I realize that I’m a month or two late for the PUMPKIN-EVERYTHING craze that annually arrives in September, but I finally gathered the time, the initiative, and the pumpkins to try my hand at making my own pumpkin puree. I’ve always been a big fan of Libby’s, but I’m pretty pleased with both the results and the ease of making this myself. Right after Halloween, it’s easy to find pumpkins for just a couple dollars, so it’s a great time of year to stock up for all your coming holiday desserts, as it freezes wonderfully.
And it’s sooooo easy. I urge you to give it a try for your own pumpkin recipes this year! Here’s how it’s done:
1. Select 1-2 small-ish pumpkins, or as many as you want to make in one batch. You can definitely puree pumpkins of any size, but they flavor and texture will be better from smaller pumpkins. These are often sold as “pie pumpkins” or “sugar pumpkins”.
I’ve found, in my eleven years living outside of Colorado, that many people don’t imagine Colorado as a place where much food can grow. People always sound surprised when I tell them that the hardiness zone for growing fruits and vegetables in Denver is approximately the same as that of Columbus, Ohio. And while it may be impossible to grow prolific gardens in the high mountain towns, there are many areas of the state known specifically for their produce.
In fact, many of the most anticipated foods of the summer are identified by the town in which they are grown. I’ve already mentioned Palisade peaches, and that area is also a significant producer of apples, plums, and cherries. Rocky Ford melons are some of the sweetest I’ve ever tasted. Olathe sweet corn is grown so prolifically that it appears in heaping mounds at even the most basic grocery stores, not just at boutique food shops and farmers markets. And, though it’s a town in New Mexico, we always look forward to the arrival each fall of Hatch green chiles.
Green chile is a bit of a sport in the Southwest. Most natives will argue that there is NOTHING that can’t be improved by these versatile foods, whether you like your chiles mild (like me) or screamin’ hot. The smell of roasting chiles tumbling around in giant metal barrels outside every grocery store still elicits strong memories of back-to-school evening errands with my parents and anticipation for the imminent changing leaves. Interestingly, I did not like green chiles at all as a kid. It’s only now, as an adult and returning Colorado resident, that I finally appreciate the obsession.
And so, I’m on a quest to learn how to cook with green chile beyond simply sprinkling it on my eggs, my pizza, my fajitas… though those are all excellent decisions. And this quest starts with something I’m supremely comfortable with: mac and cheese! For a Colorado-autumn twist on my go-to recipe, I paired my green chile with sweet corn, another fall favorite of mine.
Though the days are growing longer, the deep cold of winter persists here in Ohio. I’m usually over winter by about January 2nd every year (not a useful attribute for a resident of this region, I realize) and am ready for warm weather to return shortly thereafter. But even more than warmth, I long for color. Ohio winters are just so dang gray, and for all the brilliance that deciduous trees provide in spring and autumn, the scraggly brown trees against a flat gray sky and the steal and concrete of the city don’t make sure a very vibrant locale.
It’s lovely, then, to find something to make for dinner that add bright color and spicy, smoky flavor to the room. This soup is just the ticket?
This recipe is adapted from one I learned at a cooking class in North Carolina. The base of the soup is composed of two fall market items that store quite well, so it’s just as easy to make in the winter as in late autumn.
Sweet potatoes and apples: such good friends these can be in dishes both sweet and savory! The sweet potatoes don’t need any special treatment before heading into the oven, and meanwhile, you can prepare your apples and other ingredients.
There aren’t enough sauces, ingredients, shapes, cheeses, or styles in the world to burn out my love for pasta. If anything, it seems my taste for the stuff has only expanded since I started this blog; my childhood pasta preferences were limited exclusively to spaghetti with butter and parmesan cheese, and now I favor short, thick pasta dressed in zesty, flavorful sauces. There’s really nothing like writing a food blog to force me into trying new things. And as much as I want to make some of my favorites over and over again, then I’d have nothing new to tell you about! (However, if you haven’t already tried the Penne alla Vodka, you should really make it your top priority.)
Well, maybe your second priority. Because I’m pretty darn happy with this one, too.
Roasted red peppers are pretty easy to come by at the grocery store. Yes, I know that fresh red bell peppers are EVERYWHERE at this time of year (at least in North Carolina), but for a quick and filling weeknight dinner, I went with these. Plus I already had them in my pantry and it was time to use them up.
October is doing that thing again where it goes by too quickly. It’s my favorite month: the peak of autumn on most of this continent, and I may have mentioned once or seven-hundred times that autumn provides me the greatest joy of any season. A plentiful harvest of food to enjoy in the moment and store for the winter, repressed pigments unleashed in the forests in a glorious display of color, a chance to layer every article of orange, green, purple, and brown clothing I own in endless combinations for my daily attire (it is the only season I feel my wardrobe is remotely fashionable).
And of course, autumn recipes. This one in particular is the pinnacle of fall flavor unity: a basic caramel sweetened with maple syrup and punched up with a quart of apple cider boiled down to pure apple goodness. And now is really the best time to make them because it’s the one time of year you can buy fresh-pressed, unpasteurized apple cider.
And while yes, the primary purpose of my annual expedition is a supply of local fruit to get me through the winter, the added perk is access to this incredible cider. Unpasteurized apple cider, contrary to its grocery store counterparts, is thick, opaque, and must be refrigerated. But it’s filled with the most incredible flavor: you can still taste which varieties were used to press the cider. Most apple orchards sell it, but you can also occasionally find it in specialty grocery stores or farmers markets. Get out there and get some!
