More Pumpkin Pandemonium

Following up from my Pumpkin Fun and Yummies post, I finally did get around to roasting and pureeing a whole pumpkin. The day after Halloween I posted on Facebook that if anyone had an uncarved, small/medium pumpkin that they no longer wanted, I would be happy to take it off their hands. I had one offer and I picked it up the next day. Yay, for free pumpkins!

I chose the Fun Free or Cheap method of cooking the pumpkin. Since we don’t have a roasting pan, I put each half in a glass baking dish with water and seemed to be fine, having nothing to compare to, of course. It wasn’t particularly difficult (except that it turned out to be the first day of Kelsey getting sick and she was particularly cranky and needy) it just was a bit of a process. Now that I’ve done it once, I think I could streamline it a bit. Hopefully next year, I will be able to work while Kelsey plays by herself.

I poured an ice cube tray worth of  puree and froze it for Kelsey. I still haven’t tried it with her yet, but I’m thinking some “baby pumpkin pie” is in her future with Thanksgiving around the corner. I’ll mix some with a little cinnamon for her and see how that goes.

After that, I filled plastic baggies with 1 cup portions of the puree and ended up with 5 1/2 cups in the freezer.

The main thing I noticed was that it looks a lot different from the canned pumpkin. I didn’t strain it before freezing, but basically I should be fine if I just let it sit in a strainer for a little while before I use it.

It was a rough week with Kelsey sick, then me sick, throwing my back out, and we took a day trip to Sea World. I finally got around to making the first recipe with my fresh pumpkin to see how it worked out. I made these Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Cookies this evening and they were delicious!

I used Pumpkin Pie Spice Mix instead of the individual spices but followed everything else. They were fluffy and tasted like pumpkin pie with chocolate, so good!

I have also decided to give myself a domesticated challenge – I am going to make a pumpkin pie from scratch with my puree. I’m a little nervous, but hoping it turns out great. I found this recipe meant for using fresh puree and it has instructions for the crust so wish me luck!

I didn’t forget about the woman who gave me the pumpkin. We’ve had our fill of pumpkin seeds from Halloween so I roasted the ones from this pumpkin with just olive oil and salt and put them in a little decorated mason jar to give her as a thank you.

 

Changing Our Habits to Stretch a Dollar and Save a Minute

With one income now it has become more important to try to use our resources wisely were food is concerned. We definitely used to toss a lot more leftovers when we were both out of the house most of the day. We’ve also been trying to come up with ways  to spend less time cooking and cleaning and more enjoying time as a family, especially with my husbands odd workday schedule.

I accidentally came across The Frugal Girl and the first post was about using leftovers. I skimmed over it and she mentioned using her left over take out rice for rice pudding. This is just one example of something that ends up sitting in the fridge with the best intentions but nothing ever happens. I had never thought of that. We sometimes end up mixing it in to stretch the fried rice but, unfortunately, we usually end up throwing it out. We had some in the fridge so after a quick recipe search, I found this one and I have to say it was a nice little sweet treat that reminded me of home. (Next time, I’m going to try just mixing and right into the dish and oven. Some of the egg cooked when it hit the warm rice and water.)

We’ve been trying to intentionally cook to have multiple servings, which isn’t too hard since most recipes are for a small army and it’s just the two of us eating “big people” food right now.

One trick we’ve picked up along the way has been to combine slow cooker cooking with freezer cooking. We used to toss the leftovers in containers and in to the fridge. However, no matter how good the chilli is, no one wants to eat it for three days straight. It finally occurred to us to pop them into the freezer instead and we have it a few days or even a week or two later instead. My mother actually introduced this when she did a bunch of batch cooking and freezing when my husband had to go out of town for a month and a half right after Kelsey was born but it some how took us a few months to remember how well it worked out!

One of my new favorites for slow cooker recipes is The Crockpot Girls. They have videos along with recipes so you can see what it looks like.

We’ve also made a big batch of dahl and froze small portions along with stocking up on some frozen naan. We love this for those late night munchies, watching a movie after the baby goes down for the night.

We have also tried some freezer cooking recipes from Money Saving Mom. We haven’t ventured into too much batch cooking but our favorite so far has been Baked Oatmeal. Of course I also do a batch or two of something every 1-2 weeks of baby food which then gets frozen and pulled up as needed.

Following Crystal Paine’s, the Money Saving Mom, website has taught me a lot about being a little more efficient around the house and helps me enjoy my time at home which is why I’m excited to check out her new book, Money Saving Mom’s Guide to Freezer Cooking.

Interested in getting a free e-book copy? Visit her post about her offer, available until November 17, 2011.

What Can You Do with a Can of Tomato Soup?

