Pumpkin Week!!! Homemade Pumpkin Puree

I can’t wait for each and every recipe I have coming up for you this week.  I am a huge fan of pumpkin everything so I have more than enough FABULOUS recipes to give you a full week’s worth of pumpkin heaven.

With my hubby gone hunting and the rainy season started, the boys and I decided we would head down to our local farm stand and pick up some sugar pie pumpkins for a day full of baking.    They had so much fun getting all of the “guts” out of the pumpkins and separating all of the seeds so we could roast them.

Now, I can honestly say, I cannot taste a HUGE difference in flavor between canned pumpkin and fresh pumpkin puree, but if you are looking for a really fun, cheap fall activity to stock up on puree (which is generally pretty expensive otherwise) for the season, this is definitely worth it the effort.

Ingredients:

1-2 sugar pie (or baking) pumpkins – your local farmer or grocer will be able to point you in the right direction.  They are generally small, round, pretty smooth pumpkins with little speckles on them.
I roasted 2 pumpkins and got 10 cups of puree (which is equivalent to 5 cans of puree) and at $2/pumpkin, it is much cheaper.

Directions:

Cut pumpkin in half, vertically.  These pumpkins are generally pretty firm so be careful.  I find that a bread knife or serrated steak knife work better than my big sharp chef knives.  Cut right up to the stem on both sides then break apart with your hands.  You should then just be able to grab the stem and break it off pretty easily.

Remove the “guts” as my boys would call it.  Be sure to scrap the inside well with a spoon to remove any of the stringy pulp.  Separate the seeds into a bowl and rinse. If you fill the bowl with water, the seeds will float and the pulp will generally sink to the bottom.  Lay on a paper towel to dry.  We will be roasting them later this week 🙂

Line large cookie sheet with aluminum foil.  Place pumpkin halves face down on cookie sheet.  Bake at 375 for approximately 90 minutes or until pumpkins are soft.  As you can see in my pictures, one of my pumpkins cooked much faster than the other so it was extra soft after it was baked.

Cool until you can handle them safely.  The skin of the pumpkin should peel off very easily.  After you have them peeled, cut into chunks and place into a food processor or blender.

Puree until very smooth.  Using a fine mesh strainer, strain excess liquid from puree.  It seems like the puree will just run right through but it won’t.  Don’t force it through the strainer, just let it drain naturally.  Let each batch drain for several minutes. *One of my blog followers recommends in the comments below to let the puree sit in the fridge overnight.  The liquid will all come to the top while the puree sinks to the bottom so if you are not planning on using it right away, this would be a really easy option. *

If you aren’t planning on using all of your puree now, divide it into freezer bags in 2 cup portions.  I like to fold the top of the bag over before I start measuring.  This will keep the top of the bag where you need a good seal from getting all gunky.  Press the excess air from the bag, label bag and refrigerate for 3 days or freeze for up to 6 months.

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Simply Delicious Vegetable Barley Soup

A few weeks ago, I was at one of my favorite restaurants, dying to have a bowl of their always-amazing soup and a few slices of their homemade bread.  I asked what their “Soup of the Day” was and as she said “Cream of Broccoli and Vegetable Barley,” I felt the wind quickly escape my sales.   Neither of them sounded good to me since I have never been a big broccoli fan and though I had never had it, the barley soup just didn’t sound appealing.  I was really hoping for German Potato or Clam Chowder… something hearty, but I reluctantly ordered the vegetable barley soup because I like their homemade bread and real butter so much.  I was so glad I ordered it because I LOVED it!  I attempted to replicate it tonight and was so excited when I took my first bite.  I actually liked it even more than the soup I was served at the restaurant.  It is really savory and  surprisingly hearty, but really healthy at the same time.  This was a quick soup to throw together, however, it does have to cook for 90 minutes so it takes a little while to get to the end product.  I’m sure this would be great in the crock pot too.

Ingredients:

8 cups water

2 Tbsp chicken base (or use 8 cups chicken broth)

1 cup uncooked barley

1 onion, chopped

2 stalks celery, chopped

2 large carrots, chopped

1 tsp salt

1/2 tsp pepper

1 tsp sugar

1 tsp Worcestershire Sauce

1 tsp garlic powder

1/4 cup fresh parsley, chopped

1 tsp paprika

3 bay leaves

Directions:

Prepare all vegetables.  In a large pot, combine hot water and chicken base (or broth).  Add barley, chopped vegetables and spices.

Bring to a boil over medium-high heat then cover and reduce heat to medium-low.  Simmer for 90 minutes.  Feel free to add more veggies if you please (stewed tomatoes, zucchini, mushrooms, green beans, etc.)  Also, beans and/or some pre-cooked beef would be great additions as well.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Hearty Veggie Beef Soup

If I could only express to you how happy I am to be blogging right now… I just spent the last 3 days laid up in bed feeling oh SO sick.  I do not do the whole “lay around and do nothing” thing very well but thankfully I have a wonderful husband who insisted I rest and get better while he tended to the kids and house.  Needless to say, nothing but pizza, cereal and PBJ’s were coming out of my kitchen. It is the best feeling in the world to feel well again and get back to cooking, cleaning (which rarely appeals to me) and taking care of my family.  I am also thrilled to be able to post some new recipes.

A few years back, I had a whole slew of prime rib left over from our New Years dinner.  My family is not good at eating left overs unless I make them into a whole new creation, especially meat.  I created this recipe and fell in love with it.  This time, we had about 1 and 1/2 lbs of left over grilled sirloin steaks that I didn’t want to waste so I was thrilled to make this soup again.  You don’t have to use any fancy cuts of meat, it would be wonderful with ground beef or ground turkey as well. It is packed with lots of delicious veggies and tons of flavor.

Ingredients:

1 onion, chopped

6 cloves minced garlic

3 ribs celery

3 carrots, sliced

1/2 lb fresh (or frozen) green beans – don’t use canned, they will turn to mush.  Cut into 1 inch pieces.

2 small zucchini’s (I like to use one yellow and one green), quartered then sliced

1/2 cup fresh parsley, chopped

1 can garbanzo beans

1 can kidney beans

1 can diced tomatoes

1 can tomato sauce

1 can tomato paste

1-2 lbs meat (prime rib, sirloin, ground beef, ground turkey… your choice)

8 cups water

3 Tbsp beef base

1 tsp basil

1 Tbsp garlic powder

1 tsp ground pepper

1 tsp salt, to taste

 

Directions:

Prepare all of your veggies.  In a large pan, saute onion, garlic, celery and carrots in 1 Tbsp butter until onions are translucent.  Add to large pot.  Add grean beans, zucchini , parsley, beans, diced tomatoes, tomato sauce, tomato paste, meat, beef base, water, basil, garlic powder and ground pepper.

Bring soup to a boil then reduce to a simmer for 4-5 hours (or longer if you wish.) If you are using ground meat, you don’t need to cook it quite as long as all of your veggies are nice and tender.  Before you serve your soup, add your salt and taste.  Add more spice, salt or pepper if needed.  This could easily be cooked in a crock pot.  It also freezes very well.  Add cooked short macaroni noodles if you wish.

Pair with Rosemary French Rolls (coming soon).

 

Homestyle Chicken Noodle Soup

SoupWant to make some good old-fashioned comfort food?  This soup hits the spot every time – big thick noodles, tender chunks of chicken… pure savory deliciousness.

Ingredients:

1 whole chicken

3 large carrots

4 stalks of celery

1 medium onion

10-12 cups water

3 Tbsp chicken base

2 bay leaves

1 heaping Tbsp fresh parsley, chopped (or 1 tsp dried)

1 tsp ground pepper

salt to taste

2/3 bag of Country Pasta or 1 full bag of Rhode’s frozen noodles.

Directions:

Raw

Cooking the chicken: You have some choices here… you can boil the whole chicken (skin on). This provides really great flavor to your soup, but you will have added fat and the possibility of finding a little bone in your soup (kind of grosses me out but it really does make a big difference in flavor). Another choice is to take your chicken and skin it and remove the breasts and legs and boil them (This is the option I choose most of the time. You get the meatiest parts of the chicken and remove almost all of the bone and skin but still get a little of that tender, flavorful dark meat with your breast meat).  Of course, you could just use chicken breasts. This is a great option if you are wanting to throw together the soup quickly after work. It will not have as much flavor, but still yummy.  Another fun, quick option is to buy one of the rotisserie chickens from the grocery store and pull the meat from it.  You get some good flavor from the roasting process and it is really convenient.

Carrots and Celery

Okay, enough about the chicken.  Chop veggies about 1/4 inch thick.

*Quick trick.  I really dislike cutting onions but I found a super easy trick that eliminates the crying and stinky hands.  Cutting in to the root side is what releases all of the gasses that make your eyes burn .  Just cut off the top of the onion, leaving the root side still in tact.  Run your knife into the very first layer around the stem end then run your knife through that first layer down the whole onion.  This will allow you to release the first layer and peel.   Using a sharp knife, cut 1/2 inch slits into your onion, being careful not to penetrate all the way through.  Cross-cut the onion so you now have little squares.  Turn your onion on its side and slice.  This will leave you with perfect little diced squares.

Add chicken, chicken base, pepper, bay leaves and veggies to water and heat over high heat until boiling then reduce heat to medium so it is still lightly boiling. Boil for 45 minutes to 1 hour until the chicken is tender enough to shred.   You will want to let it cool for a few minutes before digging in. Pull all of the meat off of the bone and roughly chop. Return back to broth. (Be certain to check your broth with a big slotted spoon for any bones, skin or fat before returning your meat to the broth).

For those of you looking for a quick, after-work dinner, just throw in some fresh or frozen breasts or use the rotisserie chickens from the deli.  This will cut the cooking time way down (but also reduce your flavor a bit).  Just cook the breasts about 20-30 min then chop.  The roasted chicken won’t need to be boiled.  Just add it to your water and beef base while precooking your veggies in a skillet with a little bit of butter.

