Post-Halloween pumpkins

Since we don’t see trick-or-treaters in our neighbourhood, I don’t decorate for Halloween. But I do like to acknowledge the season in some small way.
This year, I bought two pie pumpkins and nestled one beside each of the potted cedars that flanked our front door. An enormous deep red mum from my mother-in-law at the bottom of the stairs rounded out our minimalist fall display.
This morning, I made use of those pumpkins.

Pumpkin puree.

Pumpkin puree
Ingredients
pumpkins

Method
Wash pumpkins and cut into manageable pieces. Scoop out seeds (reserve) and guck.
Place in a baking dish skin side up and add some water.
Bake in 400 Fahrenheit oven until very soft, about 40 minutes.
Puree in food processor until smooth.
Using a wire sieve, strain liquid, leaving thick puree.
Use in muffins, bread, pies or any other recipe calling for pumpkin puree or canned pumpkin.

Roasted pumpkin seeds.

Roasted pumpkin seeds
Ingredients
pumpkin seeds
sea salt

Method
Wash and dry pumpkin seeds.
Spread on a baking sheet. Sprinkle with salt.
Bake in 400 Fahrenheit oven until brown and crisp, 10-15 minutes.

One last corn recipe

When I happened upon this blog post on Chickens in the Road, it made my frugal domestic heart beat a little faster. I love finding new ways to use those bits and bobs that normally end up in the green bin.
It’s hard to describe the subtle flavour of this jelly. Some compare it to honey.

Corn cob jelly
I followed this recipe pretty much to the letter. Although I must have boiled it harder or longer, because I ended up with about 1,750 mL of jelly rather than the 2,500 mL Chickens did.

Step 1: boil cobs in water.

Ingredients
12 large ears of corn
2 L (2 quarts) water
30 mL (2 tbsp) lemon juice
1 package powdered pectin
sugar

The final result: corn cob jelly.

Method
Cook corn; cut kernels from cobs and store for another use.
Add water and cobs to large pot. Bring to a boil; boil hard, uncovered, for 30 minutes.
Remove cobs. Strain liquid through cheesecloth or fine wire sieve.
Measure liquid. Return to pot.
Stir in lemon juice and pectin. Bring to boil. Add amount of sugar equal to liquid. Stir to dissolve sugar.
Bring to boil. Boil hard for one minute, stirring constantly.
Remove from heat. Ladle jelly into hot, sterilized jars. Process in water canner for 10 minutes.

Egg yolks and milk

Leftover egg yolks and about-to-expire milk provided the inspiration to make chocolate pudding. winnond photograph

One of my ongoing kitchen goals is to eliminate waste.
Last fall when I was making macaroons for a baby shower I hosted, I put the unneeded egg yolks in a plastic container in the freezer rather than tossing them.
And there they sat — until an about-to-expire carton of milk provided inspiration.
I would kill two birds with one stone and make chocolate pudding.
David was both surprised and amazed (“You just made pudding?!) to find it in the fridge when he arrived home late from work one night. We’re generally a dessert-for-company-only kinda couple, so it’s a very rare occasion that I whip up something sweet on a weeknight.
This recipe comes from The Better Homes and Garden New Cookbook.
The frozen yolks did leave a few lumps in the pudding, so straining is an absolute must if you plan to follow my lead. If you’re using fresh yolks, you can probably skip this step. The frozen yolks did not however affect the setting or taste.

Chocolate pudding
Ingredients
175 mL (3/4 cup) sugar
80 mL (1/3 cup) cocoa
30 mL (2 tbsp) cornstarch
650 mL (2-2/3 cups) milk
4 beaten egg yolks
15 mL (1 tbsp) butter
8 mL (1-1/2 tsp) vanilla

Method
In a heavy saucepan, combine sugar and cornstarch. Stir in milk. Cook and stir over medium heat until thickened and bubbly. Cook and stir 2 minutes more.
Remove from heat. Gradually stir about 250 mL (1 cup) of hot mixture into beaten egg yolks.
Add egg mixture to saucepan. Bring to a gentle boil. Reduce heat. Cook and stir 2 minutes more.
Remove from heat. Stir in butter and vanilla. Pour pudding through fine mesh strainer into bowl.
Cover the surface with plastic wrap chill. Do not stir.
Makes 6 servings.

Taking stock

Stock — chicken, vegetable or beef — is a must-have ingredient in my kitchen. I use it at least a couple times a week in the fall, winter and spring for soups, one-pot dinners such as jambalaya or chili, stir-fries, sauces and to cook grains such as rice and couscous.
To supply this demand, my freezer is always well “stocked” with two things: homemade stock in 250 mL jars and 500 mL and larger plastic containers; and the ingredients for making stock.
When making stock, I generally start with chicken bones, although I make vegetable stock fairly regularly and beef stock when I have a bone or two on hand. I save the carcasses from roasted birds (chicken or turkey). And I also buy chicken breasts on the bone, which are almost always cheaper than boneless, bone them myself and throw the bones in a bag in the freezer until I’m ready to make stock. Whenever I spatchcock a chicken, I save the backbone too.
I use another bag to store vegetable trimmings: the peelings and ends from carrots (scrub your carrots first, of course), celery leaves, onion ends, mushroom stems, broccoli stalks, woody asparagus ends, etc.
To make stock, put some bones, a lot of the veggie scraps, a bay leaf or two and some black peppercorns in a big pot and cover with water. Simmer for an hour or two, let cool slightly, then strain and ladle into containers to freeze.

Chicken bones and vegetable scraps simmering into a flavourful stock.