Using the Whole Pumpkin

gnocchi with sauceIt’s cold and rainy out. It’s finally November. There is no reason not to make a pumpkin pie. Today. Maybe right now.

Check out my column, From Scratch, over at the Kitsap Sun to learn how to use up one pumpkin in three different, glorious ways: a classic pie with a twist, a cozy dinner, and a quick snack.


Sweet Potato Wraps

sweet potato1The child loves sweet potatoes. Isn’t that enough motivation to try to put them in the main dish spotlight? If you, too, sometimes wonder how you can make a meal out of a sweet potato, here’s an idea. Almost a taco but not really, this wrap is a quick way to get a lot of flavorful good stuff into your little (or big) person.

Sweet Potato Wraps

For the potatoes:
1 large sweet potato
1 tsp. cinnamon
1 tsp. cardamom
1/4 tsp. smoked paprika
generous pinch of salt
olive oil

For the beans:sweet potato wraps
one 15 oz. can of pinto beans
small onion, diced
1 clove garlic, whole

1 star anise pod
1 tsp. dried sage
1/2 c. water

To assemble:
whole wheat tortillas
cotija cheese
sunflower seeds
kale, sliced into thin ribbons
other optional leftovers (We had some roasted corn.)

  1. Peel and slice the sweet potato into 1/2 inch cubes. Mix the spices and stir gently with the potato. Distribute them evenly, then drizzle in a little olive oil.
  2. Bake the potato cubes on a parchment-lined sheet for 25 minutes at 400F.
  3. Meanwhile, ready the beans. Rinse thoroughly and set aside. In the small pot in which you mean to cook the beans, add a drizzle of olive oil, the diced onion, and the whole garlic clove. Cook until soft.
  4. To the pot, add the beans, 1/2 cup of water, anise pod, and dried sage. Simmer uncovered for about 15 minutes. (If any water is left, go ahead and drain it off.)
    1/2 inch cubes sweet potato sprinkled w 1 tsp of cinnamon and 1 tsp cardamom generous punch of salt 1/4 tsp smoked paprika mix spices to distribute then drizzle oil.
  5. In a dry pan, toast tortillas on each side over medium, if you like.
  6. Assemble at the table as you please and enjoy!


  • This is the recipe that we like for making homemade tortillas, using the whole wheat substitution suggestion.

Orcas Island Visit and Clam Chowder

Two ferries and a late night victory over Seattle Friday traffic recently landed us on Orcas Island where we attended Bullock’s fall plant sale and tour. It was an opportunity to see plants in full growth and wander amongst their wild grounds and lovely gardens. Optimistically, we brought back an Italian Stone Pine that is suited to this climate. In six years, we’ll have homegrown pine nuts for our pizzas!

One spontaneous turn down a beautiful lane, took us rather accidentally to Buck Bay Shellfish Farm, a third generation shellfish farm selling seafood right in sight of the bay its pulled from. The child slurped his first fresh oyster, pronounced it delicious, and then proceeded to munch down half of a big Dungeness crab. What a snack!
With a plan to make chowder when we reached home, we grabbed an onion, a few potatoes, and two pounds of clams. The next day, we added some celery from our deck garden and, as we sat at our table at home on our own island, we could still taste the sea of Orcas.

IMG_3961Creamy Clam Chowder

Being a clam chowder novice, I appreciated the clear directions and well-tested procedures outlined by Serious Eats. I made the recipe exactly as stated and would encourage you to do the same. I used water not clam stock. and chose thick-cut Hitchcock bacon.  My trusty immersion blender created a nice emulsion. This soup reheated well the next day.

Eliminating White Flour Without Eliminating the Baking Habit (and Huckleberry Muffins)

IMG_3515We’re experimenting this month with eliminating white flour, a difficult thing to do in a household that loves daily baking. It’s forcing us to look for new recipes and techniques and is reminding me of the importance of reliable recipes.

With practice and experience, comes the skill of reading recipes. I feel like I have enough baking under my belt to detect a poorly written recipe and to know, at a glance, when something just might work. When experimenting with alternative flours, like barley, rye, or almond, it’s good to be able to start with reliable advice. (The chickens can only eat so many failed loaves…) Here are the places I go most often for guidance and a starting point when I’m trying to create something new:

  • King Arthur Flour – Great or all things baking, this website has a blog with step by step instructions as well as the recipe search. You can even contact the baker’s hotline when you get in a jam!
  • NYT recipe database – You’ll find solidly authored and edited recipes for just about any cuisine or project. You can even get a nice app for your smartphone.
  • Smitten Kitchen – This is my favorite cooking blog that has lovely photography and a breadth of recipes that I feel match my own taste and style.
  • Books – Here’s a resource not to be underestimated! You can even write your own notes in the margins. Check out my favorite baking books on our bookshelf above.

