Friday, October 22, 2010

Futari-- pumpkin and yam stew for baby led weaning

In our final installment of Pumpkin Week, we've got another East African dish: futari. It's a wonderful stew of coconut milk, pumpkin, and yams. The pumpkin begins to fall apart and thickens the liquid a bit, while the yam retains its integrity a little better and prevents it from being entirely porridge-like. Serious comfort food! Not photogenic, however. No glamour shots this time. No photos at all, in fact: Mae took a late nap and the good light vanished before I could take a photo of her eating this. (There are leftovers; perhaps tomorrow).

There seem to be only one or two recipes for this out there on the web, and I used one of them. It does taste a lot like what I had when I visited Tanzania, so it works for me. The only change I made was to add peanut butter. The recipe I found suggests that if you don't have coconut milk, you can thin down some peanut butter with water and use that as the liquid. But seeing as I do have both, and I feel strongly that they would be yummy together, I added it in addition to the coconut milk. I was right: they are good together.  (Feel free to omit it if you want, though. I won't get mad.)


1 large onion
2 Tbs oil
2 lb peeled, chopped pumpkin
2 lb peeled, chopped yams/ sweet potatoes
2 cans coconut milk
1/2 tsp cloves
1 tsp. cinnamon
uninhibited spoonful of natural peanut butter
juice of 1 lemon
salt to taste

Heat oil in a large, deep pot. Throw your onions in and let 'em go till they're brown.  Add the cloves and cinnamon, fry briefly. Add remaining ingredients; cover and let simmer until vegetables are tender.

I think this would lend itself well to crock pot preparation, but I haven't tried it yet.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Bacon and cheddar butternut gratin recipe for baby led weaning

Ok, we're venturing a bit further from pumpkin proper here, but any good winter squash or nice fresh sliced pumpkin would work in this.  I use butternut because it's so easy to peel (and yummy).  Just as any vegetable is good roasted, I'd also contend that almost any vegetable is good slathered in cream, surrounded in cheese and, if possible, bacon, then baked.  (Maybe I should try that with beets, but they might prove the exception and just be a waste of good cheese.)(Can't risk wasting cheese).

Bacon and cheddar butternut gratin

2 strips bacon, chopped
1 2lb butternut squash, peeled, seeded, sliced into 1/4 inch thick slices
1/2 c. whipping cream
4 oz. sharp white cheddar, cubed
1/2 c. grated parmesan

Grease up a large casserole dish (the shallow rectangular kind). Preheat oven to 400.  Fry up the bacon, drain on paper towels once it's nice and crispy. In the casserole, array half of the squash slices.  Scatter the cubed cheddar over it. Cover with the remaining squash slices, douse them liberally in the cream, sprinkle the bacon and parmesan over and finish it with some freshly grated black pepper. Bake for 30 minutes until it's all brown and bubbly and irresistable.

The quantities of all the ingredients are highly adjustable-- more or less of anything. To tell the truth, I never measure with this one.   

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Cuminseed, Poppy, and Coriander Pumpkin Crackers

 Now 9 months old, Mae is getting much better at eating crackers! It's funny, she's been eating solid foods for three months now, so I shouldn't be surprised that she's making progress-- but since she doesn't have any teeth, I guess I wasn't expecting a huge change in how well she eats certain foods until she sprouted some more chompers. But she still just has the two, and yet is getting better at eating.  She now has the technique down for sucking on these crispy crackers until they are moist enough to break up and swallow.  It takes her a little while, but she perseveres (and it keeps her out of trouble for a few minutes).

These pumpkin crackers don't taste all that pumpkiny-- just a little.  I used banana squash puree; perhaps canned pumpkin puree would give a stronger flavor. In any case, they're a good backdrop for a number of flavors, from sweet pumpkin spices to more the savory.  I chose to go with the savory-- coriander, poppyseed, and cuminseed. Their lovely golden color is a bonus-- I think I know what I'll use when it's time to finally unleash my faux-Goldfish crackers.

