Monday, September 29, 2014

Fresh Pumpkin Puree

Not at all like the canned pumpkin you can buy in the store, fresh pumpkin puree is the color of butternut or acorn squash. The darkening of the pumpkin puree happens when the spices are added to it.

Every Fall I like to buy some small to medium-sized baking pumpkins from the Kershaw County Farmer's Market and cook them for the fresh puree.  I also keep the pumpkin seeds to roast as a healthy snack, which my grandsons love.

Did you know? 

It is one of the very low calorie vegetables. 100 g fruit provides just 26 calories and contains no saturated fats or cholesterol; however, it is rich in dietary fiber, anti-oxidants, minerals, vitamins. 

The vegetable is one of the food items recommended by dieticians in cholesterol controlling and weight reduction programs.

Pumpkin is a storehouse of many anti-oxidant vitamins such as vitamin-A, vitamin-C and vitamin-E. With 7384 mg per 100 g, it is one of the vegetables in the Cucurbitaceae family featuring highest levels of vitamin-A, providing about 246% of RDA. Vitamin A is a powerful natural anti-oxidant and is required by the body for maintaining the integrity of skin and mucus membranes. It is also an essential vitamin for good visual sight. Research studies suggest that natural foods rich in vitamin A help a body protects against lung and oral cavity cancers.

It is also an excellent source of many natural poly-phenolic flavonoid compounds such as α, ß carotenes, cryptoxanthin, lutein and zea-xanthin. Carotenes convert into vitamin A inside the body.
Remove tops and split in half
Zea-xanthin is a natural anti-oxidant which has UV (ultra-violet) rays filtering actions in the macula lutea in retina of the eyes. Thus, it helps protect from "age-related macular disease" (ARMD) in the elderly.

The fruit is a good source of B-complex group of vitamins like folates, niacin, vitamin B-6 (pyridoxine), thiamin and pantothenic acid.
It is also rich source of minerals like copper, calcium, potassium and phosphorus.

2 small to medium sized baking pumpkins
1/2 cup water

Scoop out seeds
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Cut tops from pumpkins and split each one in half.  Scoop out seeds, reserving seeds to roast if desired.  

Spray a large rimmed baking sheet with cooking spray. Place pumpkins cut side down on baking sheet. Pour 1/2 cup water onto baking sheet and place in the oven.

Roast pumpkins approx. 30 minutes, or until the outer rind is soft and a cooking fork pierces it easily. 

Remove from oven.  Using a large spatula, remove pumpkins from baking sheet and turn over to cool.
Place on rimmed baking sheet with 1/2 cup water

Once cool enough to handle, scrape the baked pumpkin puree from the rind; discard rind.

If using immediately, store pumpkin puree in the refrigerator several days or up to one week. For long-term storage, place 2 cups pumpkin puree into small freezer containers and freeze. Keeps well for 6-8 months. 

Use fresh pumpkin puree in place of plain canned pumpkin in your favorite recipes.

Scoop out and use or store

Yield:  6 cups


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Thursday, September 25, 2014

Beef Bone Broth

Recently we purchased a side of beef from Hill Creek Farms - Hartsville, and among the many cuts of 100% grass-fed Angus beef we brought home, were several packages of beef bones. I immediately knew I was going to make Beef Bone Broth with them. Then I just had to wait for a "cool" Fall day to get started.

Completely different from beef stock it is typically made with beef bones which contain a small amount of meat adhering to the bones. As with any stock, the bones are roasted first to improve the flavor of the bone broth. Bone broths are simmered for a very long period of time (often in excess of 24 hours). This long cooking time helps to remove as many minerals and nutrients as possible from the bones.

