All pumpkins are not created equal!
by RaDonnaRidner-Thurman
 Savory Servings
Dec 14, 2011 | 5421 views |  0 comments | 28 28 recommendations | email to a friend | print | permalink
Cinderella Pumpkin from Dad's Farm in Tennessee
Cinderella Pumpkin from Dad's Farm in Tennessee

Cooking and freezing fresh pumpkin

So I know I’m a little late on this post… About 4-6 weeks late actually but things have been a little hectic in our household as of late. Thankfully things have calmed down just enough so that I have time to talk about pumpkins! I have memories growing up of my Grandmothers and my Mother cooking many, many things out of pumpkin. I grew up on a farm and we grew most of what we ate. We would harvest in the late summer and fall and can and freeze and eat that during the winter. One of my family’s favorite vegetables is pumpkin.

I’m not sure if it’s a southern thing or a Tennessee thing but I have a ton of pumpkin recipes. Recipes for pumpkin bread, pumpkin muffins, pumpkin stew, fried pumpkin, candied pumpkin, pumpkin pancakes, pumpkin smoothies, pumpkin casserole, pumpkin cookies, pumpkin cake, and of course pumpkin pie. And as luck would have it, I married someone who was equally fond of pumpkin. In fact, I will post a pumpkin recipe soon that came from my husband’s Grandmother and is probably the best cake recipe I’ve ever made.

There is one very important rule with pumpkins – not all pumpkins are created equal. The orange ones that you carve at Halloween are just for that – carving. They are not sweet and not cut out for cooking in the least. When choosing a cooking pumpkin, there are a lot of varieties to choose from. You really can’t go wrong with just about any “cooking pumpkin.” I found a great link with a list of some of the best cooking pumpkins, Some of my favorite varieties are the “long island cheese pumpkin” and the “cinderella” pumpkin. Their shells are very hard to cut but well worth the taste and they work well in any recipe. Now if you’re just cooking a pie – the small sugar pumpkin is fairly easy to find and makes a wonderful pie. My Dad grew a large patch of Cinderella pumpkins this year so that is type that I have prepared and described below. The Cinderella gets it name from the pumpkin's resemblance to the one that was transformed into Cinderella's carriage.

When buying your pumpkin at the grocery store – look near the squash or ask the produce manager. Oftentimes they will be labeled “pie pumpkins.” A farmer’s market is also a great place to find home grown cooking pumpkins.

Almost every recipe out there calls for cooking the pumpkin before using it in your recipe. I will post below how I cut and prepare my pumpkins – it is how I learned from my Mom and my Grandmother. If my instructions are confusing or you have questions, please feel free to leave a comment. Or, you can google “cutting a pumpkin for cooking” and there are many you tube videos that take you through the process.

First, I wash my pumpkin really well to get all of the dirt off. I like to use a large old bath towel on the counter, especially if my pumpkin is rather large. I cut out a “lid” much like when carving a pumpkin. Using a large metal spoon, scrape the sides as best you can to remove all of the strings and seeds. Then, cut the pumpkin in half. Take one half and slice wedges of pumpkin. Take each wedge and slice it into small chunks. This will allow you to lay each chunk on its side and slice the skin off easily. Drop the chunks into a bowl of water until you have them all peeled or “shelled.” Repeat with the other half of the pumpkin.

Place the pumpkin chunks in a large stewpot and add water, not quite covering the pumpkin. Bring it to a boil then reduce it and simmer it for about 45 minutes or until the pumpkin is very tender. It should all cook down into the water – if you still have pumpkin exposed after 25 minutes, add enough water to just cover the pumpkin. When it cooks, it soaks up a lot of water and you will have to remove that water later for it to work well in your recipes.

After it has finished cooking, strain it with a wire mesh strainer. I like to use an old dish towel or an old bath towel and after I strain it, dump it in the towel. Standing over the sink, wrap the towel up tight and squeeze out all of the excess water from the pumpkin. I am always amazed at how much water is left before I use the towel method. Put the pumpkin in a bowl and measure out what you need for your recipe. You can freeze the remainder for future uses. Just put the desired amount in a freezer bag and try to get all of the air out before you seal it. I like to freeze mine in 2 cup increments because most of my recipes call for 1-2 cups.

Thanks to my Dad I have lots of frozen pumpkin in the freezer and hope to shower you with family recipes during the upcoming winter that feature this interesting vegetable.




Nestlè Dark Chocolate Crumb Bars
by RaDonnaRidner-Thurman
 Savory Servings
Dec 06, 2011 | 5186 views |  0 comments | 35 35 recommendations | email to a friend | print | permalink
Nestlè Dark Chocolate Crumb Bars
Nestlè Dark Chocolate Crumb Bars
I found another new bar/brownie type recipe! Did you know that Nestle makes dark chocolate morsels? I did not know that until recently and I was so excited to find another new simple but homemade recipe on the back of the package. I have to warn you though, these little bars are extremely addicting. The sweetened condensed milk gives it just enough sweetness to counteract the dark chocolate bitterness. They come together to make the chocolate filling that practically melts in your mouth. The topping and crust add a unique texture. Paired together, it exudes happiness in your mouth. I found the recipe to be quite easy and it all came together in about 25 minutes total. I love the bar/brownie recipes because there is no waiting around for multiple pans of cookies that you shuffle in and out of the oven and hope that you don’t forget and let a pan get too brown. Personally I don’t care for nuts in my desserts (unless they are a main attraction) so I omitted those when I made the recipe.

