Monday, November 26, 2012

Liquid Pumpkin Pie

If you are still inspired to make pumpkin-based food, here's a little recipe tested many times at school. The reviews were very diverse but surely all children from our Cooking Club enjoyed making a very different version of a pumpkin pie, to celebrate Thanksgiving season.

The whole experience was exciting: First some kids were not very happy to smell both pumpkin and butternut squash, but were very enthusiastic when they saw the other ingredients. It was unanimous that  most of them loved sugar, graham crackers, and condensed milk. Uncertainty was present when asked about coconut milk and coconut flakes. Curiosity, though, was also there, and even if some kids refused to go further after a first spoonful, they at least had tried something different.

Smashing the pumpkins, punching the bags with graham crackers and using the dangerous-looking hand blender were the high points of the class. After the experience, the teacher asked the kids what they thought about the recipe, gathering some adjectives on the board. As you can see, it was a wonderful way of understanding that, after all, it's all a matter of taste.

Liquid Pumpkin Pie

I will soon freeze a batch in an ice cream machine to test the outcome. Probably it will be sweet enough to be in our repertoire for next Thanksgiving!

1 cup mashed sweet pumpkin (can be organic from a can)
1 cup freshly baked or cooked butternut squash
2 cups coconut milk
1 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice
4 tablespoons sugar (preferrably brown, but kids preferred white sugar)
Condensed milk, to garnish
Toasted coconut curls or grated coconut to garnish
3 graham crackers, broken into small pieces in a plastic bag

Place pumpkin and butternut squash chunks on plates and mash with a fork. In a bowl, combine mashed pumpkin and butternut squash with coconut milk and set aside. Punch the bag full of graham cracker to transform them into cookie crumbles.

Mix everything together with a blender until smooth. Serve in bowls topped with graham cracker crumbles, a swirl of condensed milk, and coconut to add texture and interest to the soup. Enjoy cold. 

Sunday, November 18, 2012

A Thanksgiving feast

As a food blog, we should be bursting with plans for the Thanksgiving meal. But we've been a little quiet, because we aren't preparing big feasts this year. My family goes out for the holiday meal — and I'm grateful to enjoy the fruits of someone else's labor!

But if I were cooking, this is the meal I would plan:

20101209_spiced nuts_1

Best Spiced Nuts: Slightly sweet with a kick from garam masala and Sriracha — irresistible snacking while you wait for the turkey to be done.

Dry-Cured Rosemary Turkey: This is the sole entry here that isn't from this site. This was my go-to holiday recipe for years. The blend of seasonings is just fantastic. Get started on it right away: It cures in the fridge for three days before cooking.

Chestnut Sage Soup: I dream about this soup. Creamy chestnut puree with apples, sage, bacon, and vanilla notes... swoon.

Succotash in Squash: This is a showstopper vegetarian dish, scoring huge points for flavor, presentation, and history — a nod to Native Americans and Thanksgiving tradition.

Yams with Za'atar: Give the candied yams a rest. Instead of burying veggies in sweetness, bring out their deep flavor with za'atar spice. This dish is a cinch to make, which is a blessing on a busy cooking day.

Crunchy Marinated Green Beans: Instead of burying green beans in a casserole, show them off with a touch of Asian flavors.

Black-Eyed Peas Salad: With canned beans, this takes almost no effort. And you can make it the night before, so it's one less thing to tackle on Thanksgiving Day.

Rice of Many Colors: This kid-friendly dish is packed with protein and veggies, and easily adaptable to suit your family's taste.

Minute Bread: Tasty rolls with cheese baked right in — delicious!

Pumpkin Pudding with Cranberry Sauce: An unusual dessert that takes full advantage of fresh cranberries.

Pear and Cranberry Sauce Skillet Pie: This twist on a typical pie blends sweet and tart flavors for a perfect finish to the meal.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Creamed honey


My 8-year-old and I just whipped up his holiday gifts for friends, family, and teachers: homemade creamed honey! We had no idea how easy it is to make such a delicious spread. And it's a fascinating project for curious little scientists.

You've probably had a jar of liquid honey become crystallized. Creamed honey is also crystallized, but it's a controlled process with much finer crystals. Naturally crystallized honey tastes gritty and rough. Creamed honey, on the other hand, is smooth like soft butter.

To make it, you need a bit of creamed honey as starter, or seed. By stirring it into liquid honey, you're providing a crystal pattern for the liquid honey to replicate. If you stirred in large, chunky crystallized honey, the liquid honey would replicate those crystals. The tiny little crystals in the creamed honey beget more tiny little crystals in the liquid honey, and within a few weeks you have a new jar of deliciously smooth, spreadable honey.

Once you have a batch of creamed honey, you can maintain an endless supply by using it as the seed crystals for each successive batch.

It takes about two weeks for creamed honey to crystallize. While the kids watch and wait, they might want to learn more about crystals. This would be a great springboard for learning about snowflakes, making crystals, or even making rock candy or fudge. You could also try other projects that use starter, like sourdough bread or homemade yogurt.

By the way, if your liquid honey naturally crystallizes, it hasn't gone bad. To salvage it, heat the bottle gently in a pan of warm water to dissolve the crystals. Your honey should be good as new.


Creamed Honey

You can easily scale this recipe up or down. Just be sure you have at least one part creamed honey per 10 parts regular honey. You can use a higher proportion of creamed honey, if you wish, but don't go any lower. Regular creamed honey from the market works fine — if you can get some from a local beekeeper, even better!

1 cup honey
2 tablespoons creamed honey

In a small saucepan, warm the cup of honey over medium-low heat, stirring occasionally, until it reaches 140 degrees. Remove from heat and let cool to room temperature. This step is important: It dissolves any crystals that may already have begun to form in the honey.

Once the liquid honey is cool, add the creamed honey and mix thoroughly, stirring for several minutes. Let the mixture sit, covered, overnight to allow air bubbles to rise to the top.

Spoon the blended honey into a jar and let it sit. The process takes about two to three weeks at room temperature, less in the refrigerator. The honey will gradually turn light in color and develop a creamy texture. There's no need to refrigerate the finished project — honey will keep indefinitely at room temperature.

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Halloween candy: 4 ways to find it a new home

Our kids came home with 108 pieces of candy in one bucket and 82 in another. This was the final count after we picked out and removed candies that are not popular around here: artificially flavored and artificially colored ones, those hard to brush off teeth, and hard candy with no nutritional value other than sugar and colors. We "recycled" some and put in our door basket, so that older kids who arrived later would enjoy them.

In Darienne's home, the candy haul was smaller. Her kids love greeting trick-or-treaters, so they visited fewer homes before heading home to welcome older kids making late rounds. She lets her boys plow through the candy, then it's done and gone. Sometimes the kids eat way too much at once, and they realize what it means to have too much of a good thing. They gorge on candy for a few days, but then it's out of the house and the kids seem none the worse for it.

If you're looking for ways to use up excess Halloween candy, here are a few more ideas:

Send them to the troops: This organization organizes buyback events for dentists. Candy is exchanged for all sort of prizes, and then is sent to Operation Gratitude.

Play with math: Use leftover candy in an Advent calendar.

Create a crazy recipe: Make up something like this Peanut Butter and Toffee Candy Barka fancy sweet terrine, or a wacky cake.

Use them as decorations: Craft a Thanksgiving tree centerpiece or decorate sugar cookies.


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