roasting pumpkins

Roasting Pumpkins for Pie and Other Treats

pumpkin pie

Roasting Pumpkins for Pie

My family prefers sweet potato pie so I haven’t made that many pumpkin pies before. When I do make pumpkin pie, I always buy the pumpkin puree in the can and mix it with my own spices. This year I thought I would try roasting pumpkins myself to see how much of a difference in taste and texture this would make in my pie. By the way—I am talking about the mini pie pumpkins, not the fifty pound monsters your kids use to carve their jack-o-lanterns out of.

Basically, you can roast it whole if you’d like. This is the easiest method because literally all you need to do is pop it into a moderate oven, around 350 degrees, and bake it for an hour or so depending on the size. But what I did was roast it in the same way I would my butternut squash which is to cut it in half, scoop out the seeds, lightly oil the cut sides and place them face down on a baking sheet. I set the oven temperature a bit higher at 375 degrees because since they are cut in half, we don’t need to cook them quite as long as whole pumpkins, and this will produce a richer tasting pumpkin puree.

I like roasting pumpkins until they are slightly caramelized on the cut side, and the flesh is soft, but not too “watery”. This will give you the sweetest pie with a deep flavor, and it will help the texture be rich and creamy. When your pumpkins are done, let them cool down enough to handle then either process them through a potato ricer or food mill. If you don’t have one of those don’t worry. You can put the flesh in the food processor or beat it with a handheld or stand mixer.

Ready to Use

Now you can make your favorite pumpkin pie recipe from your very own pumpkin puree. If you have any leftover pumpkin, you can freeze it and use it later in muffins, pancakes, yogurt, smoothies, cheesecake, and even soup! It also makes a healthy addition to your dogs kibble. Try it out. You will love the difference it makes and the compliments will be pouring in on your holiday pies!

Coastal Cheddar Imported from England at Costco

“Scrambling” to come up with a quiche idea.

I’ve got this brunch to do on Friday, and quiche is on the menu. My first choice of flavor combinations is Spanish chorizo and roasted poblano peppers with manchego cheese. Well, as it usually goes, the client says “no chorizo-don’t like chorizo”. I’m pretty sure she’s thinking of the Mexican chorizo, not the kind of chorizo  from Spain that’s more like a hard salami, but a chicken sausage quiche was requested instead. This changes everything. Time to see what I’m made of.

In search of the perfect chicken sausage.

I go to every natural grocery store within a 10 mile radius to check out the different choices of chicken sausage. This will determine what direction it goes from here.  I snap pictures of all the different choices so I can review them at home and see what pops into my head.

Two days later, I make another Costco run to see if I can find Iberico ham, and to pick up some kitchen supplies for another  client. No Iberico ham anywhere in sight, but a vision of the quiche finally presents itself. It’s going to be a smoked chicken apple sausage! Now I need a cheese that will pair well with that. I’m thinking Dubliner because it’s sharp, nutty, slightly sweet,  with these little crunchy bits throughout.  But today they don’t have it.

Coastal Cheddar Cheese at Costco.

I turn around in bewilderment. That’s when I see it. Coastal Cheddar. I knew it was the one. It was calling me. I read the description and it’s perfect-in theory. So I decide to tie it all together with red peppers and caramelized onions.

I don’t know yet how the quiche will turn out, but this cheese is it. It’s wonderful on its own but I am thinking it is definitely the right choice to pair with this sausage. It comes from the southern coast of England from cows raised on beautiful, lush, rolling green hilly pastures, or at least that’s what the website says. Next time you’re at Costco, look for Coastal Cheddar Cheese by Ford Farms from England. Pick some up and let me know what you think.

Update on the quiche

The quiche turned out amazing. I’ll post the recipe soon I promise, but my clients loved it. And they loved the Coastal Cheddar. They were nibbling on it with their sangria while we prepared the quiche and wanted to know all about it.

The Dreaded Task of Knife Sharpening

Knife Sharpening

Knife Sharpening

Thanks for tackling the knife sharpening for me, son.

I do not like knife sharpening. I was not looking forward to it at all. It frustrates me, so I asked my son to do it. That didn’t go so well.  The knives ended up in worse shape than before they supposedly got sharpened, but it was the gesture that counted right? At least he tried.

So with only 3 working fingers on my right hand due to an earlier injury, I had no choice but to try to figure out this knife sharpening thing once and for all. I went to YouTube and began some research on what could have gone wrong, and found some useful tips. Then I went to work on it.

The whetstone.

Here’s what I learned about knife sharpening. If you have a whetstone, use water. Do not switch between water and oil. The oil had built up a nasty residue over time. So I sanded both sides of the stone down, keeping it wet, until I saw some sludge. Now I had something that was going to grind against the blade again.

The right angle.

Next, I needed to find the perfect angle at which to hold the knife to the stone. If I let the knife rest on my thumb, that was just the right angle I needed.

There are many techniques when it comes to knife sharpening. There’s the Japanese method, the French method, and a few others in-between.  Straight up and down, side to side, top to bottom-I used them all. The important part was to give each side the same number of strokes. It didn’t seem to matter if I did 5 and 5 or 20 and 20. I came across some pretty elaborate systems where they said to do 10 stokes on one side, ten on the other, then 7, then 5 then 3, then 1. The important thing to remember is to use the course side first, then the fine side, and lastly don’t forget to straighten the blade with a steel, which by the way most people think is a knife sharpener, but it’s actually not.  And one more piece of advice-put drops of water on the stone as you work, and don’t rinse the stone or your knife until the end. You want the gritty sludge build up to help work on that edge.