We’ve had great success with just straight up substitutions in some of our favorite, reliable recipes. Popovers and crumpets were even declared improved (and more “complex”) with 100% whole wheat subbed for AP. I’m still working on a pie crust and a loaf of bread that is sandwich worthy without white flour, but I’ll keep trying until I get it.

There are a many, many websites that want to give you recipes to try, but in sorting through them, I usually ignore ones that require too many odd or processed products to purchase. When “meeting” a new recipe site, I usually look for clear directions, nice photos, and common sources or inspirations. Here’s one that I found and made this morning that references a book already on my shelf. Based on the recipe in Michael Ruhlman’s Ratio, this blogger tempted me with her lovely photographs. I picked some wild huckleberries and fussed with destemming them. Well worth it! I’m sure this recipe would be delicious with any diced fruit you have on hand.

Huckleberry Muffins with Almond Flour

Makes 5-6 muffins

4 ounces eggs (2 eggs)
1 ounce honey (about 1 tbls.)
1/2 tsp. apple cider vinegar

4 ounces (about 1 cup) almond flour
1/4 tsp. baking soda

1/3 c. huckleberries (or any diced fruit, patted dry)

  1. Combine the dry ingredients in one bowl and the wet ones in another bowl.
  2. Add the wet to the dry.
  3. Add berries (or other fruit).
  4. Pour into muffin cups.
  5. Bake at 350F for 10-12 minutes. (Look for the center to be set.)



Corn and Pepper Soup

FullSizeRender (2)You must know I was completely intrigued when I found a new book at the library that featured the unexpected pairing of spatzle and pea greens on the front cover. The ultimate winter comfort food plus the first green veg of spring together in one beautiful dish? What else would I find in this book? All the things you might guess would be in a German cookbook are in there – jam filled buns, crisp potato pancakes, sausage dishes. However, I was so pleased to also find lighter soups and salads, featuring many of our seasonal veggies. This is the perfect book to bridge the transition between summer and fall dishes.

At the last market, I walked away with a literal armload of Persephone Farm’s corn. This over enthusiasm for the appearance of corn coupled with my weekly ration of Laughing Crow’s peppers, made trying this recipe an easy first choice. I’ve simplified the directions and procedures, but you’ll find the recipe mostly intact,  as an encouragement to check out Das Cookbook yourself.

Corn aIMG_3300nd Pepper Soup

4-6 servings

3 ears of corn
1 1/2 tsp. kosher salt

6 tbls. butter
1 onion
1 yellow pepper
2 cloves of garlic
1 bay leaf
sprinkling of fresh nutmeg

  1. Cut the corn off the cob. (Instructions with photos found here.) Reserve the corn for later. Into a separate bowl, milk the corn with the back of your knife and also reserve this chunky liquid for later.corn off cob
  2. Add the now empty cobs to about 5 cups of water in a pot. Add the salt. Bring to a boil, then lower to a simmer for 30 minutes.IMG_3296
  3. Meanwhile, chop onion. Remove seeds from the pepper and chop. Peel two cloves of garlic.
  4. Melt butter in your large soup pot. Saute onions, pepper, and garlic until soft, about 10 minutes.
  5. Add bay leaf, most of the corn, and cook for five minutes.
  6. Hold a mesh strainer over your soup pot and pour 2 cups of the corn stock through it. Stir in the corn milk and nutmeg. Simmer for about 20 minutes. Remove bay leaves.
  7. Puree soup with an immersion blender (or blender.) Serve topped with the remaining corn.


  • Hold the soup on low before blending, if you’ve made it ahead of time. Or, alternatively, cool, refrigerate, and blend before reheating.
  • Other favorite corn recipes for the season: potato corn chowder, puffy corn omelet

Simplifying Canned Tomato Sauce

simplified canned tomato sauceHere’s yet another article on canning tomato sauce to add to the forest of internet resources on the topic. As is my usual habit, I’ve taken what I think are the best techniques from trusted sources and tried to optimize for less time standing in the kitchen and more yummy food. I wanted a recipe that made a ready to use sauce and did not require fussy tomato peeling. As it turns out, one of my favorite sources of philosophy and inspiration had a great recipe for my starting point.

I’ve never canned my own tomato sauce before. We’ve never been able to grow enough tomatoes to enjoy wild abundance and usually tomato prices are high in the summer. But this year, with an unusually hot and dry Washington summer, I was seduced by Heyday Farm’s nicely priced flats. We got excited and made sauce, tomato jam, salsa, and fresh ketchup, filling our pantry shelves with summer

I found that this recipe took about one hour of upfront prep time, 3 hours on the stove top with periodic check-ins, and then the requisite water bath canning time. Not too bad. I halved the recipe in Animal, Vegetable, Miracle (and, whew, it just did fit in my largest cooking pot!) Anticipating easy evening pastas and pizza Fridays this winter, I’ll be glad that I put in a Sunday’s worth of work to preserve these beautiful tomatoes.