What you will need:
3/4 cup (1 1/2 sticks) butter, softened
1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
1/3 cup granulated sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 10 package NESTLÉ® TOLL HOUSE® Dark Chocolate Morsels
1 can (14 oz.) Sweetened Condensed Milk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup chopped walnuts (optional)

The Instructions:
Preheat your oven to 350 and grease a 13 x 9 inch baking pan.

In a large mixing bowl, beat butter until creamy. Add in the flour, sugar and salt until crumbly. With floured fingers and hands, press 2 CUPS of the crumb mixture onto the bottom of the baking pan. Save the rest of it for the last baking step. The layer will be slightly thin but cover the bottom. Bake it for about 10 minutes or until the edges are golden brown (my oven had it golden brown in about 7-8 minutes).

In a small saucepan, combine 1 CUP of the morsels and the sweetened condense milk. Warm it over LOW heat, stirring constantly until it is smooth. Stir in the vanilla extract and spread it over the hot crust.

Add the remaining 2/3 cup of morsels with the reserved crumb mixture (and nuts if using). Sprinkle it evenly over the chocolate filling.

Bake for about 25 minutes or until the center is set. Let it cool completely before trying to cut it (I waited about an hour).

Chickpea and Lentil Soup
by RaDonnaRidner-Thurman
 Savory Servings
Dec 02, 2011 | 2429 views |  0 comments | 25 25 recommendations | email to a friend | print | permalink
Chickpea and Lentil Soup
Chickpea and Lentil Soup
Total approximate time from start to finish: 40-45 minutes

The weather has been bitter cold this week, but it is the perfect time for a hot bowl of soup! I found this recipe in my food and wine soups and salad cookbook and I just love it. I was very skeptical at first because the ingredients were a bit… odd. But it is absolutely delicious and tastes even better the next day. It is a vegetarian soup but it is so hearty and filling that even my carnivorous husband devoured it. It is quite simple to make. When I have a crazy day I like to make it the night before, let it cool and put it in the fridge. It takes about 5 minutes to warm it up on the stove the next day. The flavors are even more amazing after they have had a chance to meld together overnight. My favorite thing about this recipe – all of the ingredients are fairly inexpensive! Even if you are not a seasoned cook, I would definitely recommend giving this unique recipe a try.

Here is what you will need:

2 tablespoons of butter
1 onion, chopped
2 ribs celery, chopped
½ teaspoon ground ginger
¼ teaspoon turmeric
1/8 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 ¾ teaspoons salt
¼ teaspoon of fresh ground black pepper
1 cup lentils (any variety is fine)
6 ½ cups water
1 ¾ cups crushed tomatoes in thick puree (15 oz can)
1 2/3 cups drained and rinsed chickpeas (15 oz can)
1/3 cup chopped cilantro    
Lemon wedges for serving

The Instructions:

In a large pot, melt the butter over medium low heat. Add the onion and celery and cook for about 10 minutes until the vegetables are nice and soft. Stir in the ginger, turmeric, cinnamon, salt, pepper and lentils. It will release a huge fragrance of spices but stir it all together so that everything gets coated nicely.

Then add the water and tomatoes and bring it to a boil. Partially cover it and reduce the heat. Let it simmer for about 30 minutes, stirring about every 10 minutes. Make sure the lentils are tender (if they’re not, cook it an additional 10 minutes) and then add the chickpeas. Simmer for about 5 minutes more, stir in the cilantro and it’s ready to serve.

I like to serve mine with a lemon wedge and a little bit of chopped cilantro on top. The chopped cilantro is mostly for presentation but the squeeze of lemon juice really brings out all of the amazing and different flavors in this recipe.

Sausage and Egg Breakfast Casserole
by RaDonnaRidner-Thurman
 Savory Servings
Nov 22, 2011 | 5435 views |  0 comments | 34 34 recommendations | email to a friend | print | permalink
Breakfast Casserole fresh out of the oven
Breakfast Casserole fresh out of the oven
Total prep time: about 20 minutes (can prepare in advance)
Total cook time: 30-40 minutes (depending on your oven)

Do you have company coming in for the holidays? I love this recipe because I can prepare it the night before and pull it out when I wake up and in about 45 minutes, breakfast will be ready (and I haven’t spent more than 5 minutes in my kitchen). It is also great as a “breakfast for dinner” meal or to take and share at a work or church breakfast. I have to admit, I’m not a huge casserole fan but it’s hard to beat a good breakfast casserole. This recipe is actually from my friend JS. Her mother-in-law perfected the recipe and it has been in their family for years. She brought it to us for dinner one night when our son had surgery and I had to have the recipe. There are a lot of variations of this recipe on the internet but I have had repeated success with this one – it is delicious every time.

