make All Natural Dog Treats:

Since I do this every two weeks, I’m not fussy about ingredient amounts and I don’t worry about presentation (no, I don’t have the bone-shaped cookie cutter!). I’ll show you my no fuss, simple method.

Roughly chop up a couple of carrots. I was using up some late garden baby carrots, and left the peels on and some of the stringy roots because the hounds don’t care :).

All Natural Dog Treats

Spray your food processor bowl, lid, blade, etc. with some non-stick cooking spray. This is a sticky dough so this helps with cleaning up. Throw the carrots in the food processor with the blade attachment and give it a whirl or three. Alternately, you could grate the carrots for a finer consistency if you’re not sure your pooch is a carrot lover.

All Natural Dog Treats

Dump in the rest of the ingredients and turn on the processor and let it go until you have a soft dough ball. If it’s looking more wet and sticky than doughy, add more flour. If it’s super stiff, add a little more pumpkin or some water. You want to end up with something a little firmer than pie dough because you’re going to roll it out and don’t want it too sticky.

All Natural Dog Treats

Flour your workspace and roll out half of the dough. I don’t care if it’s symmetrical, I just care that it fits on the baking sheet. I learned that it’s easier to cut it into smaller pieces after I move it to the baking sheet.

All Natural Dog Treats

All Natural Homemade Dog Treats.

Then…..(I think I’m pretty genius to think of this one) I use a pizza cutter to slice it up into bite-sized pieces. Brilliant, right? Again, I’m so not fussy about size and shape – and neither are the pups. I don’t spread out the pieces or anything because they don’t really expand in the oven.

All Natural Homemade Dog Treats

I pop them in the oven for about 45 minutes. They are done when they are pretty hard. If they are softer, they won’t last in a container on the counter as long. If you cut yours larger, they may also take longer to harden. Admittedly, this batch went a little too long because I got distracted and left them in a little long, so they’re a little darker than usual. Daisy said she didn’t mind.

All Natural Homemade Dog Treats

Let them cool, snap the pieces apart and toss into a jar and you and poochie are all set!

All Natural Dog Treats:

Ingredients:

  • 2-3 carrots, chopped
  • 2 3/4 cup flour (I use half white and half wheat) + a handful for rolling out dough
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 cup pumpkin puree (I usually have homemade in the freezer, but canned works also) – or sub sweet potato or squash puree
  • 2 TBSP peanut butter (I use crunchy)
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp cinnamon
  • Non-stick cooking spray (optional)

Directions:

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Spray food processor parts with non-stick spray for easier clean up later.

2. Rough chop carrots, then place in food processor with blade attachment. Whirl for a few seconds until carrots are finely diced.

3. Add the rest of the ingredients to the food processor and process until a firm dough ball forms. Add flour or pumpkin/water to mixture as needed to get to the desired consistency.

4. Place half the mixture on a well-floured surface, then roll out to about 1/2 inch thickness. Transfer rolled dough to a baking sheet. Use a floured pizza cutter or sharp knife to slice the dough into about 1 inch pieces.

5. Repeat with the second half of the mixture, placing onto a second baking sheet.

6. Bake for about 45 minutes until pieces are hardened. Cool, then snap pieces apart and place in air-tight container.

Your pup will ADORE you even more now! Mine know when I’m making these now and hover about my feet while I’m mixing up the dough. Lola used to be against carrots, but once she got used to the carrots in the treats – because they were TREATS – she decided she liked them and I added them periodically to her food, too. Pumpkin is good for digestion – in people and dogs – so if your pooches have delicate stomachs, these treats may help settle them when they get indigestion.

For other doggie treat recipes, check out my “Doggies” board on Pinterest.

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Pumpkin, Rice and Bean Burritos

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The ghosts and goblins have retired for another year, but I bet you still have some sweet pumpkins hanging around the house or you have some frozen or canned pumpkin puree. If you’ve got some puree on hand, this is a super fast, super easy, and super flavorful meal the whole family will adore. You can make it as spicy as you like – or not – and you can get it on the table in a flash! Oh, and the nutritional content is simply amazing: all sorts of fiber from beans and pumpkin, lots of vitamins and it’s very low carb and low fat!

