Sunday, November 14, 2010

Cooking with pumpkin in Africa

My sister Katie and her husband  live in West Africa, where they eat pumpkin much more often than most Americans.  I asked her if she would share some of her favorite ways to prepare it as a main dish.  

Here's her response:

Pumpkin has become a staple in our diet since moving to Niger, West Africa over a year ago.  We live in the Sahel, and vegetables are hard to come by.  Pumpkin, however, is found year-round, my guess is because it has such a hard shell it doesn’t spoil easily in the heat.  It was the middle of hot season, and pumpkin and onions had been the only veggies in sight for a while.  I grew desperate and tired of eating the same old thing so I emailed my sister to see if she could send me some recipes containing pumpkin. I was so happy that she replied!
I went to the market, bought a big squash/pumpkin, and tried all the recipes within a week.  The nice characteristic of pumpkin is that it often takes on the flavor of the dish, so each dish has its own unique taste. When I have the other veggies these recipes call for available, I add them.  If I don’t, they become solely pumpkin dishes.  I look for recipes that are quick, varied, and delicious.  These were some of my favorites.
There is no substitute for the fresh basil leaves, they are a great addition!  This is a really tasty coconut milk curry.

Since I don’t have any available, I substitute a little ground coriander for coriander leaves.  However, if you can get them, use them!  I love the eggs as an easy source of protein.  A unique and very tasty stir fry that is easy to fix.

Thank you Katie!  I tried the Mollie Katzen curry ( the first link)  last week with butternut squash, and loved it.  To make it a main dish, you could add garbanzo beans.  

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

The pumpkin post is still on hold...

I have to get busy testing winter squash and pumpkin recipes, since I'm a firm believer in only sharing recipes that I love.  So in the meantime, I want to pass on these internet links of note:

Make your own pumpkin puree
Roasting Vegetables 101
Red Lentil Soup (I have yet to try this)
Pumpkin Spice Latte (ok, a treat, but something to try if you like these.)
Mollie Katzen's Eggplant, Green Beans, and Pumpkin in Curry Sauce (I need to find eggplant so I can try this, or maybe substitute another veggie)

Small victories

"Yet, to allow our children to do all the things they want to do, or to give them all the things they want, to make them "happy," is not always in their best interest."

This is from a book called Everyday Blessings:  The Inner Work of Mindful Parenting by Myla and Jon Kabat-Zinn.  This seems like a no-brainer, but I believe many parents are afraid to take a stand on giving children food that is the best for their health.
Our culture feeds its children differently from adults. This would not be a problem if what we gave our kids was real food; however, often what we serve our kids is not healthy. Think McDonald's Happy Meals, Gogurt, cheetos, white bread, kool-aid (or fake lemonade, as if that's better), fruit snacks, ETC. My daughter was served this "hot chocolate" at a restaurant that was really a bunch of chemicals in a way-too-big cup:

We let her drink it in this case, but in the future I will ask the restaurant what kind of hot chocolate they serve.   Unfortunately she had a stomach ache the rest of the day....

I admit this is not easy.  It's incredibly frustrating to cook from scratch night after night only to have one of the kids basically eat rice, apples and bread.  So I'm celebrating the small victories that I've noticed in this area:  after switching to real maple syrup more than 5 years ago, my kids don't even like the artificial stuff.  My 3-year-old  was lapping up plain yogurt the other night that I'd set on the table for curry, no honey required.  My 8-year-old has  been asking to try bites of different pizza toppings,  like green pepper, mushroom, etc, foods she's resisted in the past. All 3 are slowly learning to enjoy soup.  This morning they were admiring the beauty of the whole pineapple and were anticipating how good it would taste as I was cutting it for their breakfast.

I am not writing this to brag but to encourage you as you buy and prepare nourishing food for your family.  What small victories have you noticed?  I'd welcome your comments.

Thursday, October 7, 2010


IMG_1491.JPG, originally uploaded by trey_corene.