What are the benefits of Beef Bone Broth? Bone broths are extraordinarily rich in nutrients – particularly minerals and amino acids. Bone broths are a good source of amino acids – particularly arginine, glycine and proline. Glycine supports the bodies detoxification process and is used in the synthesis of hemoglobin, bile salts and other naturally-occurring chemicals within the body. Glycine also supports digestion and the secretion of gastric acids. Proline, especially when paired with vitamin C, supports good skin health. Bone broths are also rich in gelatin which improves collagen status, thus supporting skin health. (source:  Nourished Kitchen)

4-6 lbs. beef bones (preferably pasture raised, grass-fed)
4 quarts water (and more as needed)
2 tbls. apple cider vinegar (do not skip this - it helps to extract minerals from the bones)
2 stalks celery
2 carrots
1 onion, quartered
2 tsp. garlic powder
2 bay leaves
Salt and pepper to taste

Preheat oven to 300.  Roast bones in a large roasting pan several hours, or until nicely browned. Remove from oven.
Roasting Beef Bones

Place bones, water, vinegar, celery, carrots, onion, bay leaves, garlic, salt and pepper in a large slow cooker. Cover and cook on low 24 hours, adding more water as necessary to cover bones, however, there will be some reduction as it cooks down.

Remove bones from broth and strain broth through a mess colander, removing solids.

Allow to cool in the refrigerator until fat rises to the top.

Remove fat which has solidified into "beef tallow." The fat forms from the marrow of the beef bones. Save the fat by cutting into wedges, wrapping in plastic wrap and freezing. This can be used as a replacement for shortening in biscuits, pie crusts and  more. 

Freeze or pressure can beef bone broth.

Pressure canning:  Fill pint or quart canning jars leaving a 1-inch head-space. Process pints 20 minutes and quarts 25 minutes at 11 lbs. pressure.

Uses: anytime a recipe calls for beef stock, use the bone broth. Use it as a beef base in soups, braising meat, gravies, stews, sauces, and reductions. It can also be used to saute or roast vegetables.

Cook's note - the bone broth will be gelatinous and look much like beef jello, which is completely normal. It will thin out and become liquid again once heated.


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Monday, September 22, 2014

New England Clam Chowder

I grew up most of my childhood in New England, in a few small towns located on the coast. One of these towns was Mattapoisett, Massachusetts. Since we only lived a couple of blocks away, my dad would go down to one of the local fish markets several times per week, and depending on the season, or what was "fresh off the boat," bring home swordfish, cod, haddock, clams, quahogs, lobster and more. 

We had fish steamed or grilled, clams and quahogs steamed or in my dad's New England Clam Chowder, baked-stuffed lobster and so many more fresh seafood delicacies! 

The harbor was always bustling with people, and there was an old bandstand where you could go down and listen to music and dance on Friday or Saturday nights in the summer. My parents took us down there quite frequently and I have fond memories of those nights.

Recently I ventured into Off The Hook Seafood Market here in South Carolina, and I've been a customer ever since the first day I walked in. Fresh wild caught South Carolina shrimp, sea scallops, sea bass, salmon and more awaited me, along with some awesome little neck clams. 

Time to make my dad's New England Clam Chowder, a "true to its roots" chowder, enjoyed for the fresh clams and lovely broth it cooks in. There is no flour or added thickener, just clam juice, butter, milk, onions and clams.

2 dozen fresh Little Neck Clams, steamed and diced
4 cups clam juice (reserved from steaming the fresh clams)
1 small onion, diced
2 tbls. butter
1-2 medium potatoes, diced small
1-2 cups milk
Course-ground black pepper

Steam clams in 4 cups water until clams open; turn off burner.  Remove clams from the water, reserving "clam juice" made by the boiling water. Remove clams from shells and cut into small pieces. 

In a medium size sauce pan, melt butter over medium-high heat and stir in onions, sauteing until translucent. 

Add 4 cups of the reserved clam juice and the diced potatoes. Continue to cook over medium-high heat until potatoes are cooked through. 

Add 1-2 cups milk and the diced clams. Sprinkle in some course-ground black pepper to taste. Continue cooking until clams are hot.  Serve immediately.

Servings: 2 large or 4 small


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Saturday, September 13, 2014

Garlic, Cheese, Sausage Grits Cakes

With a little prior planning you can kick up those grits to another level with these yummy Garlic, Cheese, Sausage Grits Cakes. Perfect served with cooked farm fresh eggs, or they're great on their own with a side dish of fresh fruit.

