Friday, October 31, 2014

Pumpkin Soup on Pumpkin Day


Technically, I chose a lovely squash. So, Pumpkin-Like-Squash Soup on Pumpkin Day it is.

Once upon a time, this chef (a loose definition of the word, please) saw a lovely recipe on a very popular social media site. This recipe featured cooking soup in an actual pumpkin - in the oven - instead of in a pan on the stove top. I posted the recipe to my page.

Never to find it again.

So I am chef/experimenter/food explorer attempting to make up my own recipe. Let's see what kind of meal that gives us on this last day of October, Pumpkin Day!


Pumpkin Soup for Pumpkin Day

Ingredients:


- perfectly sized pumpkin for your soup bowl (It has to fit in your oven. Do not use a carving pumpkin. I am hoping a squash of similar size and shape will work. The meat of this squash was wonderfully deep orange in color and very rich smelling.)

- one leek, washed and thinly sliced

- 3 cloves of garlic, diced

- 7 or 8 fresh sage leaves

- chicken broth, anywhere from 3 to 6 cups, depending on the size of your pumpkin bowl

- 1/2 cup shredded parmesan cheese for the soup, additional for sprinkling on top of cooked soup

- fresh ground black pepper

- dash of cayenne pepper

- 1/2 to 1 teaspoon of nutmeg, depending on your love of this spice

OVEN: 400 degrees F.



Directions:

1. Heat oven to 400 degrees F. Cover jelly roll pan with parchment paper.

2. Prepare pumpkin (or squash). Remove lid and scoop out seeds and stringy parts of the pumpkin. Keep the lid. It goes without saying, but I will anyway. Do not pierce the base of the pumpkin or make holes in the sides! The soup will surely leak out. Put the pumpkin shell on the parchment paper-lined pan.

3. Add leeks, garlic, and sage. Fill the remainder of the pumpkin with chicken broth. Fill to the top of the inside of the pumpkin, leaving room for lid to close and enough space to add cheese and spices.


4. Add 1/2 cup of parmesan cheese, peppers, and nutmeg. Replace lid.

5. Bake in oven for two hours. Pumpkin should be steaming hot, with soft, cooked flesh. Oh, you are going to love the fragrance of this cooking soup pot!

6. Remove lid. Scoop bits of cooked pumpkin flesh and soup into a bowl. Top with additional parmesan cheese.

Enjoy!


PS After cooking and devouring this fragrant soup, I decided that crumbled bacon bits and some half and half would go very well with pumpkin-in-a-shell soup.



Peter, Peter, pumpkin eater,
Had a wife but couldn't keep her.
He put her in a pumpkin shell.
And there he kept her - very well.


I adore pumpkins. But I don't imagine I would enjoy being kept in a pumpkin shell for very long.

Sunday, October 26, 2014

Green Cherry Tomatoes - Delish!

Green cherry tomato added to a stir fry with onions, carrots, cabbage, broccoli, and cauliflower

True to my second generation from the Depression years, I cannot stand for anything to go to waste. Now that you mention it, that could also be a cause for my battle with the bulge. But that is a different story.

About 15 hard, green cherry tomatoes remained on the vine. With fall here and the first freeze due tonight, there is no chance that they will ripen.

So I halved the larger tomatoes, left the smaller ones whole, and dumped them in with my veggie stir fry that I made to go with our baked red potatoes and cajun salmon.

Not only was my waste-not-want-not ethic appeased, the garden was once again a part of our meal. Perhaps the last time this growing season, but still. Those little orbs of sautéed goodness were delightful.

Wish I had though of it earlier!

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Two Great Weekend Motorcycle Rides in Washington State

My view when biking...

Ballast does not have much energy expenditure.

Yes. That's me. I am ballast. Or so I am told according to my husband after his recent solo ride in extremely windy conditions. He wanted me along to help steady the bike.

That makes me ballast. Even out the load. Keep it on the road. Nice, huh?

A very much photographed barn north of Ellensburg, on the way to Leavenworth, taken while moving on the bike

This ballast loves hitting the road.
It is getting into my blood. Beautiful fall weather? Let's suit up and bike. No rain. We need to ride. Until ice/snow/sleet slick up the highways, or the temps are too freezing cold, we will ride.

Last weekend we did a two day ride. We came home to roost at night. It was great.


Day 1

First, we shivered through a freezing cold drive through the Yakima Canyon. That led to a warm-up stop at Starbucks in Ellensburg. We prefer the campus store, which lacks the interstate crowds.