Pumpkin Crackers

2 c. whole wheat pastry flour
2 tsp baking powder
1/2 c. butter
1 c. winter squash or pumpkin puree
cumin seeds
poppy seeds
ground coriander

Preheat oven to 375.  In a bowl, mix together the flour and baking powder.  Cut in the butter with a pastry blender or with your fingers-- you want small pieces, no larger than peas.  Mix in the pumpkin.  Start the process with a spoon, but finish by kneading it in gently with your hands, as the pumpkin needs to get squooshed around to mix in properly-- don't overwork the dough!  Mix until just combined-- it'll be the consistency of a medium-stiff cookie dough. (Note: I used fresh squash puree, so it was a bit wetter than canned pumpkin. Add a little milk if you have difficulty incorporating all of the flour into the dough).  Divide in half, and form each half into a flattened disk.  If you're confident that you didn't overmix, you can roll it out right away-- otherwise, wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least a half hour just to be on the safe side.  Generously flour a baking parchment or a silpat, and roll out one of the disks as thinly as you can-- 1/16th of an inch of possible, and no more than 1/8 of an inch. Sprinkle the dough with ground coriander, poppyseeds, and cumin seeds-- roll over them gently with the rolling pin to get them to stick. Cut the dough into rectangles using a pizza cutter or, if you're feeling fancy, deploy thematically appropriate cookie cutters (I wouldn't try removing the extra dough from around the shapes, as it's a bit delicate-- leave them in situ and pop them out once they're baked).

                                                                        Just before baking.

Bake for 12-15 minutes.  The trickiest part of this is getting them done just right-- underdone and they're a bit chewey and relatively tough; overdone and they're, well, burnt. I usually take them out at 12 minutes, remove the crackers from the edges that are starting to brown, and return the rest to the oven for 2 minutes, let them brown a bit, repeat the procedure until all of the ones in the center are done properly.  Break them apart once they're cool.  Repeat the procedure with the second disk of dough. Devour.
Variation: Instead of the seeds, add 1/2 tsp cinnamon, 1/4 tsp nutmeg, and 1/4 tsp ginger into the flour mixture. 

Rubbed sage or curry might also be nice mixed into the dough, but I haven't tried them yet. If you do it, let me know how it turns out!

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Savory pumpkin custard

You might need to use a loaded spoon for this one, as it's not very pick-uppable. It's definitely a messy one to give a baby (a 3 on the messiness scale).  But it's so good, it's worth all that.  This custard's got a lovely golden color, silky-smooth texture, and delicate flavor. Although I call it pumpkin, in truth I used roasted and pureed Hubbard squash, and I credit a lot of the success of this dish to the intrinsic deliciousness of the squash. The better your squash, the better the final product will be. Butternut would work fine, but I'd stay away from canned pumpkin.

Savory pumpkin custard

3 egg yolks
1/2 c. whipping cream
1/2 c. winter squash puree
1 sprig rosemary
1 large clove of garlic, sliced
freshly ground black pepper

Preheat your oven to 300.  In a small saucepan, heat the cream to a gentle simmer, and add the rosemary, garlic, and pepper. Turn off the heat, cover, and let sit for 10 minutes, then strain into a small bowl and let the cream cool.  Discard the spices. When it's cooled, whisk in the pumpkin and egg yolks. Pour into ramekins (I used two shallow and wide ones, but do whatever you like; be aware that you may have to adjust the cooking time a little depending on the size of dish you use). Set in a roasting pan and fill the pan with water to reach about halfway up the sides of the custard dishes. Bake until just set (if there's a little wiggle in a small area in the center, they're done), about 15 minutes. Serve warm.

She doesn't look like she's having much fun, but she ate about half of one ramekin all by herself. This is early on in the process-- later, the custard covered the nose and entire chin.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Muffin Monday-- Pumpkin Spice Muffin recipe for infants

It's pumpkin week!