I know I need to update this post with some video or at least a few more pictures. But hopefully it was somewhat helpful.  I can now slice a very delicate ripe heirloom tomato.


I have decided I like dropping my knives off at Phoenix Knife House for expert knife sharpening service. The few dollars it costs to have them sharpened is well worth it! I admit defeat. Knife sharpening is not my forte, and that’s ok with me.

csa share, fruits, vegetables, meal planning

CSA Shares and How To Utilize Them

 Inventory your CSA share.

It’s fun to pick up your weekly CSA share, but do you get the most out of it? A little planning when you first bring it home can help maximize your CSA shares. Some CSA’s include recipes with their shares. Take advantage of those and work them into your weekly meal plans. If you receive an item you’re not familiar with, and there is no recipe, use Google Images to find out what it is and how to use it. One more thing I do is to record somewhere all the items I received and check them off as we use them. This can be a simple post-it on the front of the refrigerator. This really helps to use up what you have instead of things getting lost in the back of the refrigerator.

I don’t want to waste an ounce of this good food. This week’s CSA share from Chow Locally included kale. which I’m going to make a kale, lemon and olive oil salad with, adding some homemade croutons with the leftover bread in the freezer. I’ll have to get creative with all that cabbage since the family is not big on coleslaw, nor do they like it on their tacos like I do. I sautéed a bunch last night and still have some left! Parsley is an easy one. I’m going to use some to make doggie cookies, and the rest can be added to dishes, and some juiced into a v8 style juice. The big tomatoes can easily go on sandwiches. The radishes last week got eaten right out of the refrigerator and were so good.

Beets not a big hit.

The youngest of the boys can’t wait to eat the little flowers in our spring mix. The red onions will be great roasted alongside the potatoes or mixed up with leftover potatoes and peppers for a breakfast hash. The beets are always a challenge. I am the only one who will eat them and I’ve tried several ways to make them. I’ve pickled them, made roasted beet soup, juiced them, and made a wonderful sweet salad with fresh mint. No luck so far. They still won’t eat them. I’ll keep trying to sneak them in.

Raspberries, lemons, apples! Yum!

The apples will become juice and apple turnovers. The spinach will be devoured tonight with thinly sliced red onion, sunflower seeds, and raspberry vinaigrette. I think I’ll dip the red peppers in some cilantro hummus. The lemons will be gone fast. The middle son likes to eat them like an orange. I squeeze the juice over so many things, or just add a slice to my water. The heirloom cherry tomatoes are half gone because I ate them as I was putting the other produce away. So, that was easier than I thought.

true food kitchen, drinks, scottsdale

True Food Kitchen at Scottsdale Quarter

Vegans and omnivores unite at True Food Kitchen.

We don’t eat out often, but once in awhile, we treat ourselves to Dr. Andrew Weil’s endeavor, True Food Kitchen. There are two locations in the Phoenix area. We go to The Scottsdale Quarter location. It’s a beautiful setting all around.

I feel True Food Kitchen is moderately priced, and the food is delicious. You can dine on vegan, vegetarian, or omnivore fair. Whatever your choice, you can feel good about the fact that it is locally sourced, organic, and just plain real food. Everything I’ve tried  so far has been a delight. It’s exactly what I’d make for myself, only I don’t have to make it.

My favorites are the honey cucumber lemon refresher, buffalo burger, and for dessert, the gluten free lemon tart. I also really like the Tuscan Kale Salad which you can order as a side with your sandwiches. I make this at home all the time. It’s a great way to get in your greens because it’s quick, easy, and uses things you probably already have in your kitchen. What I like the most about True Food Kitchen is that I can eat out without feeling like I just ate the most unhealthy indulgence I could find, while still satisfying my craving for it. The outdoor seating is refreshing. The service is tasteful and attentive. The decor is truly “green”. I highly recommend a visit here.

Apricot spread, costco

Apricot Spread From Costco Has Many Uses




The easiest thing to do with it is the obvious. Breakfast! Warm toast with cream cheese and apricot spread! But since I was the only one who actually liked it, and since the jar from Costco is huge, I had to come up with some other uses. Here are a few of my random experiments.

Sweet & Sour Sauce

I needed a quick sauce to go on some egg rolls. I thought about that stuff in the jar in the Chinese Food section at the grocery store, but I am trying to whittle down my supply of condiments since my kids told me that’s all we seem to have in the refrigerator at times. So I made some. Sweet came from the spread. Sour came from a few teaspoons of rice vinegar, and a little kick from some dried red pepper flakes. Heat it all up in a small pan and you have egg roll sauce.

Make a quick dinner. Make up a batch of the sauce in a small bowl Stir-fry some boneless chicken breast or thighs in a little coconut oil. Throw in whatever kind of vegetables you have on hand. It could be carrots, bell peppers, broccoli, onions, anything! Make a little pot of rice or noodles or just cut up some cucumbers in little matchsticks. Coat your chicken and veggies in the sauce while still in the wok or large frying pan, and serve over your rice or cucumber sticks. Don’t have chicken? Use shrimp. Use steak. Use ground beef if that’s all you have. It doesn’t really matter. This is a template recipe that you can adapt in many ways.

Apricot Dijon Glaze

If you want to grill or back a pork loin roast or some bone in chicken, this is so easy. Just mix some dijon mustard into the apricot spread and brush it on the meat about 10-15 minutes before it’s done. Serve some extra on the side.