I promise (fingers crossed behind my back) this will be the last pumpkin recipe I’ll share – for a little while, anyway. I have almost used up all of my pumpkin from my little patch, so I actually bought four more little sweet pumpkins during the after-Halloween sale because I just can’t get enough! The Hubs rolled his eyes when we saw the new ones arrive from the store. “Oh… more pumpkin,” he said less-than-gleefully. Whatever. I love the stuff, so I’m going to keep roasting, pureeing and putting it in anything and everything. Hands up if you’re with me!

You might think that a pumpkin burrito would be sweet – which it could be if you made it that way – but these burritos are savory and spicy and definitely not reminiscent of pumpkin pie. I got the idea when I had a pumpkin burrito at a local hole-in-the-wall Mexican kitchen in Durango where the daughter now lives. It was pretty simple: pumpkin and green chile, so I thought I’d whip up my own version of it at home.

Here’s how:

It’s really simple if you have some puree and some rice ready. I swear it was ready in about 15 minutes. I use a rice cooker, so I made some short grain brown rice earlier in the day. Then, simply saute the onions until translucent, then add the garlic and cook for a minute. Finally, add the rest of the ingredients to the skillet and cook over medium-low heat until hot throughout. If you let it sit a little while, the flavors will improve, but if you need to get the troops fed, just move it along. I decided to crisp the burritos in a little canola oil – not a total deep fry – to add a little crunch, but you could serve the burritos soft or you could pour some red or green chile enchilada sauce over the top for an “enchilada style” burrito.

Pumpkin, Rice and Bean Burritos

Servings: 4-6

Ingredients: (don’t be fussy about the ingredients; play around with the flavors to suit your tastes)

  • 1/2 onion, diced
  • 1-2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 cup pumpkin puree
  • 1 cup cooked rice (I used short grain brown rice)
  • 1 can pinto (or whatever beans you prefer) beans, rinsed and drained
  • 1-2 tsp chopped green chiles (I used some of my frozen Hatch chiles)
  • 1 tsp chipotle in adobo (I keep leftovers frozen in ice cube trays)
  • 1 tsp Mexican oregano
  • 1 tsp cumin
  • 1/2 cup chopped fresh cilantro (I used one of my frozen discs from this recipe) – skip if you are cilantro averse. Parsley’s always a good substitute.
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 12″ flour or whole wheat tortillas
  • Extra virgin olive oil
  • Canola oil (optional)
  • Garnish options: shredded cheese, avocado/guacamole, sour cream, shredded lettuce, raw onion, chopped tomatoes
  • Optional: red or green enchilada sauce for “enchilada style” version

Directions:

  1. Heat a large skillet to medium-high heat. Saute onions until translucent, then add garlic and cook one more minute.
  2. Lower heat to medium-low, then add pumpkin, beans, rice, green chile, spices, and cilantro. Simmer and stir until the mixture is hot throughout. Keep the heat fairly low so it doesn’t scorch or dry out.
  3. Spoon two large scoops of pumpkin mixture into center of a tortilla and fold ends towards center, then roll up from one side.
  4. If you want to make crispy burritos, heat up about another skillet with about 1/2″ of canola oil over medium-high heat. Place burrito in pan, cook for a couple of minutes until golden, then flip over and cook the other side until golden. (Note that mine got a little overdone when I became distracted feeding the hounds – oops). Drain on paper towels.
  5. If you want enchilada style, spoon sauce over burritos, then warm in oven or microwave.
  6. Garnish and serve.

These are pretty spicy, so dial back the chipotle and green chiles if you’re not a heat freak like me – or if you’re serving small children. The Hubs said they were a little too spicy for him, but it was just right for me. He would have enjoyed some meat, like ground beef, in his but overall gave the meal a thumbs up. He was surprised to learn that one of the main ingredients was pumpkin since it just takes on the flavors of the other ingredients.

