Friday, September 20, 2013

How to pick the perfect pumpkin to pick at the pumpkin patch





What you need to know before you go to the pumpkin patch.
Because you need to know what to pick before you go picking.
And why you need to be picky about what pumpkin you pick.



Halloween text that says Pick your Pumpkin with Purpose


I keep hearing Promo's for the new Fox show SLEEPY HOLLOW and I keep getting freaked out. I remember being so scared as a kid when the teacher would read Washington Irving's short story "The Legend of Sleepy Hollow".   (You can read it online for free at gutenberg.org.)

I remember shaking in my sneakers...

Then I realized it wasn't my teacher or the short story that frightened me--it was an episode of Scooby-Doo!  
photo of the cartoon Scooby-Doo with a man with a jack'o lantern head riding a white horse/marvelousmusings

"Zoinks!!!  That was scary, man"

Although the short story by Washington Irving was spooky, the headless horseman from Scooby-Doo really terrified me! THAT DARN PUMPKIN HEAD HAUNTED ME FOR A GOOD PORTION OF MY CHILDHOOD!

While I was trying to shake myself from the repressed tramatic cartoon memories, I welcomed the distraction when I read that the local pumpkin patch opened and is ready for picking.

While Pumpkin Heads are disturbing, the pumpkin patch is always so much fun and this year I want to be prepared when I get there.  I never know what kind of pumpkin is good for what use and I never know which pumpkin to pick.  

So began my research for everything pumpkin.  Pumpkins just say Autumn to me.  Which, when you think about it, really kicks off the holiday season.

Gone are the Dog Days of Summer and sipping Margarita Beer Cocktails while watching the sunset, when we were looking to get out of the kitchen.  In Autumn, we want to snuggle-in and drink Broth.  This is the time we begin to dream about sugar plums dancing in our heads.  

From now until January we have a reason to celebrate at least once a month.  Let's face it:  We are on the platform of the Fast Train to Christmas.

So going to the pumpkin patch is basically calling out CHOO-CHOO here we go!    ALL ABOARD!



HOW TO PICK THE PERFECT PUMPKIN


Pumpkins will last for the next few months if you care for them properly.  

When you go to the patch you have to have a purpose for your pumpkin in mind.
  • will you bake it?
  • cook with it?
  • carve it?
  • paint it?
  • use it as a soup vessel?
  • leave it alone and let it shine in all it's natural wonderful glory?

The versatility of pumpkins:

  • nutritious; considered a "super food"
  • beauty applications
  • in decor
  • entertainment
  • food
  • animal feed
  • keeps goblins away

What to look for in any pumpkin:

(Especially if you want your pumpkin to last for a few months)

A pumpkin should 
  • have a nice sized stem 
  • feel heavy
  • look beautiful
Any mar, blemish or indent in the skin may lead to an early rot.

Light colored pumpkins are usually softer; making it easier to carve.

Remember to never carry a pumpkin by the stem.



Pick with a purpose at the pumpkin patch:


You need to pick your pumpkin with your purpose in mind.

For Decor:

If you're looking for a "traditional-looking" pumpkin then choose a
Magic Lantern.
How to pick the perfect pumpkin to pick at the pumpkin patch:  Photo of a Magic Lantern pumpkin  a traditional-looking pumpkin/Marvelousmusings
Magic Lantern


For Painting:

If you want to paint a pumpkin, choose an "Orange Smoothie" which has a smooth surface--great to use as a canvas.
photo of an orange smoothie pumpkin on the vine/marvelousmusings
Source:  Burpee.com


For Baking:

Choose a Sugar Pie pumpkin as they are generally sweeter with a much more fine consistency.  A beautiful pumpkin that was suitable for Cinderella's night at the ball it is also delicious in pies.
Cinderella:
How to pick the perfect pumpkin to pick at the pumpkin patch.  Photo of a Cinderella pumpkin which is beautiful and tasty/Marvelousmusings
Cinderella Pumpkin


One pound of raw pumpkin equals about 1 Cup of Puree.

A 5 pound pumpkin usually makes about two 9 inch pies.




What part of the pumpkin can I eat?


All pumpkins are pretty much edible but some are more suited for eating because the flesh is less fibrous.  While some have a thicker rind that makes for better Jack o'lanterns which are bred to be carved.

All parts of the pumpkin are edible.  The "flesh" can be used in pies, baked goods, smoothies, soups... the options are endless.

The seeds are roasted and perfect with just a bit of salt. 

Even the blossoms can be prepared like a zucchini flower. [I can't believe I never heard this or ate this before.]

Although they are all edible there are pumpkins more suited for carving then eating.

All pumpkins are edible but do not eat gourds.


 How long will a pumpkin last?


