Perfect Pumpkin

Now while pumpkins are plentiful is the time to start buying and baking–because pumpkin has so many health benefits not known to the general public.

About 10 years ago now my husband and I were in the middle of trying to adopt a greyhound. Our love and desire to have a greyhound become part of our family was huge. After most tracks in this country stopped racing greyhounds, local agencies formed to help people/families adopt the retired greyhounds. The one we were trying to get had really bad teeth (potential of hundreds of dollars of care) and she also had problems with her stomach also due to the poor diet given to racing dogs. Time and again at meetings we heard stories of how the foster families and forever families were always using pumpkin with their greyhounds. Pumpkin will bulk up their stool, settle their tummies, and boost nutrition. Unfortunately, because of where we were living at the time, which lacked the appropriate space for this particular greyhound, we did not adopt her.

I’ve never forgotten how much I learned about pumpkin–here’s what I know:

  • It’s rich in vitamin A
  • One cup of cooked pumpkin is 49 calories
  • High in antioxidants that may reduce your risk of chronic disease
  • It’s high in beta-carotene, vitamin A and vitamin C–boosts immunity
  • The nutrients in pumpkin are good for your eyesight
  • Nutrient dense, low calorie, may produce weight loss
  • Antioxidants lower risk of cancer
  • Is packed with fiber
  • Promotes healthy skin
  • Versatile foodstuff that you can add to anything–wraps, salads(cooked) veggies, stews, soups and more

Some people may not know this but pumpkins are a type of squash. Pumpkins and squash belong to the same family called Cucurbitaceae.  Every year I bake up two dozen squash and pumpkin, then let cool, place in freezer bags and freeze. We then are able to eat squash every single month, almost, until the next year’s season. If one or both of us is feeling ill I will make up a pumpkin risotto. Pumpkin risotto does the trick every time. Here is the recipe–Pumpkin Risotto

I also roast all my pumpkin seeds for snacks and to add to bird food.

When you’re done with your pumpkins instead of throwing them into the garbage, where they’ll just clutter up a landfill, choose to break them up and set them out in a place where the birds and other small animals can get to them.

As we head into the season of sickness I would also like to add this article that has natural health remedies such as pumpkin, ginger, rice, and sweet potatoes that help manage diarrhea, nausea, and flu-like symptoms.

Until next time– stay healthy and happy!

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Seasons of Change

Just one more day and fall is here. Where we live we can tell when the season is changing by the changes in our local traffic. Also the upper edges of the bluffs in our area start to show their fall colors and the produce at the market changes from tender sweet fruit and vegetables to the kind better stored in root cellars and processed into canning jars. While there are still green beans at Farmer’s Markets, they’re not as tender as they were in June. Our last haul included half a dozen acorn squash and several zucchini with the last of summers cucumbers. This growing season marks the second year of our seasonal only eating. What does seasonal eating mean?

Seasonal eating means purchasing and eating food around the time the food was harvested. Which for us means, we eat asparagus in the spring and then will not eat it again until next spring. Same for tomatoes, rhubarb, strawberries, raspberries, and sweet corn. I have processed and frozen green beans, zucchini, beets, and squash to eat this winter. The reason we do this is two-fold: for one we want to eat food that is freshly harvested and preferably very local to us (grown within 50-60 miles of us), secondly we find this is a wonderful way to support our local farmers. Essentially they grow it and we are there come harvest to buy it and eat it. And we buy a lot of it. We eat as much sweet corn as we can handle. This year that mean approximately 100 ears were eaten by two people in this household. I ate over 11 pints of strawberries (each time picked fresh that morning) and about the same amount in raspberries plus I had 35 ripe peaches and 15 ripened pears. Together my husband and I ate 5 bunches of asparagus, 10 bunches of fresh carrots, 2.5# of green beans, 15# new potatoes, 10# of fingerlings,10# of fresh beets, 12 bunches of fresh spinach, 12 bunches of fresh lettuce, lost count on the cucumbers, and 20 peppers of various color. I alone have eaten 50 tomatoes since July. Now as the season changes we’ve begun consuming apples, squash, and zucchini.