Notes for next time: this recipe is so versatile that the possibilities are endless – really. You could add some cooked meat, as the Hubs suggested: beef, pork or chicken would work. You could also use a simple taco seasoning combo instead of the spices listed above. Of course, you could use other types of beans – or a combo of more than one type. I might add some enchilada sauce inside the burrito, too. To increase the veg content, I might add some corn or spinach. Basically, anything you’d do to any other burrito, you could do here. I also think the mixture would be awesome as a tostada topper, too! PS: this stuff is even better the next day for a leftover lunch. Mhmm.

I’d love to hear your variations on this simple recipe. Leave a comment!

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Curried Pumpkin and Bean Soup – a quick harvest meal

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Like so many other cooks, I’m totally obsessed with pumpkin recipes right now. The air is crispy, the pumpkins are frosty and ripe and it’s time for comfort food. Enter pumpkin soup. To some, pumpkin soup sounds odd because they are thinking it will be like pumpkin pie in bowl, but the soup is savory instead of sweet, so it’s a totally different place in flavor-town. The pumpkin takes on the other flavors – the curry and tomatoes, in this case – and provides a creamy background for the other ingredients.

I first tried pumpkin soup last winter when I was home alone because I wasn’t sure what to expect. It was delicious! Now that I have my own crop of pumpkins, I wanted to try some more pumpkin soup and play around with some new flavors. One night last week, I had planned to make this beautiful Curried Pumpkin Lentil Soup that I found on Pinterest. I liked the combination of ingredients which  includes coconut milk, lentils, curry, apple and of course the star of the show: pumpkin. When I make soup for dinner I try to be mindful that the Hubs needs something pretty hearty after a hard day working outside. I figured the lentils would up the heartiness, so I was all set to recreate Yummy Mummy’s soup.

Then…I don’t know what happened, but the evening somehow got away from me (and I might have had an extra glass of wine with my BFF), so it was getting late and I hadn’t started the soup. In my experience, lentils always take longer to cook than the recipe says, so the hour I needed to make the soup was way too long. What to do?

I decided to go ahead with the soup, but make it quicker by skipping the lentils and subbing white beans and making some other simplifications. It came together really quickly and the Hubs said it was one of my best soups – and he usually likes all of the soups. Because I was in a rush, I didn’t take pictures as I was cooking, but since it turned out so nicely, I did get pictures of the finished product so I could share with you. You must make this simple comforting soup this Fall.

Here’s how:

Curried Pumpkin and Bean Soup

Servings: 6-8

Ingredients:

(all ingredient amounts are approximate – don’t be fussy with measurements and add or less to suit your personal tastes)

  • 1 small onion, diced
  • 3-4 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 4-6 cups vegetable stock (or chicken broth) – recipe for homemade veg stock
  • 2 cups homemade pumpkin puree (or 1 small can)
  • 2 carrots, diced or thinly sliced
  • 1 can of diced tomatoes, undrained (or about 2 cups diced fresh tomatoes)
  • 1 small can great northern or navy beans, rinsed and drained
  • 2 tsp curry powder (or more or less to taste)
  • 1 tsp paprika
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • Extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 cup fresh chopped spinach (optional)
  • Garnish: 2 Tbsp parsley or cilantro or green onions, chopped (optional)

Directions:

  1. Heat dutch over over medium heat. Drizzle EVOO to mostly cover bottom of pan and allow to warm. Add carrots and onions and saute until onions soften.
  2. Add garlic and cook for about a minute.
  3. Stir in 4 cups stock/broth, pumpkin, tomatoes, curry and paprika, and salt and pepper.
  4. Bring to a low boil and simmer for about 10-15 minutes, until carrots are cooked through.
  5. Add beans (and spinach if using) to soup and add remaining stock/broth as needed to thin to desired consistency. Simmer for at least five more minutes.
  6. Garnish to taste: parsley, cilantro, or green onions – or sour cream – or nuts or pumpkin seeds. I used green onions and parsley.

Notes for next time:

I didn’t use the spinach this time – I thought of it afterwards and wished I had included it because I love spinach in fresh soup. You could always add some diced, cooked chicken or ham to make it even heartier. Other veggies I might add: zucchini, bell peppers, potatoes, celery or eggplant. I also want to try the apple and coconut milk from the lentil recipe. Other spices that might be fun: cinnamon, nutmeg or basil. I usually add a glug of Worcestershire sauce to soup, but forgot this time, so I might try that next time, too.