With proper precautions a pumpkin you pick now (mid-September) could last you from the patch to the new year. 


Tips to make your pumpkin last longer:

  • Keep it in a cool dry place
  • Try not to handle too much
  • Keep pumpkins away from ripening fruit. The fruit releases a gas that will accelerate the decaying process of the pumpkin.
  • Never let the pumpkins touch each other, there should be good air circulation around each pumpkin.

After a while the rind will harden and "cure" making it a bit more resistant to decay and rot.

If stored correctly pumpkins have the durability to last months at least throughout the holiday season.

I have picked pumpkins in September and have had them last throughout the new year when I have thrown them into the snow and given the birds and squirrels a surprise winter treat.

You can even paint one side of the pumpkin to get you through Halloween and then turn it around (the blank side) for your Thanksgiving decor!



How do you pick your pumpkin?

Do you have any tricks to picking the perfect pumpkin?

What plans do you have for your pumpkins?


Chug a chug a choo choo.... 


NOW BOARDING: THE HOLIDAY TRAIN!







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Thursday, September 12, 2013

Chicken Broth with Medicinal Spices or Back to School Sick Soup

SOUP

There is comfort chicken soup--which is good on a cold winters day, and then there's sick soup for when you'e looking for a remedy.  Comfort Chicken Soup cures a winter chill but "Sick Soup" soothes you when you are ill.

This soup has medicinal herbs and spices that can expedite or at least subdue a cold and general sickness.



Nourishing Back to School Sick Soup



It seems like just yesterday we were enjoying summer and sipping on Margarita Beer Cocktails.   Now, it's back-to-school time which brings new activities, new adventures and new people into our lives exposing us to new germs.

The cough came on suddenly.  Started with one horrible dry cough that came out of nowhere and proceeded to get worse.  Coughing, sneezing and general yuckiness.  [not to be confused with caramelized yumminess.]

When I heard, "Mommy, will you make your 'Dee-ish-us' soup for me?"  I never felt more like a Mother.

Although my poor child felt lousy, I was warmed by the awareness that although the nursing days are long gone, I can still nurture and foster my child and provide some kind of relief in the form of nourishment.


Last minute, use what's in the refrigerator "Sick Soup"    

                  Chicken Broth with Medicinal Spices

for when someone is suddenly sick.



Relieved when I remembered I had a chicken in the refrigerator; I tore through the kitchen hoping to find the rest of the ingredients.  

Garden tomatoes, parsley, onion, celery, garlic, carrots for Chicken Broth with Medicinal Spices

Garden tomatoes, parsley, onion, celery, garlic, carrots for Chicken Broth with Medicinal Spices


The whole time I was wracking my brain trying to remember every home remedy about healing herbs and spices that I had ever read.

Chicken broth with medicinal spices Thyme, Chives, Turmeric, Minced onion, Cayenne, whole black peppercorns, Himalayan Pink Salt marvelousmusings
Thyme, Chives, Turmeric, Minced onion, Cayenne, whole black peppercorns, Himalayan Pink Salt


This isn't so much a recipe but a technique.  Most of the time when I cook I hardly use any measuring tools--I save those for when I'm baking--which is an exact science.  When cooking it's best to eyeball it.  Free yourself from the inhibition of recipe cards and measurements and just cook!



How to make Chicken Broth with Medicinal Spices:


you will need:
One whole chicken, cut up

Cold water filtered through a Brita


SPICES:


all good size pinches:
  • Thyme
  • Chives
  • Turmeric
  • Minced onion flakes
  • Cayenne pepper
  • Whole Black peppercorns--a small cupped handful
  • Himalayan Pink Salt

I simply washed the vegetables and put them in the pan with enough water to cover.  I did not cut the vegetables in any way because I was looking to boil all the goodness out of them so the nutrients would be sipped in the broth.


Here are the vegetables I had on hand:

  • tomatoes:  (whole) handful of GIANT grape from the garden
  • parsley: a small bunch left whole
  • onion: half  with skin intact
  • celery: a small bunch
  • garlic: 6 cloves whole (with skins)
  • carrots:  about a cups worth of baby carrots
Put the chicken in pan with vegetables you have on hand and cover with water.  I like to make soup with the stuff that kind of gets forgotten about in the fridge.  Not moldy stuff or stuff that has gone bad, but the stuff that is limp and a bit too soggy to serve fresh when you need it to be crispy but what difference does it make when its boiled in a soup?

I start with cold ingredients in a cold pan with cold water.   I usually sprinkle and pinch the spices on top of the pan filled with ingredients.

Slowly start to heat it.  I fill my water pretty high in the pan and always run the risk of it overflowing out if the water boils too hard--which it shouldn't.  What I like to do is get it to a nice boil so I pay attention and stand over it.  