All total from the first week of June until the first week of September we spent approximately $25.00 a week (roughly $350.00) on local produce in two different Farmer’s Markets. Prices are never lower for produce then when they are being harvested. During the summer months our meals consist of lots of fruits and vegetables and very little meat (1 maybe 2 meals a week with meat), and almost no unhealthy snacking. So we save a lot of money throughout the summer.

Prior to eating seasonally we would purchase substandard tasteless produce that was not local to us all winter long. Now–we store some of summers bounty up for winter eating and then come fall we’re buying squash, apples, and zucchini that we will also enjoy all winter. Through out the winter months we will not buy any produce in the store except lettuce and bananas. No matter how bad I might want a tomato in my winter salad, I will not buy any tasteless ones out of season.

Pictured is our favorite tree on the south shore of Devil’s Lake right behind the snack shack. One or the other of us has been photographing this tree since 2005.

Like the seasons of growing and harvesting food each one of us is in a season of our life. I am currently in mid- fall where a lot of my foliage has changed color and some of it may now be lying on the forest floor. There are still bits of rare green here and there but for the most part fall has been declared.

I hope I’ve given you something to think about and that perhaps you and your family might consider seasonal eating. Thank you for stopping. Below are two informative sites that discuss seasonal eating, why it’s better for you and your local community, and lastly how eating seasonally can save you a lot of $.

Eating Seasonally Food Guide

Why eating seasonally is better !

 

The Month of September means–

Baking several loaves of banana bread (and freezing them), visiting the apple orchard for the first time and trying Paula Reds, and surprises like my new guinea impatiens blooming again. This pretty sherbet colored impatiens has been blooming off and on all season. It has outperformed EVERYTHING I planted this year. In the last 8 days, we’ve had between 20-30 inches of rain (depending on where you are located in this county). Everything is wet, saturated, and in most cases ruined. Luckily because of where we are located– second-floor apartment on a hill, we were not flooded. Summer is almost gone and then we will settle into fall with more apple picking and squash baking and then eventually await the spring seed catalogs. Where does time go? It’s lost somewhere between intent and actual doing–never to be held, never to slow down, never to be captured. Always lost.

Fall food from the farm stand

Well it’s that time of year again when we head to the local farm stand and buy up approx. 20 acorn squash to freeze. I cut each acorn squash in half, remove the seeds, place on a cookie sheet (8 halves fit on mine) and bake for 1 hour at 375 degrees or until skins are loose and squash inside is tender. I used to brush with butter while cooking but that gets pretty messy. Once the squash is cooled down enough to handle I scoop it out into freezer bags (1- 1-1/2 cups in each), press out air, seal, date, and place into the freezer flat.  Reheat a portion or two on the stove top when ready to eat, add a bit of butter and pepper, and enjoy! While at the farm stand we  bought some of the last of the heirloom tomatoes to be found. After eating them I made a promise to myself to never buy grocery store tomatoes ever again. From now on heirloom tomatoes only. I found a great site online that will ship me some heirloom tomato plants come springtime- here.

We also bought some apples, new potatoes and sauerkraut and I fixed my husband a meal of baked apples, new potatoes, sauerkraut and local organic pork sausage. Great fall food!

Compost scraps from a broasted chicken dinner made a colorful photo. I’ve also put up 14 bags, with 2 cups each, of shredded zucchini- so zucchini bread, zucchini fritters, and zucchini pancakes are in our future.





Until next time–Happy Fall!

Hello August!