This makes a great lunch the next day since the flavors improve with time. Leave a comment letting me know how your pumpkin soup turns out!

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Easiest Pumpkin and Fruit Galette (Tart)

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Alright, here it is: the easiest pie you’ll ever make! Trust me. People will be highly impressed with your baking skills….and it’s simply delicious!

I don’t do a lot of baking, but not because it’s too technical or because I don’t like sweets. I don’t mind the occasional picky measurements and I definitely love sweets. But therin lies the the problem. If I bake it, I eat it. Since most baked goods are high in carbs, fat and calories, I tend to avoid baking except for the occasional treat or birthday cake. The Hubs is a pie fanatic, so my lack of baking doesn’t serve him well at all.

Last weekend we were invited to a BBQ. In our world, a party means the hosts prepare a main dish and guests are expected to bring a dish and your own booze. So I surveyed the produce in the house to see what I had to work with. A potluck is a great way to use up of an abundance of garden or Bountiful Basket produce. Ah-ha! Fruit. I admit that fruit is not my strong point. I don’t naturally gravitate to it like I do vegetables, so I have a hard time using up the fruit from our bi-weekly basket and from friends who insist I take bags and boxes of peaches, apricots, apples, etc. from their trees at this time of year. The Hubs likes his fruit, but can only eat so much – and we only need so much jam.

So last Saturday, I had some really big nectarines and some little pluots (apparently a cross between a plum and an apricot). I went looking for a recipes and landed on FoodGawker (an amazing food porn site: you gotta check it out). I saw a three-ingredient nectarine galette (I had to look up “galette:” it’s a type of tart). The picture was beautiful and it sounded so simple! Perfect for a busy day when I had multiple kitchen projects going on. It’s also perfect when I can bake something and take to another house – and leave it there.

As usual, I couldn’t leave well enough alone and added my own touches to this lovely recipe.

Here’s how:

Choose the fruit you want to use for the galette. I think any stone fruit, berries or apples or pears would work nicely. Pick what you have or whatever is in season. Like I said, I had some nectarines and some pluots, so I went with those. I considered adding an apple but decided to keep that for lunches. I used two large nectarines and four pluots, but I could have used a little more because it cooks down.

Thinly slice the fruit. My pluots were a little ripe and the nectarines were a little under-ripe, so I sliced the pluots a little thicker and the nectarines a little thinner to ensure even cooking.

Place fruit in a bowl and toss with cornstarch, which helps thicken the fruit juices as it bakes.

Next, unroll a refrigerated pie crust (I know, I should have made my own crust! Maybe next time) onto a large baking sheet or pizza pan. I lined my pan with parchment so it would slide off easily.

Here’s the exciting part! I was making this the same day I made some pumpkin puree. The Hubs wondered into the kitchen and had a taste of the puree, just as I was slicing fruit. He commented that it would be even better with some cinnamon and sugar. Pie freak! That’s when it dawned on me that I had to add some pumpkin to this tart. I scooped out about 1/3 cup puree and spread it on the middle of the crust.

Sprinkle some cinnamon and brown sugar on the puree. It’s like a pumpkin pie under the fruit galette!

Next, dump the fruit on top of the puree and top with more cinnamon, brown sugar and some sliced butter.

Now, fold and tuck the edges of the crust over the sides of the fruit.

Brush the exposed crust with butter (or some people use milk or egg – yolk or white or whole) and sprinkle with brown sugar.

Bake 375 for 35-40 minutes until crust is golden brown and fruit is soft and cooked through.

Cool and carefully slide onto a serving plate.

