Tuesday, December 12, 2017

Pumpkin Muffins

I see a theme is developing. 

We had a week or so of below zero temperatures, then a storm from the north blew in with high winds and 5 inches of rain in less than a day, and now we´re alternating fog with drizzle, more rain later.  So, it´s basically impossible to do much outside, though I´m collecting fallen stuff for Christmas decorations when I´m out with the dog.

Back to my old favorite Smitten Kitchen.  Lovely pumpkin muffins, even though I burnt the entire first batch, it was my own fault for substituting ingredients and not watching the oven.

I used half brown sugar, and half brown bread flour that I get from Lidl, but the rest of the recipe was followed reasonably closely.  Got 18 muffins per batch and they do keep well.  We´re on day 3.

From the above link:
Pumpkin Muffins
Adapted from the American club, in Kohler, Wisconsin via Gourmet Magazine
New favorite adaptation 10/28/13, Sweet Potato Muffins: Roast a medium-to-large orange-fleshed sweet potato (pricked all over with a fork, at 350 for 45 minutes to an hour) until very tender. Let cool completely. (Can do this a day in advance; store in fridge.) Either mash or run potato flesh through a potato ricer. Measure 1 1/3 cup from this and continue with recipe below as printed.
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour (have successfully swapped whole wheat flour for half)
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon table salt
1 teaspoon pumpkin-pie spice (or 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon + 1/4 teaspoon fresh nutmeg + 1/4 teaspoon ginger + pinch of ground cloves and allspice)
1 cup (original recipe) to 1 1/3 cup (what I use these days; makes it even more rich) canned solid-pack pumpkin (from a 15 ounce can, not pumpkin pie filling, which is sweetened and spiced)
1/3 cup vegetable or another neutral cooking oil
2 large eggs
1 1/4 cups plus 1 tablespoon granulated sugar
1 teaspoon cinnamon
Heat oven to 350 degrees. Put liners in 12 standard-sized muffin cups.
Stir or whisk together flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt and spice in small/medium bowl.
In a larger bowl, whisk together pumpkin, oil, eggs and 1 1/4 cups sugar. Add dry ingredients to wet and stir until just combined. Divide batter among muffin cups (each about 3/4 full).
Stir together last tablespoon of sugar and teaspoon of cinnamon. Sprinkle over each muffin.
Bake until puffed and golden brown and wooden pick or skewer inserted into the center of a muffin comes out clean, 25 to 30 minutes.
Cool in pan on a rack five minutes, then transfer muffins from pan to rack and cool to warm or room temperature.
Do ahead: Most muffins don’t keep well, but these are excellent on Day 2 (after being stored in an airtight container at room temperature) and not bad at all on Day 3. If longer, I’d keep them in the freezer until needed.

Tuesday, November 28, 2017

Stuffed Pumpkin

A belated Thanksgiving lunch idea, since I have an abundance of pumpkins.  Recipe from Epicurious here.

My first idea was to use a Long Island cheese small enough to fit in the oven whole.  Unfortunately, it had a crack in the bottom that made it unworkable, and the rest are all too big.  So I turned to the small New England pie pumpkins I was saving for, well, pie.

My technique favors the rustic, so the bread, bacon and cheese were all in rather larger pieces than you might prefer.  I used equal amounts of gouda, cheddar and swiss cheese.  I added a sliced chorizo as well, although frankly I don´t think it needed it, the bacon would have been just fine.  This pumpkin made 4 generous portions.

I have questions about the logistics of baking a pumpkin for 2 hours just when you´d want the turkey to be cooking, but will leave that for others to figure out.  It did take just about 2 hours, with the top off of the pumpkin for the last 20 minutes or so.  And it sliced beautifully into halves and quarters for serving.

From the above link, with suggestions for serving and making vegetarian variations:


    • 1 pumpkin, about 3 pounds
    • Salt and freshly ground pepper
    • 1/4 pound stale bread, thinly sliced and cut into 1/2-inch chunks
    • 1/4 pound cheese, such as Gruyère, Emmenthal, cheddar, or a combination, cut into 1/2-inch chunks
    • 2-4 garlic cloves (to taste), split, germ removed, and coarsely chopped
    • 4 slices bacon, cooked until crisp, drained, and chopped (my addition)
    • About 1/4 cup snipped fresh chives or sliced scallions (my addition)
    • 1 tablespoon minced fresh thyme (my addition)
    • About 1/3 cup heavy cream
    • Pinch of freshly grated nutmeg


    1. Center a rack in the oven and preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Line a baking sheet with a silicone baking mat or parchment, or find a Dutch oven with a diameter that's just a tiny bit larger than your pumpkin. If you bake the pumpkin in a casserole, it will keep its shape, but it might stick to the casserole, so you'll have to serve it from the pot—which is an appealingly homey way to serve it. If you bake it on a baking sheet, you can present it freestanding, but maneuvering a heavy stuffed pumpkin with a softened shell isn't so easy. However, since I love the way the unencumbered pumpkin looks in the center of the table, I've always taken my chances with the baked-on-a-sheet method, and so far, I've been lucky.
    2. Using a very sturdy knife—and caution—cut a cap out of the top of the pumpkin (think Halloween Jack-o-Lantern). It's easiest to work your knife around the top of the pumpkin at a 45-degree angle. You want to cut off enough of the top to make it easy for you to work inside the pumpkin. Clear away the seeds and strings from the cap and from inside the pumpkin. Season the inside of the pumpkin generously with salt and pepper, and put it on the baking sheet or in the pot.
    3. Toss the bread, cheese, garlic, bacon, and herbs together in a bowl. Season with pepper—you probably have enough salt from the bacon and cheese, but taste to be sure—and pack the mix into the pumpkin. The pumpkin should be well filled—you might have a little too much filling, or you might need to add to it. Stir the cream with the nutmeg and some salt and pepper and pour it into the pumpkin. Again, you might have too much or too little—you don't want the ingredients to swim in cream, but you do want them nicely moistened. (It's hard to go wrong here.)
    4. Put the cap in place and bake the pumpkin for about 2 hours—check after 90 minutes—or until everything inside the pumpkin is bubbling and the flesh of the pumpkin is tender enough to be pierced easily with the tip of a knife. Because the pumpkin will have exuded liquid, I like to remove the cap during the last 20 minutes or so, so that the liquid can bake away and the top of the stuffing can brown a little.
    5. When the pumpkin is ready, carefully, very carefully—it's heavy, hot, and wobbly—bring it to the table or transfer it to a platter that you'll bring to the table.
  1. Serving
    1. You have a choice—you can either spoon out portions of the filling, making sure to get a generous amount of pumpkin into the spoonful, or you can dig into the pumpkin with a big spoon, pull the pumpkin meat into the filling, and then mix everything up. I'm a fan of the pull-and-mix option. Served in hearty portions followed by a salad, the pumpkin is a perfect cold-weather main course; served in generous spoonfuls, it's just right alongside the Thanksgiving turkey.

Friday, November 24, 2017


Remember that giant white dahlia I had to move?

Monday, November 20, 2017

New garden

I am so pleased.

We called the guy with the tractor.  And he came.  And he tilled.  Woot!

Miraculously, in less than an hour, the garden space has just about tripled.  I figure this new space is about 160 m2/1440 sq ft, but my metric is shakey.

First, he brought the big tractor to plow.  That didn´t go so well.  The 30-odd years of luxuriantly long pasture grass proved tough to get through.  So he went away and promised to come back to disc.  An hour later he was back with the junior version of the big tractor and everything went much better.

I am under instructions to not touch the plot until February or about 2 weeks before wanting to plant anything.  In the meantime, frost and freeze should take care of the shredded vegetable matter, leaving a lovely tilth when tilled again.  The good news is it will be just in time for planting potatoes.  The bad news is no garlic this year.

Now all the no till folks will be up in arms, but I don´t intend to do much, if any re-tilling.  I´d like raised beds with narrow paths that can be worked with a broadfork.  And now I have room for sweet corn!

Breo´s eyes goggled at the bone burying possibilities.

Tuesday, October 31, 2017

The flowers from 2017

Darcey Bussell

All in all the flowers did great this year.  There will be some moving around of things that are too big for their spots and things that aren´t thriving, but that will have to wait for colder weather.  William Morris just hung his head and looked pathetic all summer, so he´ll need some shade.  Darcey Bussell bloomed well, as did Munstead Wood who needs and deserves a better spot.  Falstaff lost his leaves in September, he may be tired of being in a pot.

The Roses

Don Juan
Roses old and new all did well.  It was a hot, dry summer so foliage suffered.  Blackspot arrived and stayed. 
Bremer Stadtmusikanten

Apricot Nectar

Special note to Eden (Pierre de Ronsard), famously stingy and slow growing, who pumped out no less than 4 flushes from his pot.  To be planted on a yet to be built arbor around the veg patch.

A new problem appeared, in some beetles, first irridescent green, then black that started eating the light colored, fragrant roses.  First spotted on the unknown white in June.


They then hit Sharifa Asma and Molineaux, leaving the blooms half eaten.  By that time, the giant white dahlia  My Love was blooming and acted like a beetle magnet.  Since it´s too big for it´s spot, and I´d rather not have the roses chomped, it will get moved.  Fortunately, it´s also very attractive for all kinds of bees and butterflies.

The Dahlias

Dahlia Cactus ¨My Love¨

Dahlia Decorativa ¨Duet¨

Dahlia ¨Black Prince¨

Planted some bulbs from the Ag coop.  Two of the three came up - Pompom was a no-show.  Also, since I loved Black Prince from last year, I dug up the roots, separated and stored them for spring and then planted them around the place.  They mostly survived OK, but are very floppy.  I love that burgundy color.  I don´t believe I´ll bother digging this year, except for the giant white beetle attractor.


Indigo bloomed, despite suffering from the drought.  Now waiting to see when I should harvest for seeds for next year.

Some surprise fall-blooming gladiolas showed up.