While picking up some photos (most were free with a promo code!), I fell for a little “splurge” sale item today at Walgreens. Campbell’s Condensed Tomato Soup (10.75 oz) for $.59 each with in ad coupon (there is supposed to be a coupon in SS 9/11/11 and 10/2/11 but sadly my coupons are not organized at this point in time and I couldn’t find it). Here’s the thing though, I hate Tomato Soup and they were out of the Chicken Noodle. Only paying $.59 for each can, I figured if nothing else I would have something to give next time there was a food drive.

After thinking about it, I decided to check out www.supercook.com to see if there was anything I could make using the soup. I didn’t know there were so many options!

I’m thinking Grandma’s Easy Shells for the next MacDill Enlisted Spouses Club meeting.

This American Pork Rice Dish would be an easy one-dish meal and uses things we usually have on hand.

I’ve got everything in the kitchen already for Mom’s Easy French Dressing – I love French dressing but for some reason haven’t had it in forever.

Hmm… that’s already using all three cans. I think I’m going to have to go back for more!

Easy Tomato and Eggplant Soup (hit the farmers market for the eggplant) would be good with some homemade croutons. This Very Quick and Easy Tuna Casserole is another potential potluck item, I would add some Italian spice mix and, hey, canned tuna is on sale at Walgreens this week, too! Finally, Shipwreck Stew for the crockpot; it’s a little heavy on the onion for our tastes but great with the cooler weather starting to come in.

That is already four more cans. Yep, I see another run to Walgreens this week. Maybe I can find that darn coupon.

Pumpkin Fun and Yummies

I was so excited for Halloween to roll around this year. I’ve had Kelsey’s little cow costume since befre she was born so I’ve been looking forward to seeing her in it for just as long. I was also looking forward to taking her to a pumpkin patch. She started walking the week or so before we went so I was hoping she would want to pick up the pumpkins. No luck there, but for some reason she really liked grabbing the stumps of the vines. At two different patches she at least got to touch them and other new sensations like straw and we got some great pictures.

Clothes:

In the picture on the left, Kelsey is wearing a pumkpin headband and holding a candy corn doll that my mother-in-law crocheted for her. In the picture to the right, I used my Ribbon Flower technique with some Halloween ribbon in a pinwheel on top and a glitter pompom for a Halloween hair clip and found a little pumpkin iron-on patch to decorate a onesie for an inexpensive Halloween outfit paired with other clothes we already had.

In the middle, she’s wearing the cow costume we got half off the November 1st last year and I added a ribbon to it. We already found two costumes for her for next year for $5 each at Old Navy! I now get to spend the next year planning our family costume.

Pumpkin Carving:

We made sure to pick up some pumpkins for carving and the Thursday before Halloween we finally got around to doing them. It has been a while since we’ve carved pumkins and I forgot how much work it is, but we had a good time anyways. I found a jack-o-lantern template I liked online then redid the teeth so they would resemble Kelsey’s little grin, with two teeth on top with a gap and two little ones on the bottom.

She likes to finger paint with her food now so I thought she’d have fun playing with the pumpkin goo but it turns out she’s not a fun of the mess. She poked it a couple times but wanted nothing to do with it touching her. At least she had a good time with the spoon. She did, however, still manage to get it all over her, even her hair, and even sat in it!

As my husband did the final carving, I sorted all the seeds out. I had never made roasted pumpkin seeds before so I thought this would be a good opportunity. After looking around for recipes/instructions online I decided to go with the following. I’ve been snacking on them daily!

Roasted Pumpkin Seeds

  • Spread pumpkin seeds out on a baking sheet to dry overnight.
  • Drizzle olive oil and use your fingers to stir and coat all the seeds.
  • Sprinkle cajun spice mix over all of them.
  • Bake at 200 degrees for 1 hr 15 min.
  • Store in an airtight container.

Yummies:

Earlier in the month, we had a Make It, Bake It, Grow It Auction as a fundraiser for MacDill Enlisted Spouses Club and I decided to make this Libby’s Pumpkin Cranberry Bread recipe as mini loaves. I had raisins on hand so I decided to use them instead of cranberries.  I made 2 plain mini loaves and 3 with raisins and still had enough for a regular loaf for us to keep. I also used the Kitchen Aid mixer by myself for the first time – talk about becoming domesticated!

The plain ones sold pretty well, but not as many takers for the raisin ones. Who knew there were so many people that don’t like raisins in anything? The loaf we made for ourselves at the house did not last long.

Next up for pumpkin fun? I am going to attempt to make pumpkin puree. I haven’t decided which method I’m going to try yet between these two sites. Wish me luck!

In addition to using some of the puree as baby food I’m hoping to try a pumpkin recipe or two. Who knows? I may even attempt a pumpkin pie from scratch with my Pumpkin Pie Spice Mix!

I hope you had a great Halloween weekend and are enjoying Fall where ever you are!