Can it be that summer is almost over? As of this month I’ve been at my container garden now for almost 8 months. From my failed starter plants I worked on in January and February, to the young plants I nurtured inside March until late April that became my super producers all summer long. My two 8″ tomato plants grew to almost 3 ft and are still producing tomatoes. So far I’ve harvested 12 med., med large tomatoes with about 10 more ready to turn any day. My spindly tomato plant that survived a couple of frosts ended up giving me over 30 cherry tomatoes. Best tomatoes ever! My rosemary has quadrupled in size, as have my shrubs (doubled) and this years New Guinea Impatiens are gorgeous.  Herbs have been dried and preserved and several of my plant containers have been emptied, and cleaned up for next year. In just a few weeks fall will be upon on and I definitely feel like this year’s container garden was my best yet. A lot of work, but a lot of rewards and I’m already looking ahead to next year. P.S. Although my pumpkin plants bit the dust last week thanks to leaf rot and gnats, my sunflowers and zinnias are ready to bloom any day now. Pictures soon! Until next time–be well!





Blueberry Buckle Recipe–and processing produce tips!

This week- a few things I did today as I enjoyed my day off!

It’s blueberry season here in Wisconsin and I just happened to have got my hands on 3 pints of fresh berries. I froze some for smoothies, so now we have fresh strawberries and fresh blueberries for smoothies this winter.

My husband purchased a bunch of beets at the Farmer’s Market this past Friday so I processed them today. Total time was one hour- I put them in a pan of water –medium setting 1-1/4 of an hour and then turned them off. I then let the water come down from a boil to warm and ran cold water in the pan and slipped the skins right off. They were put into freezer bags and we will be eating July beets 5-6 different times this coming winter. I would pickle them (my favorite) but hubby doesn’t like pickled beets very much.



There’s a story behind the peppers. About 7 weeks ago our neighbor, who travels a lot, asked me to take over her pepper plant due to her not being around enough to water it. We were at our max limit for weight on the deck so we kept it downstairs by the front door. It should be noted this plant had been planted in big box potting soil with Miracle Grow added and sold from a big box store. When I took it over it was about 1-1/2 feet tall, scrawny and dry. Thinking it would die I never did get a before picture but 7/ 7-1/2 weeks later it’s loaded with peppers of all sizes. I have grown peppers on our deck in containers–even now that I think of it I’ve successfully grown cucumbers. But it was hard between bugs and wind and limited full sun areas, neither of them do well on our deck. But hey maybe I’ll start a garden by our front door? I just cut up and take out the seeds from the peppers and freeze the cut up slices for future pizza’s and stir fry’s right away. Our first harvest yielded 7 peppers, I took 3 and I gave my neighbor 4 and plan to split the bounty with her each week to her delight.

Update- after the initial 7 small to medium sized peppers all the rest (5) which were quite small developed bottom rot. I used my soil tester to determine what was lacking in the soil and discovered the soil was severely lacking calcium. It should be noted this isn’t the first time that plants I bought from a big box store, planted in the wrong type of soil mixed with Miracle grow, developed rot on their fruit. The soil is dry even after watering because the soil mixture does not retain any moisture beneficial to the plant. So the plant is constantly in a state of over- watered or under-watered and each time you do water all the nutrients (and there probably isn’t much to start with) wash out the bottom. Hence this pepper plant was really deprived of the calcium it needed to produce healthy peppers.

Here’s the promised recipe for the blueberry buckle

Happy Fall!

Just hours before the first day of fall I kept busy baking up squash to freeze for over winter and peeling and slicing apples for applesauce. Ragweed has been kicking my butt these past few days, and I didn’t really feel like doing anything. Yet, these things needed to be done today and so they were. Three pounds of Macintosh apples yielded just a cup and a half of homemade applesauce. Thank goodness we bought more this past weekend, although those are slowly being eaten each day. I heart Macintosh apples.

I also had four squash to bake which made five packages of baked squash- five sides for a meal. The total cost of the squash and apples was $12.00 (roughly 2 dollars a side).

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I’ve managed to find several great pumpkin recipes I will be sharing this week or next as well as a recipe for Apple Fritter bread. I love fall for many reasons, but the food of fall is number one for me. I love pumpkin and apples and squash and warm cider. The post I promised with pantry essentials is almost done. Until next time ~Happy Fall~ ! Get outside if you can and enjoy the last bits of great weather if you live in an area that will see snow before long. Yes, I said it lol. Right now areas all over Wisconsin and Minnesota are flooding, stay safe if you’re out in it.