Simplified Canned Tomato Sauce

(respectfully from Animal, Vegetable, Miracle)

Yields: about 4 quarts

15 pounds tomatoes, resulting in 5 quarts tomato puree
2 large onions
1/4 c. honey
1/2 c. dried basil
2 tbls. dried oregano
1 1/2 tbls. salt
1 tbls. dried lemon peel
1 tbls. thyme
1 tbls. garlic powder
1 tbls. dried parsley
1 tsp. pepper
1 tsp. cinnamon
1/4 tsp. nutmeg
1/4 c. honey
powdered citric acid, about 3 tsp. divided accordingly into each jar (see procedures below)

  1. Chop the onions by hand or in processor, according to your desires, and cook over medium low until soft. Set aside.
  2. Wash the tomatoes. Fill a clean sink with warm water and add tomatoes. Take each tomato out one at a time and wipe with a cloth.IMG_3150
  3. Core and chop the tomatoes. Using a paring knife, cut a cone around the stem and then hunk the tomato into fourths or sixths.IMG_3151
  4. Drop in a large, empty pot. Cover with a lid and over medium high, bring to a low boil. Simmer for about 15 minutes until the skins start to come off.IMG_3153
  5. Pour the softened tomatoes through the food mill, collecting the resulting puree in a large bowl or your cooking pot.IMG_3152
  6. To the tomato puree, add all of the rest of the dry ingredients, honey, and cooked onions. Stir well.IMG_3156
  7. Bring to a boil, and simmer for two to three hours.IMG_3157
  8. When nearing the end of your sauce’s cooking time, prepare your water bath canner. Heat water, sterilize jars, warm jar lids, and prepare your canning station (with tongs, jar lifter, dry cloths.) If you’re new to canning, please check out these tutorials.
  9. Fill your hot jars with the hot sauce and then, according to this measurement, stir the citric acid directly into each jar:
    1/2 tsp. to a quart
    1/4 tsp. to a pint
    1/8 to a 8 oz. (jelly jar)
  10. Boil lidded jars in the canner for 35 minutes. Cool on rack and check seals.


  • When chopping the tomatoes and preparing them to be milled, you may need to work in two batches. (I did – my large pot wasn’t large enough for all of the fresh chunks!) I had half the tomatoes in the pot simmering while I worked to core the second half. While the second half was heating, I milled the first batch.
  • Do NOT substitute fresh herbs. Do NOT use oil when cooking your onions. (DO celebrate your bulk aisle and do a little dance of frugality when stocking up on the long ingredient list.)
  • I canned the sauce into various size jars and you might want to too. Embrace customization! Large quarts for lasagna, small 8 oz. jars for pizza night, and half quarts for quick 3 person pasta meals.
  • Animal, Vegetable, Miracle is a must have for your locavore shelf. If for some reason you’ve missed it, summer is such a good time to read and enjoy this amazing story and handbook.
  • If you’re curious about tomato jam (which can be used as a sandwich spread), you’ll find solid recipes on Food in Jars and in Marissa McClellan’s books. I’ve been particularly enjoying Preserving by the Pint this season which has great recipes (and a great philosophy that inspires variety.)

Comparing Jam Techniques

Here’s a tale of two jams.

IMG_2931Same recipe. Same plums. Do you notice the suprisingly different color? The jar on the left is dark, red, and deep in color. Before processing, the jar on the right was as yellow as the plums it was made from and tasted like freshly picked fruit.

After reading and comparing many recipes, I noticed that the technique in the River Cottage book was very different than most given instructions. The idea? First bring the fruit to a boil, then add the sugar. This seems to allow for a much shorter cooking time, resulting in a brighter jam. Related to trying to shorten the cooking time, he also suggests one stir the fruit infrequently. I’ve always been afraid of burning the bottom, but stirring cools the fruit and, again, lengthens the time it takes to set.

 My yellow plums are juicy and wet, so here are the proportions I used for the jam:

  • 2 pounds plums
  • 1 1/2 c. sugar
  • Juice of 1/2 lemon

After testing for set, I added a scraped vanilla bean.

For step by step instructions on plum jam, reference this how-to (which uses a slightly different process.)

I have heard many islanders recently make the joke that “plums are the new zucchini,” meaning they’re plentiful this year and hard to offload. If you’re also “plummeled” try: