Saturday, November 29, 2008

quick tip: pumpkins

Now that fall is blending into winter, it's definitely time to cook up any of those pumpkins we still have sitting around. We had two gigantic pumpkins this year. Due to their size, I procrastinated on cooking one of them for so long that it molded on the inside before I got to it. I realized, huge pumpkins are extremely intimidating! The logistics of getting it from doorstep to freezer aren't obvious for most of us.

So here is a tip for getting those plus-size pumpkins cooked up quickly:

• Set the pumpkin up outside (porch, sidewalk, front lawn) on the lid of a large plastic tote.

• Using the largest, sharpest knife available, cut the pumpkin into pieces approximately a foot long on each side. My husband used a machete for the job. A meat cleaver might work well.

• Don't worry about scraping out the seeds -- they are much easier to remove after the pumpkin is cooked.

• In your oven, set a baking dish with an inch or so of water at the very bottom. This will catch any pumpkin juices that fall plus give moisture to your oven.

• Put the pumpkin pieces straight onto the oven racks, skin side down of course, and bake for a couple hours at 325 until very soft. When you start to strongly smell them, they are probably done. Turn off the oven until they cool. (We left ours in overnight after turning off the oven & they were fine.)

• Now you can easily scrape off the seeds & separate the skin from the flesh. Load into plastic bags, label & freeze. Voila! Pumpkin pies, muffins & soup all winter long.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

quick tip: garlic

As you might know, this blog is designed to provide recipes that require 10 minutes or less of hands-on time, but do not use any processed convenience foods. We have significant reactions to food chemicals in our family, so while I often want to make quick meals, I can't sacrifice food quality to do so.

Sometimes this means I spend more money to buy "organic" convenience items. For example, every now & then, I'll pickup a box of organic chicken broth to have on hand or an organic cream of whatever soup to use in casseroles and such. Usually, though, it means I prep some things ahead of time just to have on hand for quick dinners. Garlic is one of those items.

I've never found a garlic powder that doesn't cause a reaction, so we use only fresh garlic around here. But fresh garlic can often be a pain. There are times you want to flavor something raw, and raw garlic has too much heat. Or, there are times you want to fry on high heat, which results in little burnt garlic nuggets throughout the food. My solution?

I pre-roast my garlic.

It's so simple & useful that I wanted to share this tip.

Take your whole garlic clove, skin-on. Don't bother separating each little clove, just stick the whole thing in the oven or toaster oven. Bake it on anything between 200 and 425. Leave it in there until the garlic is soft. Store in the refrigerator until ready to use.

I often stick the roasted cloves in my garlic press to flavor different dishes at the last minute. This way, if they are raw, the garlic adds flavor without heat. And I don't have to deal with little burnt garlic nuggets anymore.

Next time you bake something, try it! Just throw in a whole garlic clove right alongside your dish & see what you end up using it for.

Egg Rolls

Wow, time flies. My last post was in March? What happened? Well...pregnancy, that's what. As much as I wanted nutritious supper in 10 minutes or less hands-on time, my stomach wasn't feeling very creative.

But, here's a new one thanks to a wonderful homeschooling mom friend who also happens to facilitate the delivery of our real milk lifeline each week.


• Egg Roll Wrappers (found in the refrigerated produce section in our Kroger)
• Bag pre-chopped cole slaw, fresh
• Additions, such as:
fresh mushrooms
purple cabbage
green onions
chopped chicken
• Garlic, ginger, salt & pepper, to taste
• Oil for frying
• Sauce for dipping (optional)


Gently saute over low heat cole slaw, additions (I get my additions from the salad bar at our Kroger for super-fast, dump-it-in-the-pan preparation) & spices in a little oil. When vegetables begin to soften (after 4-5 minutes), turn off heat, cover & let sit until ready to wrap. Veggies will continue to soften as they sit covered. (2 minutes hands-on)

Pour a generous amount of oil in a frying pan & turn on medium heat. Wrap 2-3 Tbls. of vegetable mixture in each egg roll wrapper, seal, & place in hot oil. See back of egg roll wrapper package for instructions on how to fold the wrapper. (Be sure to moisten the last flap you fold to attach the rolls together.) Flip egg rolls when they are brown & crispy on one side; fry the other side until brown & crispy. In medium-hot oil, each side will take 3-4 minutes. (7 minutes)

Put on a plate, sprinkles with salt & serve with a dipping sauce, if desired.

Caroline has told me that her mom used to serve these when she was growing up. They were never part of grandma's dinner repertoire, so I am loving them! We needed something different. Plus, I've always loved egg rolls but will never allow myself to eat them in the Chinese restaurant because of the MSG content.


Optional Ginger Peanut Dipping Sauce

1/2 cup raisins, soaked in 1 cup hot water for 15 minutes or more
1/2 cup peanut butter
1 clove raw garlic
1/2 tsp. ground ginger
1 tsp. mustard
1/4 tsp. salt

Drain raisins after soaking but reserve soak water. Add 1/4 cup soak water to all other ingredients (including raisins) in a food processor or blender. Blend until smooth. Add more of the soak water if needed to achieve desired consistency.