Here is what you will need:
1 lb mild sausage
6-8 slices of white bread
1 ½ cups shredded sharp cheddar cheese
5 eggs
2 cups half & half
1 teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon dry mustard
½ teaspoon worcestershire sauce

The Instructions:

Preheat the oven to 350. Cook the sausage over medium heat until it is cooked and drain it well. Spread each slice of bread with soft butter then cut it into cubes. Place the cubed, buttered bread in the bottom of greased 9x13 dish. Sprinkle it with the sausage and cheese. In a separate bowl, combine the eggs, half and half, and spices and pour it over the sausage, bread and cheese. Bake it for 30-40 minutes or until the middle is set and the top is golden brown. If it starts to brown too much before the middle is set, cover it loosely with foil.

If you are making it in advance, cover it with foil and chill it until you are ready to cook it. Let it sit on the counter about 20 minutes before you put it in the oven.

Vegetarian Version: For our resident vegetarian, I used the imitation soy sausage and she loved it.

Nestle Butterscotch Pumpkin Cake
by RaDonnaRidner-Thurman
 Savory Servings
Nov 16, 2011 | 2976 views |  0 comments | 35 35 recommendations | email to a friend | print | permalink
Nestle Butterscotch Pumpkin Cake
Nestle Butterscotch Pumpkin Cake
Always in search of a new dessert recipe, I love looking at the back of the various chip packages. From the semi-sweet to the white chocolate chip, they always have at least two recipes they recommend with their product. My thinking is that they have test kitchens and they make sure the recipe is top notch before they publish it on the back of their product. So you are usually pretty safe in making those recipes – I’ve always had good luck with them. I have to admit though, when I saw “butterscotch pumpkin cake” on the back of the Nestle butterscotch chip bag I was extremely skeptical. Who in their right mind would put butterscotch and pumpkin together? It had to be someone very creative who realized that these two flavors can complement each other beautifully. The sauce actually makes the dish. I must admit, I could eat a bowl of the sauce by itself, it is so delicious. I found when I made it though, the longer the butterscotch sauce stood at room temperature, the better it became. So I would definitely recommend making the sauce first and then make your cake. I kept my sauce in a separate container and drizzled it on the slice when I served it. You could probably pour the sauce on the cake if you are going to serve it all immediately. However, if you are going to serve a few slices here, a few slices there, I would recommend keeping it separate because I think the cake would soak up all of the sauce goodness within an hour of pouring it on. You can use canned pumpkin or fresh pumpkin in this recipe. I will post a recipe soon that involves fresh pumpkin, how to prepare it and how all pumpkins are not created equal. Some are for decoration only and there are specific ones for specific purposes (certain types for pies, certain types for cakes, muffins, etc.).

What you will need for the cake:

•    1 2/3 cups (11-oz. pkg.) butterscotch chips
•     2 cups all-purpose flour
•    1 3/4 cups granulated sugar
•    1 tablespoon baking powder
•    1 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
•    1 teaspoon salt
•    1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
•    1 cup cooked and pureed pumpkin
•    1/2 cup vegetable oil
•    3 large eggs
•    1 teaspoon vanilla extract
•    3 tablespoons powdered sugar (optional)

What you will need for the butterscotch sauce:

•    1/3 cup of evaporated milk
•    2/3 cup of butterscotch morsels (the rest of the package after measuring what you will need for the cake)

The instructions for the cake:

Preheat your oven to 350. Liberally grease a Bundt pan with nonstick spray or vegetable shortening. Measure 1 cup of butterscotch morsels and microwave them for one minute and stir. If they are still a little lumpy, microwave them for an additional 10 seconds stirring until they are melted. Set them aside to work on the rest of your batter.

In a medium bowl, add the flour, baking powder, cinnamon, salt, nutmeg and sugar. In a large bowl, combine the melted butterscotch with the pumpkin, vegetable oil, eggs and vanilla extract. Stir vigorously with a wire whisk until thoroughly combined. Stir in your flour mixture and mix until you have a nice orangey – brown batter. Carefully pour or spoon it into the prepare Bundt pan.

Bake it for 40-50 minutes depending on your oven. It will be golden brown on top and if you insert a wooden toothpick and it comes out clean then your cake is done. My got a little brown on top before it was done in the middle so I placed a small sheet of foil over the top very loosely to protect it from getting too brown while the middle finished baking. Cool it in the pan for 30 minutes then remove it and let it cool on a wire rack for at least an hour. Sprinkle it with the powdered sugar and serve it with the butterscotch sauce.

The Instructions for the Butterscotch Sauce:

Heat 1/3 cup of Evaporated milk in a medium saucepan over medium heat until it just starts to boil. Remove it from the heat and stir in the butterscotch morsels. Whisk it until it is smooth, this took me a little while. I still had little bits of butterscotch in my sauce but they ended up dissolving a little later. Let it cool completely to room temperature and stir it before serving.

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