Pumpkin & Fruit Galette:

Servings: 8

Ingredients:

(all ingredient amounts are approximate – no fussy measuring needed)

  • 1 refrigerated rolled pie crust (or a homemade pie crust)
  • 1/3 cup pumpkin puree (recipe for homemade here)
  • Sliced fruit (pitted, but not peeled), measuring about 3 1/2-4 cups (I used nectarines and pluots)
  • 1 Tbsp corn starch
  • 4 Tbsp brown sugar, divided
  • 1-2 Tbsp cinnamon (depending on your personal cinnamon love. Mine is high), divided
  • 2 1/2 Tbsp unsalted butter, divided

Directions:

  1. Set refrigerated pie crust out to come to room temperature. Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
  2. Thinly slice fruit, then toss with cornstarch.
  3. Unroll pie crust and place on parchment lined baking pan or pizza pan.
  4. Spread pumpkin puree in center of crust, leaving about a two inch border to fold crust. It’s ok to heap it into a bit of a pile as it will cook down.
  5. Sprinkle 1 Tbsp of brown sugar and 1/2 Tbsp of cinnamon over pumpkin puree.
  6. Spread fruit over puree and sprinkle with remaining brown sugar (reserve a few pinches for outer crust) and cinnamon.
  7. Slice 2 Tbsp of cold butter and tuck into fruit mixture.
  8. Fold and tuck edges of crust over sides of fruit.
  9. Brush outer crust with remaining butter (softened) and sprinkle with remaining brown sugar.
  10. Bake for 35-40 minutes until crust is golden brown and fruit is soft and cooked through.

Notes for next time:

The galette was a hit as dessert at the BBQ. Of course we paired it with some creamy vanilla ice cream. The pumpkin flavor is subtle, just providing some texture to the fruit and another layer of flavor. The Hubs ate his slice in about three bites and was very disappointed that we didn’t have leftovers to take home. Since it’s pretty easy and not horribly fattening, I will make another one for him – maybe with some apples, pears and peaches. I think I would add some chopped pecans to the fruit mixture to give it a little crunch. I might also use some pumpkin pie spice instead of cinnamon over the puree, for a little more pumpkin pie flavor.

This is a great weeknight dessert, because it’s so easy, but it’s so pretty that it also makes an impressive dinner party dessert. The Fall flavors are perfect for a changing seasons menu. I highly recommend you give this one a try and report back here about they type of fruit you used and how it turned out.

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Homemade Pumpkin Puree

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I already told you about my affinity for orange food when I wrote the the carrot soup post, so you had to know I would be talking about pumpkins – a lot! If you’re a Pinterest fan like me, you know that pumpkin-anything recipes are the most pinned recipes right now, so it’s only fitting we make some homemade pumpkin puree to get ready for all those orange recipes.

Along with my mysterious cantaloupe plants out in the garden, I also ended up with a very nice crop of pie (sweet) pumpkins. I never thought to grow pumpkins before. After all, how many jack-o-lanterns does one need a year? But, I knew that the pumpkins that I accidentally grew were pie pumpkins because that was the only kind I had thrown out there during my lazy composting last winter. So, it dawned on me that since I use a lot of pumpkin puree for Fall recipes and for my homemade doggie treats (Yeah, I’m that kind of dog owner. Yeah, I’ll share the recipe in a future post), I should be really happy to have my own crop of sweet pumpkins.

That said, I always thought starting with an actual pumpkin would be complicated and laborious work. Turns out I was wrong. It’s pretty darn simple and it tastes SO much better than canned. AND, a cup of pumpkin is only 41 calories! While I know most people don’t have a personal crop of pie pumpkins in their backyard, we can all take advantage of the plethora of little pumpkins that are appearing in big bins at the market and farmers markets at this time of year. They cost almost nothing and they are so easy to work with. I used a couple of resources to learn how to make puree: Simple Bites and Elana’s Pantry.

Here’s how:

First, start with the little pie pumpkins – they are the baby-sized ones, not the big carving kind (which don’t taste as yummy) or the super-mini kind. You can use them for decor around the house during Halloween season, then make puree and all kinds of pumpkin yummies out of them.

Use small pie/sweet pumpkins to make puree for cooking

Cut the stem off, then slice the pumpkins open, horizontally.

Slice horizontally

Scoop out the seeds and stringy pulp, reserving for later.

Remove seeds and stringy pulp

It’s ok if some of the stringy part is left intact

Place pumpkin halves cut-side down on a rimmed baking sheet. Two pumpkins fit on one of my baking sheets.

Place cut-side down on a rimmed baking sheet

Bake at 350 degrees for about 45-60 minutes, depending on size. You know they are done when you can insert a fork into the outside of the pumpkin easily and the inner flesh is quite soft, but not complete mush.