The marigolds were crazy this year.  I´m gathering flower heads to try some experiments with natural dyeing.

I have to note that I´m really having a hard time working up any enthusiasm for the long list of redoing beds or moving things around.  I need to put up some more wires to tie the climbing roses who are actually climbing.  The iris need digging and separating and several other things moved but that can´t happen until I free up some bed space somewhere else.  We have the number of a guy with a tractor to till up a section of the pasture for veg next year, but that area will then have to be amended and turned into beds.  There will be leaves to be gathered and spread.  I have to get more manure from the horsey place, which will then need deep mulching to keep grass from sprouting.  I´m tired thinking about it.

And, Breo went back for surgery on his other knee and is now hobbling around the house needing attention.  He had a bad first night, but since then has cheered up and started showing some more spark.  It helps that we´ve been through the procedure before and know a little more what to expect, but we still stress out about his welfare.  Keeping him relatively still is nigh unto impossible.

So, blogging may be haphazard until the new year.  But in any case, I wish everyone a Happy Halloween, Blessed Samhain and fall season.

Saturday, October 14, 2017

Apple Sharlotka

Something yummy to do with the abundance of apples this time of year. And I use whatever apples I have on hand, homegrown, gifted or otherwise. Mostly, I just like saying ¨sharlotka¨. Good name for a cat.

I started with this recipe from Smitten Kitchen.  Her MIL is Russian, so I guess this must be pretty authentic.  In the comments it becomes clear that it´s a popular dessert from Poland to the Ukraine.

Mine doesn´t come out so blonde and pretty.  It may be because I use brown sugar.  It may be because our oven has no temperature marks, so I´m guessing about the 350 degree thing.  Mine are always toasted to a dark brown.  But there´s no question that the results are tasty.  Good for breakfast, dessert, tea time, there´s no end to the possibilities.  Also delicious with a cinnamon powdered sugar glaze drizzled over the top.  It can also be made with pears instead of apples.

Keys to success - you do have to push the batter down into the apple pieces, it won´t sink by itself.  Don´t forget to run a knife around the sides of the springform before turning it over or you risk the bottom of the cake sticking to the paper.

From the link above:
Butter or nonstick spray, for greasing pan
6 large, tart apples, such as Granny Smiths
3 large eggs
1 cup (200 grams) granulated sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup (125 grams) all-purpose flour
Ground cinnamon, to finish
Powdered sugar, also to finish

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line the bottom of a 9-inch springform pan with parchment paper. Butter the paper and the sides of the pan. Peel, halve and core your apples, then chop them into medium-sized chunks. (I cut each half into four “strips” then sliced them fairly thinly — about 1/4-inch — in the other direction.) Pile the cut apples directly in the prepared pan. Meanwhile, in a large bowl, using an electric mixer or whisk, beat eggs with sugar until thick and ribbons form on the surface of the beaten eggs. Beat in vanilla, then stir in flour with a spoon until just combined. The batter will be very thick.

Pour over apples in pan, using a spoon or spatula to spread the batter so that it covers all exposed apples. (Updated to clarify: Spread the batter and press it down into the apple pile. The top of the batter should end up level with the top of the apples.) Bake in preheated oven for 55 to 60 minutes, or until a tester comes out free of batter. Cool in pan for 10 minutes on rack, then flip out onto another rack, peel off the parchment paper, and flip it back onto a serving platter. Dust lightly with ground cinnamon.

Friday, September 29, 2017

Preserving 2017

Once the veg/fruit starts coming, you can´t really keep up with it.  The question is how you preserve it for later.  A dehydrator and fruit press are on the list of capital investments still to be made.

The cucumbers were numerous.  I gave several to the neighbors/family and used them in gazpacho and salads.  Mostly, I made pickles.  I tried bread and butter pickles, refridgerator dills and lacto-fermented dills.  Unfortunately, the cukes went from white to yellow in the blink of an eye, and yellow cukes tend to be bitter.  So even pickled, I can taste that bitterness.  Still, I´m amazed that the salt brine will make pickles in a week or less.  I´ve got a big jar in the fridge, and wonder how long until they go soft.

I used the many, many zucchini/courgettes in tortillas, pisto, zucchini bread, lasagna, veggie puree for Breo and froze some shredded.  I have my doubts.

This year tried roasting the tomatoes instead of boiling for hours in on the stove.  I did put a glug of olive oil in the first coupe of batches, which means they´ll be kept in the fridge, as I´ve read water bath canning isn´t recommended with things containing oil.  A canner is on the list, too.

And I made ketchup, which is A.MAZ.ING.  Light years away from what you buy in the store.  In fact, it may be a little heavy on the cloves, as I was guestimating the weight of the tomatoes and using the recipe here.  I´ve got 3 more little pots in the freezer.  When those run out, I´ll make more using canned store tomatoes and see if there´s much of a difference.

No jams this year, since I still have several jars from last year.  Wondering just what to do with the apples, since the neighbor kindly gifted me with another few pounds.  Maybe pie filling. Got the bag of hedge mix in the freezer waiting for inspiration.