Pumpkin puree from fresh pumpkin: you can do it!

wholepumpkin

Don’t just carve it, cook it. Yes, you can buy the Libby’s canned stuff, but fresh pumpkin puree is so much better. And really easy to make. Here’s how.

First, choose your pumpkin. There are so many varieties, and so many are interchangeable that you really can’t go wrong. For baking purposes my favorite varieties are cinderella (pictured above, straight out of our garden), blue hubbard and sugar pie.

Next, quarter it and throw it on a sheet pan.

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Additionally, you now have pumpkin seeds you get to roast. Bonus! The interwebs would have you believe that pumpkin seeds are practically a superfood.

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Then roast it, skin side up, at 400°F until soft. Once it’s cool enough to handle, scrape out the flesh and puree it in a blender. And just like that, you have yourself fresh pumpkin puree.

Pumpkin puree

If this makes more than you need, portion the leftovers into usable servings and freeze. I measure one cup increments and freeze it in Ziploc bags.

Peach Blueberry Cake anyone can make

There’s nothing like a perfect peach.

Peachintree

And nothing like turning a perfect peach into an even better dessert.

Blueberry peach cake

A few weeks ago we had a tree full of ripe peaches and the corresponding debate about the best way to use them. Luckily, Epicurious came through with this awesome recipe for peach blueberry cake. Find the original recipe here.

This cake totally rocks. It falls somewhere between a cake and a pie, and is light enough to enjoy any time of day. I decreased the sugar in the fruit from the original recipe, giving me zero qualms about serving this morning or night. The best part about it? Anyone can make this. I mean it. You do not need any special skills or equipment.

Start by making the crust. The recipe calls for pulsing it in a food processor. If you don’t have one, just mix together the dry ingredients, then use two knives to “cut in” the butter to combine it with the flour. Use a spatula to add in the egg and vanilla to finish the dough.

The recipe also calls for using a springform pan. I always use a regular pan lined with parchment on the bottom. Find my parchment tutorial here. Press the crust into the pan, then chill while you make the fruit filling.

I made a couple of changes to the original recipe for the fruit filling. First, I substituted 3 Tbsp. tapioca flour for the 2 Tbsp. flour and 1 Tbsp. tapioca. I had tapioca flour on hand and didn’t feel like grinding tapioca. I also cut the amount of sugar back to 1/4 cup from the 1/2 cup in the original recipe. For the filling just toss everything together and spoon into the crust. Easy as… peach blueberry cake.

Peachblueberryprep

The Epicurious recipe says to bake it at 400°F, but that’s a bit high for my liking and people seemed to have issues with burning on the bottom. I baked it at 350°F and had no problems. Ovens vary, so I would start checking it at about an hour. Since I used a regular cake pan, I cooled it at room temperature a bit, then chilled it in the refrigerator to set up.

Getting it out of the pan is a little trickier than a regular cake, but not too bad. Make sure it is chilled and the fruit has set up. Run a knife around the edge to loosen the crust, then cover the top of the cake with a plate or cutting board. Turn everything upside down so that the plate/cutting board is on the bottom, and gently shake to turn it out. If it resists releasing, turn it right-side up and warm the bottom over a burner on your stovetop. Do this by moving it around for 10-15 seconds over a warm burner to slightly melt the butter in the crust. Then flip it back and try again and it should release. Place your serving platter atop the bottom crust (which is now on top), then flip it back over. Finally, cut, eat and enjoy!

Peach Blueberry Cake

Banana Vanilla Bean N’oatmeal

This ain’t no hippie bullshit. Though that’s what I thought it might be when my friend and expert nutritionist Michelle Nevelle at Eat To Live Wellness posted this recipe.

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I like healthy eating probably more than the next guy, but there comes a point when capital “H” healthy food crosses a line into something that is just plain gross. To me this has all of the markings of something that is headed in that direction. “Detox”, check. Paleo? Check. Oatmeal replacement? Since when is oatmeal bad for you???

But it’s a simple recipe that would have only set me back a can of coconut milk, a couple bananas, and a few other things. One of the benefits of being a pastry chef is that I do happen to have vanilla beans on hand at all times.

I made the recipe last night and you know what? It’s really good. Really. I’m so confident about it that I packed it in the kids’ lunches and I doubt that it will come back this afternoon. Though part of me hopes that it does. I didn’t make enough for myself.

Super Fast Fig Jam

It’s ten o’clock in the morning, and it’s already been one of those days. You know, the kind when the alarm pulls you so far out of sleep that you don’t know where you are. Or what you’re supposed to be doing. When I finally figured out that the alarm really was FOR ME, it took me twice as long to brush my teeth and get to the pool, where I promptly realized that I hadn’t grabbed my goggles or swim cap. For most people this wouldn’t necessarily be a problem, but for this pathetic swimmer, it meant mouthfuls of water and a significantly slower workout. Which had the cascading effect of making me almost late for my date with my trainer. And new training partner, Accidental Runner’s Melisa, who has been such a fantastic addition to my strength routine this week.

Days like this beg for simplicity. A padded room and blunt objects. Fig jam that requires only five ingredients, one of them being water.

Our desert fig tree is about the only thing in the yard that doesn’t seem to mind this drought.

Figtree

We gathered an initial harvest a few weeks ago, and look to have a second crop ripening on the tree now.

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This recipe is adapted from Food & Wine Magazine. See the original here. This filled a little more than two 1/2-pint jars for me.

Ingredients

2 pounds green or purple figs, stemmed and quartered
1 1/2 cups sugar
1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1/4 cup water
1/4 cup cognac

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Directions

In a saucepan, toss the figs with the sugar and let stand 15 minutes until juicy.

Add lemon juice, water and cognac and bring to a boil, stirring until sugar is dissolved. Simmer over medium heat until fruit is soft and liquid runs off the side of the spoon in thick, heavy drops, about 30 minutes.

Spoon into 1/2-pint jars, leaving 1/4″ headspace at the top. Close jars and cool to room temperature. Store in refrigerator up to 3 months.