Wednesday, November 16, 2011

A New (Yummy) Twist on Pumpkin

When it comes to pie, pumpkin is not my favorite. I'm just not a fan of the often goopy texture--I'd much rather have a slice full of crisp, cinnamon apples or crunchy pecans. I do love the flavor of pumpkin though, so when I got a pie pumpkin in my farm share recently, I got inspired to make something delicious. I adapted the recipe below from one I found on Epicurious, and the result was amazing. Light, fluffy little treats full of fall spice and pumpkin goodness. I only got to enjoy one as the rest were destined for my son's birthday celebration at daycare, where they were reportedly devoured with much zeal by a roomful of toddlers. I'll certainly be making them again soon. And if you have a spare pumpkin leftover from Thanksgiving (even if it's in a can), I recommend you do the same!

Pumpkin Spice Muffins

1 sugar pumpkin (aka pie pumpkin)--you can also substitute one can of *real* pumpkin here
2 c all purpose flour
2 t baking powder
1/4 t baking soda
1.5 t ground cinnamon
1 t ground ginger
1/8 t ground cloves
1/2 t salt
1 stick unsalted butter, melted
3/4 c packed light brown sugar
1/4 c sour cream
1/4 c applesauce
2 large eggs
1 t pure vanilla extract



Apparently pumpkin can cook up relatively quickly in the microwave, but I tend to opt for roasting when it comes to my root vegetables. It's easy, tasty, and you don't have to worry about cleaning up messy orange explosions. Simply slice the pumpkin in half, scoop out the seeds, drizzle with a little olive oil and roast cut-side down on a sheet pan at 350 until soft. Cooking times can vary depending on the moisture content of your pumpkin, but I would start checking for doneness after about half an hour. In the meantime, you can rinse your pumpkin seeds, toss them in a little salt and oil and throw them in the oven as well! Just give them a stir every few minutes until they're nice and crispy. Bonus.


Preheat oven to 400. Butter your muffin pan if it's not nonstick.

Whisk together flour, baking powder, baking soda, spices, and salt in a large bowl.

In another bowl, whisk together butter, brown sugar, pumpkin , sour cream, apple sauce, eggs, and vanilla. Add to the dry ingredients and stir until just combined.

Spoon batter into muffin tins. Bake for about 20 minutes, until a fork comes out clean. Best enjoyed while still warm along with a steaming cup of tea or cider. Yum!

Note: If you want to add a little texture, the Epicurious recipe calls for plumped golden raisins (just soak them in hot water for five minutes before adding to batter) and pumpkin seeds in the muffins, as well as some pumpkin seeds sprinkled on top. A dab of cream cheese frosting would also do quite nicely...

Photo courtesy of Sultry, via Flickr creative commons

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Winter's Bounty: Find Some Local Inspiration in the Snow

Today marks the second blizzard of the season for Massachusetts, and while it's certainly lovely to cozy up to a snowy window with a steaming cup of tea, this weather can make the fresh, local bounty of the farmers market season feel like a figment of the imagination. Around this time of year I often face a bout of the winter blues, not just because I'm so uncomfortable in the bitter Boston cold, but also because I find myself at such a loss in the kitchen. The refrigerator that has been overflowing with greens and tomatoes all summer, then carrots and kale through the fall, is suddenly bare, bereft of vegetables and of inspiration--a couple of turnips in the produce drawer just don't cut it. Neither do the supermarket staples of pale, limp lettuce in a plastic bag or washed out tomatoes from Mexico. What's a New England girl to do when her CSA has ended and the coldest months of winter still remain?

Last year I found some respite in the winter farm share from Enterprise Farm, which operates under the mostly-local idea of an East Coast food shed: lots of food from Massachusetts and some from family farms along the coast. It's certainly better to get a couple of zucchini from Georgia than from South America somewhere. This year, thanks to the amazing folks at Red Fire Farm, we'll be getting a truly local farm share through the heart of winter, with a mix of storage veggies, greenhouse greens, and products made by area vendors from the local summer harvest. What will such a share really include? I've been wondering the same thing, and with the first share arriving tomorrow I finally know what deliciousness awaits: there will be shallots, butternut squash, celery root (hooray!), carrots, and spinach, just to name a few. And we'll have pickles from Real Pickles and frozen Red Fire green beans. I can already feel the creative juices flowing...celery root soup? radish salad? roast butternut squash with a spinach and shallot stuffing? The possibilities will be endless once again, and EcoFoodie recipes will be soon to follow!

For those of you without a regular Winter CSA, do not despair. Thanks to the ongoing work of the Federation of Massachusetts Farmers Markets and the many farmers and vendors with whom they partner, winter farmers markets have become an increasingly common affair. There are weekly markets across the state throughout the season, with all kinds of goodies to be discovered. For all you Bostonians, there are markets in Dedham, Natick, and Somerville--no matter where you are there are fresh, local ingredients nearby. So slap on those snow boots and head to the market this weekend. Much yumminess and inspiration await!

To find a market near you, click here and type 'winter' into the "Enter part of the name of a Market" field.

Photo by paige_eliz via Flickr Creative Commons.

Friday, January 7, 2011

Old Ideas for a New Year

Sometimes the best new ideas are the ones that aren't new at all, but rather a rediscovery of methods and means whose wisdom has been known for ages. When it comes to cooking, this idea is heralded repeatedly by those who advocate for slower, more local eating. The Slow Food movement, in addition to working toward food that is "Good, Clean, and Fair," points us back to vanishing cooking styles and heirloom ingredients, along with the increasingly uncommon practice of sitting down to enjoy a meal we've prepared with family and friends. Michael Pollan, one of the most prominent voices in the local food movement, tells us: "Don't eat anything your grandmother wouldn't recognize as food." Simple enough, and an easy way to navigate around the many processed food-ish creations that inhabit our modern supermarkets. Mark Bittman, cookbook author and writer for the New York Times, is also a voice for more planet-friendly eating, and as part of theTimes' New Year's section on sustainability offers an alternative to the countless diet crazes that emerge at this time of year: "Chop, Fry, Boil: Eating for One, or 6 Billion."

The concept is easy to embrace: three simple recipes--stir fry, rice and lentils, and a chopped salad--that can form the foundation of a lifetime of healthy cooking and eating. As Bittman states, they are techniques as much as recipes. Once mastered, they can be adapted to fit any locale or time of year, incorporating local, seasonal produce and whatever personal flourish the chef desires. Also important, they can all make for full meals without meat, an element that can be difficult to find in planet-friendly form. For so many of us who have fallen away from cooking in our daily lives, these easy, classic meals provide a re-entry point into a healthy, fulfilling relationship with our kitchen, one that can be passed on to our children during the evening hours in place of so much excess screen time.

Personally, I'm going to start with the rice and lentils. For years now I've been swayed from such dishes by my bean loathing husband, but maybe with a little extra flair I can win him over...full report to follow in the coming weeks.

Click here for the stir fry recipe, here for rice and lentils, and here for chopped salad.

Happy New (Old) Eating!