When the boiling becomes stronger than just a few bubbles here and there,  I put the lid on the pan and let it roll.  You have to find the sweet spot of temperature.  High enough so that it cooks and softly boils but not enough that it comes to a roaring boil and boils over.
photo of Chicken Broth with Medicinal Spices starting to boil marvelous musings
Chicken Broth with Medicinal Spices starting to boil



To skim the scum or not?


I don't.  I used to.  I would stand over the soup and remove the foamy "impurities" as it arose.  Then one day my husband was making the soup and didn't skim the scum.  Worried that I was going to have scummy soup when I opened the lid; I was surprised to see that if you just leave it alone it boils itself back in. 

Some experts say that it makes for a cloudy soup but I prefer to have a tastier more nutrient dense soup than a clear soup.  This is "Sick Soup" not a fancy Consomm√©.   I'm searching for clarity in life, but not in my Sick Soup.

Part of the reason for me not to skim or de-fat this Sick Soup is because I find that the oil can provide lubrication and coat the throat to ease and calm coughing jags. 

Once it is gently and softly simmering, put a lid on it and leave it for a couple of hours except to periodically check to make sure all the liquid is not boiling away.  As the liquid evaporates the boil may become harder in which case you would have to turn it down. The point is to keep it at even and consistent simmer.

After a few hours when it looks and smells done take out the chicken.  If you want you can bone the chicken and put the meat back into your broth at this point.  We served the meat on the side because we we're looking for more of a liquid food--a beverage broth instead of a hearty soup.  Although any kind of grain, rice or pasta may be added.

The patient requested star pastina and had it in the first bowl but all other subsequent cups were served plain in a special "tea" cup.



How can culinary spices be medicinal?


Herbs and spices have been treasured and cherished for their taste and medical properties since ancient times.   Spices are potent and a little bit goes a long way both in flavoring and their medical uses and side effects.

Unless you're allergic, more likely than not these herbs and spices are completely safe to consume.  They are culinary ingredients used in the preparation of food since the beginning of time as we know it.


In saying that let me make it absolutely clear that I am not a physician or herbalist or anything but a mother making soup.  When you or your loved one's are sick it is always best to consult your physician or medical practitioner before starting anything new.  Many foods, including spices, have a profound effect on certain medications and caution must be taken.



 Thyme:

University of Maryland Medical Center says about Thyme:
  • "Thyme (Thymus vulgaris) -- Thyme has traditionally been used to treat respiratory illnesses such as bronchitis and to treat cough. Two preliminary studies suggest that thyme may help treat acute bronchitis and relieve cough. Thyme is approved by the German Commission E to treat those conditions. Thyme oil is considered toxic and should not be taken by mouth. Thyme may increase the risk of bleeding, especially if you also take blood-thinners such as aspirin, clopidogrel (Plavix), or warfarin (Coumadin). "  Source: Cough | University of Maryland Medical Center http://umm.edu/health/medical/altmed/condition/cough#ixzz2eQGImuvb University of Maryland Medical Center.

  • The essential oil of thyme contains the active ingredient thymol which is an active ingredient in Listerine antiseptic mouthwash.  



Turmeric:

  • Known as the "golden spice," has been treasured for it's versatality of function and medicinal properties for thousands of years.
  • Turmeric is a staple spice in the cuisine of India, traditionally served in a dish known as curry.   It can be used as a dye (careful when using it it stains everything yellow!) and it's used in cosmetics.  It is also very commonly used as medicine.
  • A traditional common cough "home remedy" is made by mixing this powerfully anti-inflammatory spice into an elixir called "turmeric tea."
  • Potent and powerful, turmeric can even aid those suffering from Rheumatoid arthritis.

If you think you have never eaten Turmeric;  I bet you did--it's what makes mustard yellow!



Cayenne Pepper:


Cayenne pepper contains the powerful substance capsaicin which may help:
  • reduce pain.
  • fight inflammation
  • clear congestion in the nose or lungs by stimulating secretions


Whole Black Peppercorns:


"The king of all spice" was once so valuable that is was used as currency!
  • helps the body absorb vitamins and nutrients from food
  • stimulates the taste buds
  • aids in digestion

Parsley:

  • a rich source of vitamin c

Garlic:

  • YUM



The Goldfish are colored with turmeric dye.

Chicken Broth with Medicinal Spices plated in bowl with goldfish colors crackers on the side marvelous musings
Chicken Broth with Medicinal Spices

And goldfishes make everything better.



Served as a beverage, this simple healing broth was something to sip on.


Have you ever tried to tailor make a soup?

Do you have any secret or medicinal ingredients?

Do you have any kitchen concoctions?





****I am not affiliated with any of the products used in this post.  All the products in this post were in my kitchen.  This is not a sponsored post.








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