Noodles

Turn heat back up to high.  When broth begins to boil, add your noodles.  You can use any noodle of your choice.  If I am not making homemade, I generally prefer Country Pasta (found in most pasta isles) or the Rhode’s frozen noodles. I like to have a thick, hearty noodle in my soup.  If you use the Country Pasta or Rhode’s, you will need to cook them for what seems like an eternity (somewhere in the neighborhood of 25 minutes).  During the last 5 minutes, add your fresh parsley and season to taste with salt.

Dish up with a big slice of Beer Bread (find recipe on my site) or crusty french bread.

Turkey Chili

I have made this easy chili for years and always have requests for the recipe.  Sometimes I make it with beef, sometimes with ground turkey, sometimes with sirloin (simmered all day), just depends on what I have going on in my freezer.  I almost always add a little sausage but if you are trying to keep it super healthy, feel free to omit the sausage.

Ingredients:

1 lb of meat – I use 1/2 lb ground turkey or ground beef and 1/2 lb sausage

2/3 cup green bell pepper, chopped

2/3 cup red bell pepper, chopped

2/3 cup onion, chopped

4 cloves crushed garlic

6 cans of beans, drained (I use 2 kidney, 2 pinto, 1 black and 1 great northern but feel free to use whatever kind you prefer)

2 cans tomato sauce

1 can diced tomatoes

1 small can tomato paste

2 tsp beef base (you could substitute beef broth here but it will make your chili a bit thinner)

1 cup water (omit if you are using broth)

2 bay leaves

1 tsp garlic salt

1/2 tsp onion powder

1-2 tsp chili powder

1/2 tsp ground pepper

1/2 tsp cayenne pepper

Directions:

Chop all of your veggies (remember to freeze your leftovers).

Add veggies and garlic to a large pre-heated pot with ground turkey (or beef) and sausage.  If you are using ground turkey breast, add a little oil to the pan before you add your ingredients.  Cook meat thoroughly.  Drain off fat (as I have mentioned before I move meat over to one side of pan and put a couple of paper towels into the pot on the other side to catch the grease.  Tilt pan toward paper towel and press on paper towel with spatula.  Remove paper towel and discard being careful not to burn your fingers.)

Drain off beans (don’t worry about getting it all, just the majority). Add to pot with meat.  Add tomato sauce, diced tomatoes, tomato paste, water and beef base.  Add spices, adding the salty ones last so you can taste as you go.  Also be sure to taste as you go with your chili powder.  Add as much as you’d like depending on how spicy you like your chili. Simmer over low heat for as little as 30 minutes or as long as you’d like (the longer it simmers, the better the flavor, you just might need to add a little more water as you cook depending on how much it cooks down).  You can also cook the meat and throw everything in a crock pot in the morning and let cook on low heat all day long.

Top with shredded cheddar, sour cream, onions, bacon, whatever your little heart desires.

Use leftovers in chili omelets or on top of baked potatoes.

Creamy Potato Soup-OR-Clam Chowder

This recipe originated from one of my very favorite cookbooks “Portland’s Palate” as “River City Clam Chowder.”  I am madly in love with this recipe but my family put the kibosh on the clams, so I made a few alterations and now have a really yummy creamy potato soup topped with melted cheddar cheese.  This recipe competes with some of the best clam chowder and potato soups I have ever eaten. If you really want to knock your family’s socks off, serve it in a bread bowl.

Ingredients:

8 slices peppered bacon, diced

1/2 cup butter (1 cube) – I actually only use 6 Tbsp because the bacon still holds on to some of its fat.  As long as your flour mixes in and makes a nice roux, it isn’t necessary to have the full cube.

1/2 cup flour

1/2 large onion, chopped – Remember to chop the whole thing and freeze the other half in a freezer Ziploc.

1 cup celery (2 large stalks), diced

4 (6 oz) cans chopped clams or 2 cups fresh clams, shucked (remember this is omitted if you are making the potato soup)

3 large potatoes, peeled and cubed – I cube mine up in 1/2 inch cubes

3 cups milk

1/2 cup half and half

salt and white pepper to taste

Directions:

In a large stock pot over medium-high heat, cook bacon until browned.  Drain grease (I push bacon to one side and tip the pan then put 2 paper towels on the side that the grease is draining to.  Then you can just plop the paper towels in the garbage and don’t have to worry about the grease.)

Add butter, onions, and celery to stockpot and cook over medium heat until softened and onions are translucent.  Add flour and cook three minutes, stirring constantly.

Place potatoes in a microwave save dish and microwave on high for 5 minutes, stopping every 2 minutes to stir.

Drain clams and reserve liquid in a 1-pint measuring cup.  Add enough water to clam liquid to equal 2 cups.  If you are making the potato soup, just substitute 2 cups of chicken broth, (or 2 tsp chicken base and 2 cups water) for the clam liquid.

Add this liquid slowly to mixture in stockpot, stirring constantly.

Add potatoes and bring mixture to a boil.  Reduce heat and simmer for 20-30 minutes until potatoes are tender.

Add clams (optional), milk and half and half.  Heat until thickened, being careful not to boil.  Add salt and pepper to taste and serve.

If you are making the potato soup, top with shredded cheddar cheese.