We made our annual pilgramage to my favorite pumpkin patch recently, and now I've got to use up the 2 quarts or so of pumpkin puree I have in the freezer to make room for this year's crop (it's a disease, I leave me alone).  Well, not pumpkins, actually-- I find most pumpkins to be flavorless, whether from a can or from a fresh pie pumpkin. I'm a winter squash fanatic-- the big blue-grey Hubbard being my squash of choice.  The pulp of a Hubbard is dry and so sweet I can eat it freshly roasted with no seasoning whatsoever. Delicious. And it makes any recipe you use it in just that much more delicious, too.  (Of course, to get the dadgum thing open, you have to toss it off the front stoop and bust it open on the sidewalk. It's the safest way. Trust me.) (Yes, I said "dadgum". What of it?)

Where was I going with this? Oh yeah, muffins. This is based on my favorite, favorite pumpkin bread recipe-- I've reduced it in size to make a manageable quantity of muffins, added in whole wheat pastry flour for a bit of nutrition and a tender crumb, reduced the sugar dramatically, left out the salt.  It's still delicious, but much less like a cupcake than the original recipe was. (Though if cupcakes are what you're wanting, you could hardly do better than trying the original recipe).

Awesomely autumnal muffin pan ("cakelet" pan, to be precise) thanks to Mae's Grammy, who always keeps us eating in style.

Pumpkin Spice Muffins

1/2 c. sugar
1 c. oil
3 eggs
2 cups pumpkin puree
1 c. All Purpose flour
2 c. whole wheat pastry flour
1 tsp cloves
1 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp nutmeg
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp baking powder
1 c. chopped walnuts (optional)

Preheat your oven to 350 and grease up your mini-muffin pan. In a large bowl, whisk together the sugar, oil, eggs, and pumpkin. In a smaller bowl, stir together the dry ingredients. Stir the dry ingredients into the wet ingredients until just combined, and fold in the walnuts if you're using them.  Fill your muffin tins 3/4 full, and bake for 12-15 minutes.

Monday, October 4, 2010


Well, Mae's dad is traveling a lot and I can barely find time to eat a piece of toast, much less try new recipes and blog about them. So I'll be on a brief hiatus until his return early next week. If I get lucky I may get a chance to post something-- maybe even a recipe-- but no promises. Just hang tight, I'll be back in action soon.  Just in time for...Pumpkin Week! Oh yeah!

Friday, October 1, 2010

Beets, at last

What have I got against beets, you ask? Well, I'll tell you: I am another victim of the canned beet. My mother used to buy them and eat them straight out of the jar. I don't think she even rinsed them off. I shudder at the very memory of the smell.  (She used to do that with asparagus, too, and I was well into adulthood before I discovered that I actually do like asparagus when it isn't pulled straight out of a can). (No offense, Mom.)

I gave the beets I bought plenty of time to go bad in the fridge, but they never did (root vegetables, go figure-- perhaps I should have left them out on the counter), so I had time to research the best way to prepare them. I read this thread in its entirety, and learned that you can eat them raw, you can eat them pickled, you can steam them, you can roast them. If you roast them, you should roast them at a high temperature. Either that or a low temperature. And you should put olive oil on them. Or not. And you should peel them. Or not.

So I peeled one, and washed the rest and stuck them in the crock pot for a few hours on high, just to see what would happen.  What happened is they became very soft, and the outside was a bit caramelized. Very promising! I took a small bite of one and liked it. Then I took a larger bite and did not. I probably should have gotten smaller beets.

Anyway, since they were soft and sweet, I thought I'd let Mae have a go at them. This was her verdict:

This is the first time she has made this face.  The funny thing is, she went on to eat most of what was there anyway, which just goes to demonstrate how much she likes putting stuff in her mouth.  I have 4 1/2 beets left, so I'm going to offer them to her again tomorrow and the next day. Who knows, maybe they'll grow on her. And as for me, I'm going to try some of the other preparations I've seen: tossed with balsamic vinegar. With salt, maybe. Perhaps with goat cheese. I'm going to put these beets through their paces. I may even buy some more, smaller ones and have a go at them before I conclude once and for all that I just don't like beets.  No one will be able to say I didn't give beets a chance.