So what do you do when your neighbor brings you 4 pounds of late-season tomatoes at 7:30 am? I have not made tomato sauce enough to wing it, so I got out "Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone" by Deborah Madison, and figured out which sauce worked for me today. I chose the fresh tomato sauce, which took very little time; you wash and quarter the tomatoes, throw them in a big pot, add 1 T. chopped basil for each pound of tomatoes if you have it, and cook over med-high heat, covered, until the tomatoes break down. This takes from 10 -20 minutes. Then you pass them through a food mill to remove the skins and seeds. If you don't want to use a food mill, you'll need to peel the tomatoes before you cook them.

Let cool and freeze if you don't need to use the sauce right away.
When you're ready to use the sauce, you can season it with crushed garlic or an herb that goes with the dish you're making.

Another way to prepare tomatoes is to roast them. This post talks about roasting them. I tried this delicious tomato basil soup a few weeks ago and thought it was as good as the one I'd had at French Meadow Bakery. My husband hates tomato soup, yet he liked it! I did not add the canned plum tomatoes, because I had plenty of fresh ones, and I think 1/4 cup oil is too much for roasting the tomatoes, especially if you roast them at a lower temperature. I added enough to coat the tomatoes lightly with oil.

IMG_1492.JPG, originally uploaded by trey_corene.

Here is Debra's sauce recipe: Peel and chop ( or put through a press) 2-4 cloves of garlic, grate 1 small carrot. In a dutch oven, or saucepan,saute garlic and grated carrots is about 2 TBSP. olive oil until fragrant ( about 2 minutes. Add 1 small-medium chopped onion. Saute until onions are translucent. Add 1/2 chopped green pepper/ When pepper is soft add 2-3 cans unsalted tomato sauce and 1 can, diced tomatoes. Add 1 tsp dried oregano, 1 tsp, basil, 1/4 tsp thyme, 1-2 bay leaves and salt and pepper to taste. After a few minutes add 3-4 TBSP dry red wine. Simmer sauce on a low flame for at least 30 minutes uncovered. I often leave mine on all morning on a very low flame to let the flavors marry.

I (Corene) made this using my fresh tomato sauce instead of the canned tomato sauce.

Thursday, September 30, 2010

The Real Stuff

The Real Stuff, originally uploaded by trey_corene.

Eating only real food is challenging in our culture. Cooking from scratch, though rewarding, takes extra time, something most of us do not have an abundance of! However, you can make small changes in what you buy at the grocery store with little effort. It simply involves choosing foods that are "real" instead of their "fake" counterparts. You may need to read labels the first time to become aware of which products have no added chemicals, high fructose corn syrup, hydrogenated fats, etc., but in future shopping trips you it won't take any longer because you will know what is REAL. That sounded like something from the Velveteen Rabbit, but oh well.... Here are a few examples:

--1/2 and 1/2 instead of liquid or dry creamer
--peanut butter that is just peanuts and salt
--pure maple syrup, not corn syrup and flavoring
--whipping cream that you whip at home, instead of cool whip
--plain yogurt, that only says "cultured milk"
--just popcorn, not the microwave kind
--Newman's brand salad dressings, or better yet, make your own

If your family doesn't care for the flavor of plain yogurt, stir in a teaspoon of honey or jam. If you're missing your pumpkin spice flavored creamer, make your own with heated milk, a spoonful of pumpkin puree, a little sugar or honey, and spices. I realize that real maple syrup is expensive, but the cheaper fake stuff is not good. You could serve it less frequently or use fruit and plain yogurt as a topping instead.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Berries are here!

Last week our family picked strawberries and raspberries at Garden Hills Berry Farm near Fertile. This farm is not certified organic, but grows produce naturally; their brochure states that insecticides are used only when necessary to preserve their crop.

Most of ours get eaten straight out of the box, or frozen whole for later smoothies, etc., but I do enjoy salad with strawberries or blueberries on it. I found this dressing that has far less sweetener than the traditional recipes for lettuce salads w/ fruit.

Spinach Salad with Balsamic Vinaigrette

2 T. balsamic vinegar
1 t. maple syrup
3/4 t. dijon mustard
1/4 t. freshly ground pepper
3-4 T. extra virgin olive oil

Salad: 1 bunch spinach, washed, stems removed
1/3 cup chopped nuts
1/4 small red onion, sliced in thin half moons
berries, washed and sliced, if strawberries

Mix dressing in a bowl and toss with salad

(From Feeding the Whole Family: Cooking with Whole Foods by Cynthia Lair)