Barn and horse in Plain, WA

This was a very cold day of riding, all the way north to (and through) Plain, Washington. Plain is north of Leavenworth, which was packed to the gills with folks celebrating Oktoberfest. We were glad to not have to stop and try and find parking in Leavenworth. Our initial plan was to eat in Leavenworth, but we simply adjusted and continued north.

Our lunch stop

Plain is a tiny town in the middle of a beautiful valley. We stopped for lunch at the Old Mill Cafe, just missing closing time. They are open for breakfast and lunch only. We continued north along the road, which looped back and connected to Highway 2. Highway 2 was pretty busy, filled with fall-colors-hunters, like us, and people traveling to Leavenworth for Oktoberfest. But once we cleared Leavenworth, traffic was fine.


The only time I was warm was as we hit the off ramp in Yakima to get to our house. The hot flash pushed me over the edge, and had me peeling off my coat. Other than that one moment in time, layers were loved and appreciated. Regardless of looming clouds and very cold temps, it was a beautiful day of riding. Not a ton of colors, probably due to very dry summer conditions. But worth every bum-numbing mile.

We were successful in finding some fall color.

Day 2

Seeing clear skies, we rushed to gear up and head out after church. This day, we headed south. We took the old road south of Toppenish to Mabton, seeing lots of fall fields shorn of summer crops. The air was a bit hazy, but cleared up after we went up the hillside on our way to Bickleton.


The road to Bickleton was sparsely populated, which is perfect for motorcyclists. We were chilled, but not as much as on the previous day. Bluebird houses were on display, as well as some fall colors. The air was refreshing to smell and sagebrush, oaks, grassland, and pines gave a variety of views.


After gassing up at Goldendale, we headed home over Satus Pass. It was only chilly at the top. The rest of the ride was beautiful, though seeing the dry conditions and overgrazed land was concerning. Wild horses dotted hillsides and valleys. Spring babies mingled with mamas. The sheer number of horses made me wonder how many will make it through winter conditions with so little available food.

But enough depressing considerations. I do love watching wild horses!

Bickleton bluebird house

Though not as long as Saturday's ride, the Sunday afternoon traipse was perfectly complimented by a dinner out with my man.

Which is the purpose of a motorcycle ride, am I not correct? A ride with my man, topped by a meal that I did not prepare, serve, or clean up after.

It's going to be a long, ride-less winter.

But until the roads freeze, we ride.


Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Cast Iron Cooking


I was experimenting with the very nice looking cast iron skillet I recently early-inherited from my mother-in-law. Yes, she is still alive and well. No, she does not have space or a place to use a cast iron skillet.

So, yay for me, I have a beautiful cast iron skillet!

Which I adore as a cooking tool. I grew up watching my mom use her cast iron skillet and dutch oven all the time.

Unfortunately, I did not pay as much attention to the care of such cast iron kitchen tools.

I get the part about heating it until dry. Rust is the enemy, yada yada. But how do I get the cooked on gunk off the bottom without each time removing the seasoning? Oh, yes, I do get the seasoning part.

Water. And a soft cloth. No soap.

The frittata I made turned out delish! Sausage, eggs, onions, zucchini, cheese, pepper, crushed pepper, spinach, and milk. It cooked beautifully. Tasted wonderful. Leftovers were coveted.


But clean-up?

Sigh.

My pan did not look the same after cleaning. I even boiled water in it to loosen the crud, as suggested on an online site.

But there is sits, ready for the next attempt.

I would gladly take all comments and tips! This cast iron skillet needs to be a very comfortable part of my family.

Thanks!

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Disneyland - 10 Tips for Surviving Your Vacation While Experiencing Menopause


Yes. It's true. Menopause does change your outlook on life, at least temporarily. I didn't know how much until we took a recent trip to Disneyland. It was my only trip to the Big D while enjoying the side effects of the Big M - menopause.

Mostly, the heat made it miserable for me (and thereby, my hubby). Shade and AC were my favorite attractions this go-round. Here are some tips that helped me stay sane while experiencing the magic of Disney while hormonally unbalanced.


1. SHADE. I've already mentioned this. Shade is your friend. Your very best friend, next to AC. Find it and stand there. Seek seats in shady areas to recoup or wait for parades. Take an umbrella if necessary to make your own shade. Shade is found in all sorts of lovely shops, restaurants, attractions, and natural settings. Seek and find.


2. AC. Air conditioning should be first, as I LOVE AC. Some of the best places to find AC? Again - shops, restaurants (indoor), and attractions. Pirates quickly became a favorite ride due to the blasts of cool air propelling from the doors, as well as the approximately 15 minutes worth of sit-down-in-AC-time while on the actual ride. Find those indoor rides and patronize them. We were also rejuvenated by lolling about in our hotel room, complete with beautiful AC.