1 cup water
pinch salt
1 tsp. butter
3 tbls. grits
1 sausage patty, cooked and crumbled
1/2 cup shredded cheddar cheese
1 tsp. garlic powder

Bring water, salt and butter to a boil over high heat.  Add grits, stir to mix well; reduce heat to low, cover and cook stirring occasionally until grits are cooked and thickened. Remove from heat.

Line a small bread pan (5.75 x 3-inch) with plastic wrap, enough to overlap and cover all sides.

Mix cooked grits with cooked and crumbled sausage, cheddar cheese and garlic powder and spoon mixture into prepared pan.

Bring sides of plastic wrap up and over to cover mixture.  Refrigerate several hours, or overnight, until grits are well set and firm.

When ready to cook, remove from refrigerator and slice into 1-inch thick slices.  Spray an electric fry pan with some cooking spray. Place grits cakes in pan, cover and fry 2 minutes per side over 350 heat, turning only once. Grits cakes are delicate and will fall apart easily with too much handling.

Serve alone or top with a fried farm fresh egg and a side of fresh fruit.  Delicious!

Yield: 6 slices

*Cook's note - recipe is easily doubled


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Friday, September 12, 2014

Bacon, Liver and Onions

Beef liver from 100% grass-fed Angus beef at Hill Creek Farms - Hartsville is tender, delicious and totally amazing.  My mom taught me to love liver, and we had it occasionally when I was a girl. I also know many people who don't, my husband among them. 

Yes, it's an acquired taste, one you probably need to experience when you are young, such as I was when I first tasted it.

My mom always cooked it with bacon, and plenty of caramelized onions, sauteed' in the bacon grease. Then she added the liver, which took on all those delicious flavors.  It was so good.

1 package beef liver (preferably from 100% grass-fed beef)
Bacon strips (enough for 2 strips per person)
1-2 large onions, sliced into rings

In a large electric skillet or large fry pan, cook bacon until crispy.  Remove and drain bacon on paper towels.

Add sliced onion to bacon grease and cook until translucent and caramelized. Remove onions with a slotted spoon, place in a bowl and let sit.

Add beef liver to pan, cover with lid and cook 5 minutes per side, or until liver is firm and cooked through.

Remove liver from pan and serve each piece topped with 2 strips of bacon and lots of caramelized onions.


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Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Chicken and Veggie Soup

Nothing beats making your own Chicken Stock, and the same can be said for your own Chicken and Veggie Soup. 

I recently received a free rooster (cleaned and processed) from a good farm friend, Paradise Acres Farm, for my slow cooker.  Well I knew when I got it I wanted to "put it up" somehow, I just wasn't sure how exactly, until I decided to make Chicken and Veggie Soup.

When the rooster is slow cooked with water, carrots, onions, celery and spices in a stock pot or slow cooker, the meat is very moist and tender. Because the rooster spends its day running around with the other chickens, it is typically somewhat lean, and the meat, even the breast meat, more resembles the dark meat of a chicken. The water and added vegetables make a flavorful stock and the meat literally falls off the bones.

1 small rooster or stewing chicken
1 onion, quartered
1-2 carrots cut in half
2 stalks celery, cut in half
Course ground black pepper
Sea salt or seasoned salt
Other spices as desired
Water to cover all

Put all ingredients in a stock pot; add enough water to cover all (several quarts).  Cover and bring to a low boil over high heat.

Reduce heat and simmer 1-2 hours or until rooster/chicken is very tender.

Using a large slotted spoon, remove the chicken (be sure to get all bones) and let cool. Meanwhile remove stock from heat, strain stock removing all the veggies, and let sit while chicken cools.

Once the chicken is cool enough to handle, remove all the meat from the bones; discard bones. Cut meat into large size chunks.

2 stalks celery, chopped
2 large carrots, chopped
2 cups frozen or fresh green beans, chopped
2 cups frozen or fresh niblet corn
Fresh chicken stock (from above)
Chicken meat (from above)

Using 3 or 4 quart canning jars, evenly add celery, carrots, green beans, corn and chicken to each jar. Ladle hot stock over all leaving a 1-inch head-space.

Cover with rings and seals and pressure can at 11 lbs. pressure one (1) hour and 30 minutes.