Bake at 350 degrees for 45-60 minutes

Let cool until you can handle the roasted pumpkins. Then scoop the flesh from the outer shell and place in the food processor. Puree until very smooth.

Scoop flesh from outer shell

Puree the pulp until very smooth

Remove from food processor to a colander to drain off excess moisture. Use cheesecloth or coffee filters to line the colander so you don’t lose the precious pulp. Allow to drain for about 30 minutes.

Drain in a lined colander for about 30 minutes.

Once it’s drained, you can use it immediately in your favorite pumpkin recipe or you can store it in the fridge for a few days and/or freeze it for later use. My two small pumpkins yielded about 2.5 cups of puree. I used a little for a fruit tart recipe (recipe coming in a future post) and froze the rest. I used a muffin tin to freeze 1/2 cup portions, which are handy to grab and defrost as needed.

BUT WAIT, there’s more! Remember the seeds and stringy pulp you scooped out of the pumpkins earlier? Separate the seeds from the pulp. Put the leftover pulp in the veggie stock freezer bag (see sidebar in this post) and rinse and dry the seeds.

Separate the seeds from the leftover pulp

When the seeds are dry, mix with a little melted butter and salt and roast at 300 degrees for about 45 minutes.

Mix seeds with a little butter and salt, then roast at 300 for about 45 minutes

Great, healthy snack! For other fun roasted pumpkin seed recipes, see my pumpkin board on Pinterest.

Tasty healthy snack!

So, from two little pumpkins we have made puree for cooking, seeds for snacking and pulp for veggie stock. Some would also argue that we should reserve the liquid from the puree we drained. Ok. I didn’t, though.

Now, what are we going to make with our pumpkin puree? EVERYTHING! My personal fav is the soft pumpkin chocolate chip cookie, but I can’t have those very often. So, there’s also pumpkin pie (duh, right?), pumpkin waffles and pancakes, pumpkin pasta, pumpkin bread, pumpkin soup, pumpkin chili, pumpkin bread and muffins, pumpkin bars, pumpkin quinoa, pumpkin lattes, pumpkin smoothies, pumpkin butter, and pumpkin granola bars…..and the list goes on and on! Here are three of my pumpkin creations: Curried Pumpkin & Bean Soup and  Pumpkin & Fruit Galette and Pumpkin, Bean and Rice Burritos. I’ll show you as I go through my pumpkin pins. Oh, and did you know that you can sub pumpkin puree for oil in many baking recipes (like you might do with applesauce)?

Leave a comment with your favorite recipe using pumpkin!

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Garden 2012 – The Season in Pictures

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Since it’s late August and I’m just getting started here at Cooking Ripe! I thought I should catch you up on how the garden grew this year. We’re in full harvest now, so you’ll see the fruit of the labor in the kitchen in future posts.

We have a large lot, and tons of mostly flat space out back, but I have only had one tiny garden back there previously. It was so tiny that the Hubs and I cleared it and turned it by hand (and backs) last year. This year, I called in my friend with mini-tractor to ‘disk’ it, as the farmers here in SW Colorado say. I had another friend bring a load of sheep manure from his farm to mix into the clay soil. Due to a timing error on my part, I hand spread the manure myself.

Then in late April, I planted the right-hand side with early season crops: potatoes, lettuce, spinach, onions, peppers, carrots and garlic. I tell you more specifics about the varieties I planted later.

Here’s how it looked after the first round of planting:

First Planting: last week in April 2012

About a month later, I finally had time to get the second half planted. I added cilantro, basil, peppers, more garlic and onions, squash and my first ever tomato plants.
Meanwhile, the other side was starting to pop up:

Second planting: last week in May 2012
(Opposite view from first photo)

Over the next few weeks I watered and watered and fretted over what wasn’t happening: the cilantro and basil weren’t appearing on schedule. Fearing I would be watering expanses of empty dirt if I didn’t fill in along all of the soaker hoses, I added few plants from a local greenhouse: replacement cilantro, Thai basil, broccoli, and cabbage. I filled some other gaps with leftover green onion seeds and carrots. (Meet our kitty, Kow. She supervised the gardening, especially the carrot plants, until she passed away in late July. RIP sweet kitty).