I also had a bottle of maple syrup that I bought in Wisconsin. It seemed appropriate to add to this autumn candy, right?
Ginger has never really been something I’ve thought about very much. Occasionally, my dad would add some ground ginger to stir fry, or I’d use some in fall desserts. But the farmers near Durham have been showcasing mounds of baby ginger at their tables for the last few weeks, and my curiosity about this knobby little root grew with each table I passed.
And with fortuitous timing, I came across this recipe for ginger apple chutney. Combined with apples & onions, also plentiful at local markets, this seemed like a perfect opportunity to buy a chunk of ginger. The recipe wasn’t written as one for canning, but I suspected the acid content would be high enough for canning and checked with a deft canning blogger to be sure.
This Thanksgiving, I’m not cooking Thanksgiving dinner. In fact, I’m not cooking anything. Instead, I’m joining eleven of my family members in Florida for several days in Disneyworld and Universal Studios!
But this is a food blog and food blogs in the United States simply MUST address Thanksgiving. I’m thrilled to say that Sierra (if you don’t know her by now, here’s a little intro) has volunteered to guest post one of her most precious Thanksgiving recipes! Sadly, I didn’t get to eat any of this gorgeous dessert, but I’m anxious to give the recipe a try when I return from the Sunshine State.
I hope you enjoy Sierra’s post, and I wish you all a Happy Thanksgiving!
Pumpkin Chiffon Pie, by Sierra H.
I know we just met, but I’m going to tell you a secret. This is something that I have hidden deep inside for as long as I can remember, and it weighs on my mind every Thanksgiving season.
I hate classic pumpkin pie.
There, I said it. I’ll eat it, but I’d almost just as rather eat pumpkin-scented lotions and candles. If you’ve been following Kristi’s chronicle of wedding cake baking, then you’ll know that I adore pumpkin, but the hard, dense, often over-sweet classic pumpkin pie just isn’t my thing.
It isn’t pumpkin pie’s fault. The blame belongs squarely on the shoulders of one lady: Grammy LoLo. My father’s mother, Grammy LoLo (you can call her that, too, by the way, everyone does) gave us the tradition of another kind of pumpkin pie: one that is light and airy, pumpkin-filled, and gorgeous light orange with just a teeny bit of pure whipped cream to make it the perfect end to a holiday meal (or a stunning post-Thanksgiving breakfast). In our house, we always just called it The Chiffon, and it had a special place in the Thanksgiving preparatory kitchen, often the day before the real craziness began.
I’ve talked rather a lot in the last few months about the wedding in early October for which I traveled across the continent, stood up as a bridesmaid, and baked the groom’s cake & wedding cake. What I haven’t talked quite so much about is the wedding I attended the week after as, quite blissfully, simply a guest.
Just a few short days after I returned from my whirlwind week in Colorado, Brad and I headed north to Washington DC for wedding #2. Though we stayed in the city with a friend who was also on the guest list, the ceremony itself was about an hour outside the city at a quaint little vineyard nestled in the rolling hills of Northern Virginia. It was a beautiful, clear evening, though the chill of autumn had definitely arrived. And while the wedding party raced against the sun to capture all their photos, the rest of us took advantage of the occasional & delicious delivery of appetizers throughout the cocktail hour.
Our favorite? Shot glasses full of brilliant orange sweet potato soup. Since we were shamelessly stalking the catering staff for more and subsequently tilting each glass back to drain every last drop, I knew I must try to recreate it at home.
This soup is another super-thick, veggie-packed, warm and filling delight. Its the latest installment of my recent obsession with soups (I’ve made no less than five large batches of soup this fall) and it’s certainly one I’ll make again. It begins, of course, with sweet potatoes, and is supported by a smattering of other vegetables.
I haven’t baked much since I spent four days in early October creating two massive cakes for Sierra’s wedding. So it might seem rather surprising that the first time I pull out my cake pans after such a project, it’s to reprise the very recipes I used for the largest tier of the wedding cake. I, however, am not surprised, as I have been wanting to share this recipe in a normal, human-sized dessert that you can make for you and your family instead of a full wedding guest list.
Before autumn wanes completely, I urge you to make this cake. This cake is rich, moist, and full of pumpkin flavor. This maple cream is studded with these sugared pecans (easily my favorite discovery of the season) and compliments the spicy cake perfectly. And for layer cake, this is pretty easy! No icing to smooth, no crumbs to worry about, no delicate folding dry ingredients into the batter, no piping. You can totally do this.
This Halloween is a bit odd for a huge swath of the U.S. A deep cold has arrived much earlier than normal due, in major part, to the massive storm that walloped the Eastern seaboard early this week and continues to wreak havoc as it churns slowly west. Durham was spared much of the power of the storm, but for many cities with transit systems shut down, widespread power outages, hugely destructive flooding, fires, and heavy snows, it is a bit of an understatement to suppose that many a trick-or-treater’s plans have been marred or cancelled all together.
This chili, based on my mom & dad’s recipe, is normally something I strongly associate with winter. I didn’t particularly care for it much as a kid, and yet there was nothing I wanted more after a day outside in the snow. Thick, warm, and hearty, I’ve come to favor it earlier and earlier in the season every year.