Once canner has cooled, and pressure has released, remove lid partially and let jars sit inside canner another 10 minutes or so (you want them to cool down slowly to prevent any liquid from siphoning out).

Remove lid fully, then remove jars and let cool on a kitchen towel on your counter-top 24 hours. Jars are sealed when "button"  in the middle of the top of the lid is fully depressed, or you hear that wonderful "ping" sound. Store in pantry up to one year.

*Cook's note - Options when heating soup to serve:
  • add 1 cup frozen cubed potatoes 
  • serve over hot, cooked rice 
  • mix 2 tbls. flour with 1 cup milk and add to soup to thicken and make more like a chowder
  • top with shredded cheddar cheese, bacon crumbles, or diced green onion.

Yield: 3-4 quart jars


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Thursday, September 4, 2014

Butternut Squash Bread with Toasted/Salted Pecans

Recently I was gifted a beautiful Butternut Squash from my friend, Shabnam's personal garden. You can find her, and her lovely recipes, over on FlavorNSpice I love Butternut Squash, maybe that's why she sent me one ... because I begged ... and her squash was picture perfect.

Butternut Squash can be baked, boiled, grilled, sauteed', pureed, added to soups, made into creamy pasta sauce, or added to baked sweet breads, muffins, pie and more. It, along with sweet potatoes, can be substituted in almost every recipe calling for pumpkin with very similar results (my family never knows the difference). 
Simply put, it's awesome!

Did you know?
  • Butternut squash compose of many vital poly-phenolic anti-oxidants and vitamins. As in other Cucurbitaceae members, butternut too has very low calories; 100 g provides just 45 calories. It contains no saturated fats or cholesterol; however, is rich source of dietary fiber and phyto-nutrients. Squash is one of the common vegetables that often recommended by dieticians in the cholesterol controlling and weight-reduction programs.
  • It has more vitamin A than that of in pumpkin. At 10630 IU per 100 g, it is perhaps the single vegetable source in the Cucurbitaceae family with the highest levels of vitamin-A, constituting about 354% of RDA. Vitamin A is a powerful natural anti-oxidant and is required by the body for maintaining the integrity of skin and mucus membranes. It is also an essential vitamin for optimum eye-sight. Research studies suggest that natural foods rich in vitamin A help the body protected against lung and oral cavity cancers.
  • Furthermore, butternut squash has plenty of natural poly-phenolic flavonoid compounds like α and ß-carotenes, cryptoxanthin-ß, and lutein. These compounds convert to vitamin A inside the body and deliver same protective functions of vitamin A on the body.
  • It is rich in B-complex group of vitamins like folates, riboflavin, niacin, vitamin B-6 (pyridoxine), thiamin, and pantothenic acid.
  • It has similar mineral profile as that in pumpkin, containing adequate levels of minerals like iron, zinc, copper, calcium, potassium, and phosphorus.
  • Source:  Nutrition and
So now, let's bake! Recipe adapted from What's Cooking America.Net

1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp. ground cloves
1/2 tsp. ground nutmeg
1/2 tsp. ground allspice
1/4 tsp. ground ginger
1 cup butternut squash puree 
(baked and mashed butternut squash)
1 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup vegetable oil
2 large eggs, beaten 
(preferably farm fresh)
1/4 cup water
1/2 cup toasted salted pecans, chopped (I used Schermer's)
*Cinnamon-Sugar to sprinkle over tops of loaves (optional)


Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Place oven rack in center of oven. Spray a 9 x 5-inch loaf pan or three (3) mini-loaf pans with baking spray

Measure all ingredients except pecans into a large mixing bowl. Mix on med-low speed until well blended.

Pour batter into prepared loaf pan (s) and sprinkle tops evenly with chopped pecans. Bake large loaf 50 to 60 minutes (mini-loaves 35 minutes) or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. 

Remove pans from oven, remove loaves from pans and let cool on a cooling rack. Immediately sprinkle tops well with cinnamon-sugar if using.

Once loaves are cool, they can be wrapped in plastic wrap and placed in zip-top bags and stored in the freezer ... if they last that long.

Yield:  1 large or 3 mini-loaves

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