Third week in June 2012 – everything’s planted.

As the watering continued (and the weeding began), I noticed many sprouts that I did not plant. I knew  the lazy composting (throwing my kitchen scraps out in the garden area all winter) was the culprit. I figured it was some sort of squash or melon, but nobody seemed to be able to positively identify the various volunteer sprouts. I decided to leave some, move some and (gasp!) pull some up.

Mystery squash

By early June the first payday: fresh cut LETTUCE! Isn’t it pretty and crispy? We had salad almost every day through most of August! There’s nothing simpler than going outside with some scissors, cutting a bowl of greens, washing them up and eating them with some homemade dressing (yes, I’ll show you how easy it is to make later!).

First of MANY lettuce cuttings!

While we sometimes get freaky snowstorms in June, this year was not cold: it was blistering hot for a few weeks. Coupled with crazy windstorms and no rain, I was afraid my delicate plants would wither or blow away. But, the heat broke on the 4th of July when we got some much needed cool air and a little rain. We also got our first carrot.

4th of July carrot!

Turns out that the cilantro and basil that had threatened to stay below ground, were just teasing. Both came up beautifully after the heatwave ended. Can you blame them? I love me some cilantro and lime – on anything! (Don’t worry, I have lots of cilantro recipes!) I was giddy when I got to cut bunches like this:

Viva cilantro!

By mid-July the garden was starting to produce regularly. We were eating lettuce daily and had fresh carrots and peppers as often as we wanted. The cilantro was ultra-productive and the basil was looking and smelling heavenly.

Mid-July: Great Progress!

By the end of July we were finally able to positively identify the mystery squash. We have a mini-pumpkin patch and a mini-cantaloupe patch. We are excited to see how the melons turn out, given our altitude (6,800 ft).

Here’s one of the pumpkins.

My very first ripe tomatoes – ever! I had never tried to grow tomatoes before, so it was oh, soooo exciting to see some red beauties hanging out on the vines.

First ripe tomatoes!

By the first week in August, we were really in full swing! We had green onions, zucchini, tomatoes, pepper, carrots and I started freaking out about keeping up with the harvest. It’s hard for two people to eat all of those veggies, but I did my best to find recipes to use up what we had so we didn’t waste. Also, since all of friends have gardens, it’s hard to give away the extras. Just eat your veggies – or freeze them!

Early August harvest

One of those extras I added from the local greenhouse was eggplant and has been the surprise hit of the year! The plants are really pretty and the eggplant is super yummy and not bitter like the ones in the store. Even the Hubs says we should grow more next year. I will share my favorite eggplant recipes soon! By mid-August, we started cutting basil (pesto recipe also coming soon) and pulling a few onions. Aren’t they pretty?

Mid-August basil, onions and eggplant!

When the garden gives you tomatoes, onions, peppers, garlic and cilantro you HAVE to make fresh salsa! I’ve made salsa in the past, but this was my first time canning it – and it was pretty simple. I’ll show you the next time I make some.

Fresh, homemade salsa: first canning project!

By late August, the lettuce and cilantro were going to seed (did you know coriander is the seed from the cilantro plant? I didn’t but do now!), but the tomatoes, squash, carrots, peppers, eggplant, broccoli and onions are still rocking. Soon we’ll dig and cure the onions and garlic for winter storage. We are still waiting for the pumpkins and cantaloupe to ripen, but I think we’re getting close. Potatoes are not looking great, but we’ll have a few itty bitties. Oh, and we have one monster cabbage still cooking out there. Can’t wait to cut that head and cook it up. The Hubs loves cabbage!

Late August progress

Fresh broccoli anyone?

Coriander is cilantro that has gone to seed – it’s like a “two-fer-one”

Purple bell peppers are odd looking, but fun in the garden. Haven’t eaten any yet, so we’ll see how they taste later

This is Lola, my main garden supervisor

And this is Daisy, my main tomato taster (thief)

So, this brings us to date with the garden. While it’s starting to wind down, we have lots to eat and preserve still. I hope we can get it all done!

End of August