Fall food goodness

The last of the local zucchini is available this week, so I made sure to grate a bunch and freeze for pasta dishes this winter. Local apple orchards are announcing new varieties of apples every week. The first week we tried some new varieties and this week we bought Macintosh, Honey Crisp and Ginger Golds. Pears were plentiful too and ripened nicely next to our apples and bananas on the counter. A tomato plant I bought late at Bauer’s Market in La Crescent Mn. still producing. All total for a $9.00 plant, sold towards the end of planting season, it produced 17 tomatoes for me. To save seeds from tomatoes you cut the tomato in half and squeeze its pulp out into a small dish or container and cover for three days. The pulp ferments, allowing the covering that the seeds are encapsulated in to disintegrate. Each day you must stir the pulp and on day four rinse the pulpy seeds in a sieve careful not to allow seeds to sift through sieve (just the pulp) and then place on a piece of dry paper towel. As the seeds dry on the paper towel remove them from clumps to separate and allow to dry. You should store these dried seeds in a cool dry place, even the refrigerator- do not freeze them.  Coming up in future posts- seed saving, freezing vegetables, pumpkin recipes and pantry staples. Until then be well and always remember to eat good food!

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Freezing Roma Tomatoes for Sauce

I’ve found throughout time that Roma tomatoes are the best tomatoes to make pasta sauce out of. I didn’t always know that. During late summer and early fall Roma tomatoes are plentiful. Around here one can buy a bushel for just a few dollars. The first step is cutting a shallow x in the bottom of each tomato and placing several tomatoes at a time (don’t overfill pot) in boiling water to blanch for 4 minutes. Then with a slotted spoon remove tomatoes and place in a bowl of ice water to stop the cooking. Once cooled remove skins and core and place in a freezer bag, date it and into the freezer they go. Every time you desire fresh pasta sauce you remove your tomatoes from the freezer and make your sauce and its like a fresh cup of summer in every serving. My favorite pasta sauce recipe is here .

Enjoy!

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Freezer Creamed Corn

sweet corn

Summer food is beginning to make its appearance around these parts of Wisconsin. Locally the first of the sweet corn became available as well as this year’s first strawberries. From this time throughout the summer, we will buy both and enjoy them as they only get sweeter as the summer sun shines upon them each day. We’ve enjoyed asparagus and rhubarb lately and I’ve frozen both for later on. With strawberries, we either buy them at the farmer’s market or my husband and I go pick them at a local u-pick field. I freeze some, eat some, and make refrigerator jam out of the rest. With sweet corn, because of my allergies, I must eat corn in moderation. Although I would just love to sit down, as I once did, and eat 10 ears of corn at one sitting (sigh). I am pleased to announce though that my wheat and corn intolerance has gotten much better since I began taking a daily probiotic. Since around last fall, I’ve actually been able to return to eating most food products containing both wheat and corn without issue. We picked up 10 ears to try and if they’re good (sometimes the really early stuff is not) I’ll go back for more. We eat it and make salads with it and freeze it. I make freezer creamed corn, that I learned how to make almost thirty years ago now, and we enjoy it all winter long.

Here’s the recipe-

20 c. raw corn
1 lb. butter
1 pt. half and half
Salt to taste
1 tbsp. sugar

Mix all ingredients. Bake at 350 degrees for 1 hour. Cool, put in containers and freeze.

I also make a fresh cucumber, tomato and corn salad that goes great with shrimp. I use equal parts corn, chopped tomatoes and cucumbers mix them all together and drizzle a bit of Italian dressing over it. I also use this salad as the bed for my delicious grilled shrimp. Try it, you’ll love it.

By now my husband and I are a few days into our Door County stay, tossing the frisbee around, dipping our toes in the water and enjoying this view

door county lake view