Thursday, March 24, 2011

Pumpkins and pumpkin recipes

It is, apparently, pumpkin time of year. My own ones haven't done so well, having been grown in pots and left to their own devices for a week and a half of the hottest part of summer, the plants disintegrated. But I have watched the prices in the shop drop from $4 per kg, to $3, $2.50 and now $1.89. For a household that usually eats at least a whole butternut pumpkin a week, this has been fantastic, and I think it's now at least 2 pumpkins a week. They are so wonderfully versatile - as nuts are currently excluded from my diet, and I'm trying to keep honey to a minimum, they are the basis of desserts as well as part of breakfast, lunch and dinner. So I thought I'd share some of the creations I've been enjoying with pumpkins recently (and my contribution to this month's Go Ahead Honey, It’s Gluten Free!).

Veggie mash

I've been getting a good supply of spinach from a friend of mine for the last couple of weeks, and it doesn't agree with me, other than in pureed form. However, pureed spinach always seems to me to taste more like dirt and less like spinach than any other way of eating spinach. So I've been pureeing it with other vegies to great effect.

1/2 butternut pumpkin
3 carrots
2 zucchinis
Big bunch of spinach

Cut the 1/2 pumpkin into 2 pieces and rub with a little oil. Roast the pumpkin at 180C for 40-60mins, or until cooked through.

In the mean time, peel the carrots, and cut into big chunks. Steam 15-20 mins depending on the size of the pieces. You want them quite well cooked, but not so much to that they disintegrate when you try to pick them up. Place in a large bowl.

Cut the zucchini into chunks and, when the carrot is done, chuck them in the steamer. After a couple of minutes, add the spinach to the water in the bottom of the steamer.

When everything is cooked, put it all together in a big bowl, and blend until smooth. Add salt and pepper to taste.
I eat this for breakfast, by browning some mince, adding some of the puree and serving in an omelette, or on the side of some fried eggs. It's also a convenient veggie side dish for whatever meat you are eating for lunch or dinner.

Sweet orange dessert soup

I find it is better with all things desserty if you don't put vegetable names in the title, but yes, this is a pumpkin dessert soup.

The theme of this month's Go Ahead Honey, It’s Gluten Free! is seasonal soups, hosted by Linda, the Gluten-Free Homemaker, and this seems like a fitting contribution. 

It's autumn here in the southern hemisphere, and we are already heading into the cold evenings, and early darkness of winter. So there is nothing better to come home to than a steaming hot bowl of thick soup, and better still that it tastes like dessert. I mean, you could have dinner first, but given it's just vegetables, why bother?

1/2 butternut pumpkin
3 carrots
Coconut oil to serve
Lightly dripped yoghurt/sour cream to serve
Cut the 1/2 pumpkin into 2 pieces and rub with a little oil. Roast the pumpkin at 180C for 40-60mins, or until cooked through.

In the mean time, peel the carrots, and cut into big chunks. Steam 15-20 mins depending on the size of the pieces. As for the veggie mash, you want them quite well cooked (In cse you haven't noticed, this is exactly the same as the veggie mash. I make them at the same time, and just double the quantity of carrot and pumpkin and use half for each).

Puree the pumpkin and carrot until smooth. Add cinnamon and nutmeg to taste, at a ratio of 1:1. Add water to achieve desired consistency. I like it fairly thick so only add about 1/2 cup of water to this much veg.

To serve, put a generous serving in a bowl, stir through a good dessert spoonful of coconut oil, and top with a blob of lightly dripped yoghurt (I drip my SCD yoghurt for about 30 mins - which tastes the tangy edge off a bit, and gives a lovely sour cream consistency)

Pumpkin soufflé/pudding

Another favourite dessert and snack of mine at the moment is this pumpkin soufflé and/or pudding (a slightly different method with the same ingredients yields a quite different texture. The soufflé is lovely straight out of the oven, while it is still puffed and steaming. They are also both great cold, which brings out the coconut flavour a little more, or reheated, for a warm and satisfying snack at work.

4 egg whites
2 cups of the dessert soup vegies (before you add any water - if you are doing the soufflé, it is also a good idea to sit the veggie mash on a tea towel for 15 mins or so to soak up some of the extra moisture, though this isn't absolutely necessary)
2 egg yolks
1/4 cup coconut oil

Whisk your egg whites until they form stiff peaks. (I highly recommend an egg white attachment for your food processor, or a mix master)

In the mean time (assuming you can wander off and leave your egg whites beating), combine the vegies, egg yolks and coconut oil and mix well.

If you are making the soufflé, mix about 1/3 of the egg whites through the pumpkin mixture, then carefully fold in the remaining egg white.

If you are making the pudding, add the pumpkin mixture to the egg whites and beat until just combined.
I like taking these to work, so I make them in a combination of 250ml pyrex dishes, with lids, and in slightly larger ramekins and 500ml dishes for home. 

Arrange your dishes in an over tray, and add mixture to dishes. This makes about 8 small serves. Place tray in oven and pour water into tray around dishes to come about 2-3cm up the sides. Bake at 180C for 40-50 mins, until turning golden on top and slightly firm to the touch (they won't be solid, but they need to cook until they are no longer liquidy).

For those of you following SCD, these are all pretty early stage recipes. Just remember to add the spices as individual foods one at a time. Earlier on in the diet, I boiled the carrots and pumpkin with whole spices tied in a piece of muslin, so I wasn't eating the solids of the spices - not as nice a flavour, but a pleasant change from chicken soup.


(159(!) days and counting...)