3. Go NAKED. NOT really! But do wear thin, cotton clothing. I wanted to wear sleeveless tops, but my little backpack then chaffed my upper arms. Plus, short sleeves protect your shoulders from sunburn. Thin clothes do the trick. Cotton absorbs sweat and dries from sweat relatively fast. I lived in shorts and thin shirts.


4. Eat SMALL. Huge meals made me have more hot flashes, in addition to the multiple (and I mean MULTIPLE) hot flashes I had due to change in temperatures from the northwest and the heat spell found in Orange County. Small meals and snacks made it easier to deal with the constant dripping sweat resulting from hot flashes (hereafter to be called HF). Relief, if there is such a thing, comes in lack of heavy clothing.


5. NUTS. This is perhaps one of my favorite discoveries. Buy those nut pack cases from Costco. Carry around a few packages. Eat them as a snack or a meal. The protein and extra salt helped replace what I was licking off of my upper lip and wiping off of my sweaty brow.


6. Alternate. Enjoy an indoor attraction or event. Then head out for a sunny ride. Go back inside to shop. Stand in line for an outdoor show. Etc. Etc. Give your body a chance to reset.


7. Embrace the COFFEE BREAK. This is another favorite that we just discovered this trip. Take a coffee break. Every day. You don't have to drink coffee. Now that Starbucks is on both Main Street (inside the park) and Downtown Disney (outside the park), the opportunities are plentiful. We hit the Main Street store each morning, staked out an in-the-shade table, and drank iced green or passion tea. Plus we added a snack - a nut pack or pastry. I needed the shade break and cool drink. My honey needed the food. Perfect win-win situation.
(HINT: You cannot reload your card while inside Disneyland. If you are planning on collecting stars, load at home, load at Downtown Disney, or set your card to automatic reload).


8. FLOAT a BOAT. Drink enough water to literally float a boat. I drenched my clothing continually all day with sweat. Really, it was disgusting. So I had to drink, drink, and drink some more. Not just plain water. What was really refreshing was sparkling water. We stocked up at home, brought a few cases with us, and kept it cool in the hotel fridge. Ahhhh. The pause that refreshes.


9. Get a FAN. I could not have survived at all without my hand fan. It's just a cheap little paper fan with wood slats. But it folds up so I could put it in my backpack or pocket and take it out as needed. It was in use most of the time, providing a breeze where none was to be found. Disneyland does have those cool battery driven fans that spritz water out as they spin. They cost $18. I was too cheap to buy one. Instead, stand beside some kids who are holding one. They don't pay attention and will accidently spray you. I spent some time next to a few youngsters while waiting for a show. They kept my legs cool (not that they knew it, but I felt it). Or buy a water fan in advance of your trip. Take it along.


10. Be REALISTIC. I thought I was still 25 and not experiencing hormonal surges and an excess of HF's. We quickly learned. Slow down. Have fun. Get a 5 Day Pass. You will have plenty of time to see everything. EVERYTHING.


I can't wait to make a return trip. Go Disney!

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Thursday, October 2, 2014

Outlawed - No Kitties at the Baby Shower


This is where they ended up.

That was after they had shown their true five-month old kitty selves to one and all at the baby shower.

What, exactly, does that mean?

We had to set a guard. A person guard. To keep watch over the food table. The food table that had lots of yummy things. Including meat.

The meat was what finally sent them over the edge.
It was too much to resist.

I had to run to the loo, so I assigned my sister to be on kitty watch (kitty watch = close proximity to table while holding squirt bottle). I was gone maybe 45 seconds. I walked back into the kitchen to see my sister with her back turned, standing elsewhere in the room.

And where were the kitties?

Well, funny that you ask. One of them, we won't say names (whisper: Mabel) was standing ON the food table and helping herself to sliced ham.

Yes. She was. It's a true fact.

Now, if I had not shrieked, I don't think anyone would have noticed. At all. Everyone was busy visiting and playing games and doing shower stuff.

But I did. I shrilly shrieked, alerting guests to the fact that something was amiss.

I grabbed Mabel, I mean a kitty, and put her on the ground, grabbing for the spray bottle and telling her, "NO!"

Only the ham was touched. I whisked away the platter, removing the licked and tasted meat.

After setting things to right, I checked on the kitties. Constant vigilance was required at all times.

Until finally, after multiple failures to revisit the meat, both kitties gave it up and went outside.

Where they found this lovely perch for an afternoon nap. Complete with a view through the window of the meat platter and food table.

Clever girls.