Monday, March 21, 2011

Very belated health update (and cheesecake photo - no recipe though)

I've just discovered I've had this post sitting in draft since mid-Feb. I didn't post it straight away because I was waiting to upload a photo to go with it, and then it just got lost, and the cheesecake was not fantastic... so no recipe... anyway, excuses, excuses. I have been meaning to post a health update, and this sets some context, so I figured I'd post it now, and the cheesecake photo is pretty cool: 

Wow, it's been almost a month since I last posted. Life has been pretty hectic and I haven't had a Friday at home since... not sure... until today anyway. First there was Tora Week, a week of crazy amounts of karate, getting too little sleep and generally torturing ourselves. I was a bit stressed about being on SCD for the week (see my previous post) and went a bit overboard with the planning. I took good morning breakfast bars from the cccibs cookbook, magic lemon bars from Straight into Bed Cakefree and Dried, and my larabar themed energy bars.

I had been studiously avoid nuts in the leadup to the week, trying to get some post Christmas symptoms under control. But at the first sign of nuts, I started bleeding again. After a brief panic and then realising that there was no pain and no D, I figured I'd live. I needed the nuts and honey to make it through the week, so I wasn't giving them up unless there was no alternative. Fortunately, after a couple of days, my colon got over its initial shock and calmed down, and once I worked out that I needed 6-7 serves of vegies for dinner to keep my energy levels up, I coped pretty well.

All in all, the week was pretty good. I learned a lot, got a bit fitter and stronger, and our club now has another black belt. Since then, it has been work, lots and lots of work. I had to work one Friday for a sick day I took earlier in the year (yes, I'm a public servant and ran out of sick leave. But at least I have another years worth now - fingers crossed it lasts me a year. Do not want another one like 2010).

I did get to have today off though, which was good because I managed to capture the energy and enthusiasm of Tora Week before it wore off, and decided I'm going to go the the gym and do some karate every Friday morning, and actually did it too.

Then I came home to try out a cheesecake idea that I've been mulling over for a couple of days. White chocolate and raspberry. It's inspired by a cheesecake from what was my favourite patisserie in Canberra pre-SCD, which does a few really excellent chocolaty desserts. While most of them are far out of reach (chocolate ot being permitted on the diet), I have been considering that a white chocolate version using cocoa butter may be possible.

The risk with such things is that the flavour of the SCD yoghurt will overpower the more subtle flavours that one is trying to infuse into dishes, and all you can taste is yoghurt tang. So I started by adding some melted cocoa butter to some sweetened yoghurt to test whether it could pass a chocolaty, and it did, so I decided to give it a try. It's a mixture of a few recipes, some for SCD cheesecake and some for regular white chocolate cheesecake - I hope it has worked. It's still in the oven cooling down, so I can't give a verdict yet, but can verify that the batter was really tasty.

I leave you for now with a photograph from before it went in the oven.

I promise a recipe soon, all going to plan.

A moth invasion (and red wine reduction)

Life has been busy, and I haven't had a weekend free to sit at home and do whatever I want to in ages. That is, until the weekend just gone. I'd had plans to read my new book (The Paleo Solution, a book I bought on the recommendation of someone who responded to my post about doing intensive exercise on SCD and what to eat), write a blog post, and just generally relax and unwind. It didn't happen - it very rarely does, I suppose - life always gets in the way. But it was a good weekend all the same, apart from the moth invasion.

It's been going on for a couple of weeks now, these tiny little moths, fluttering around the kitchen and hallway, and occasionally in the cupboards. The kitten loves them - she watches them with the intensity of a hunter, with concentration that she doesn't have for anything else. And when they sit on the ceiling or high up on the walls and she can't reach them, she runs back and forth, making this little "aackaackaack" noise. Then when they come within her reach, they are pounced and devoured, and she looks around forlornly, wanting to know where the fun went.

Mid Sunday afternoon, I discovered the source of much kitten-fun in my pantry, in packets of nut meal, jars of nuts, cocoons in corners and under shelves. So Sunday afternoon turned into kitchen spring (or more technically correctly, autumn) cleaning. Those nuts that could be salvaged have now been soaked and dried, packets have been removed and cleaned, shelves and walls have been washed, and contents have been restored, to reveal much more space in my cupboards than I knew I had. So not all bad really.

The other exciting event of the weekend was making a red wine reduction that a friend of ours served at dinner last year, delicious with blue cheese and dried pear, or brie and dried peach, or I'm sure any other cheese you care to think of. I've been meaning to try it since then, and a 10% voucher, and discovering the same bottle shop had some $2.99 bottles of red (ghastly stuff, but it doesn't matter for present purposes) finally instigated action. So 6 bottles of cheap, nasty red in had (plus a dozen good drinking bottles!), we headed home.

The directions we had were to add some spices (we went with 1 cinnamon stick, 6 cloves and 6 allspice) and to steam, not simmer, the wine over a low heat until it reduces. The consistency is like a thick molasses, and took almost 8 hours to achieve. We started out in a huge thick bottomed pot, keeping the temperature at around 80C, and when we got down to about 1L of liquid (still quite liquidy at this stage) transferred it to a smaller pot. We took the spices out after maybe 4 hours. Once it started to thicken, a quick taste made mouths pucker, so we started adding some honey. Then some more, and a bit of salt, then some more honey. In the end, we had about 300mls of syrup, containing maybe 150mls of honey (though that would have reduced somewhat too) and about a tsp of rock salt. 

There were several test pieces of cheese over the course of the afternoon, and when the reduction was transferred loving to a storage container and the fridge, a trip to the supermarket yielded some Tasmanian brie. The verdict: quite delicious, if somewhat pricey. If you can find some really cheap red, it is well worth the effort, and I expect the 6 bottles of wine to last much longer than the 12 bottles for drinking!