When in doubt, make soup!

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My parents are down in Florida and I’m looking after the house while they’re gone. This entailed cleaning out the fridge after they left, and so I arrived home with this oddment of groceries: 1 small zucchini, 4 wilted green onions, 2 baby bok choi, 9 multicoloured carrots, half a large sweet onion, half a large rutabaga, and half a large Savoy cabbage.

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Welp, that looks like a soup to me. Fortunately I had some stewing beef in the freezer which I chucked in the sink to defrost. Then I got to chopping.

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I also chopped up 1 head of garlic, and sautéed it with the onions in a large stockpot with a drop of olive oil until they were soft and sweet.

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Remember when cutting up rutabagas to be very careful. Slice off the top and bottom first so you have a flat surface to work on before you go after the skin, as it will be tough, especially if it’s been waxed.

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I added all the other chopped veg to the pot. I only scrubbed the carrots, didn’t peel them. All that vitamin-y goodness is in the skin and these are such tender carrots it seemed like a waste to remove the skin.

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Make sure to dry your beef before you brown it. It will make browning way quicker.

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I also like to dredge it in flour for a nice crust, and the flour will help thicken the stew as it cooks. You can use rice flour for a gluten-free option.

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Brown the meat until it has a nice seared edge all the way around.

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Then you can chuck that in the pot, too. I added about 8 cups water and two mini cups of concentrated beef bouillon, but go with whatever floats your boat.

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Give it a stir and set it to simmer for about 30-45 minutes, until the rutabagas are soft when you smush them with a spoon.

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I added in a pinch of ground nutmeg and cloves, as well as a few teaspoons of dried oregano. Add salt and pepper as well, if you like.

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To combat the bitterness of the cabbage I also added in a few tablespoons each of maple syrup and rice vinegar (it sounds weird, I know, but it works). You can also use cider vinegar.

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My scrumptious savoury stew!

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I shoved it into large freezer bags that I froze flat for easy storage. I can’t wait to haul one of these babies out in the dead of winter for some comfort food!

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The From-Scratch-iest Gluten-Free Pumpkin Pie

Happy Thanksgiving!

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Some day I’m gonna be super hardcore, growing my own pumpkins in my magic pumpkin patch and harvesting my own gluten-free flour from the enormous gluten-free flour tree on my massive acreage. Until then, however, I will acquire all my ingredients from fairies, just like everyone else. Or the grocery store. Whichever is more convenient.

Still, there’s a certain satisfaction to be garnered from taking a thing from the absolute start to its completion. For me, for now, that means making things as from scratch as I possibly can. And for this particular recipe, that means pie crust from scratch and pumpkin that I slaughtered and roasted myself. Don’t question my wording on that. Have you ever cut up a pumpkin? Yes, “slaughter” is appropriate.

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Let’s start with that, shall we? Look at these beautiful pumpkins. These are NOT carving pumpkins. They are sugar pumpkins or pie pumpkins, specifically grown for their tender sweetness and exactly the sort of thing you want to dismember and roast for this pie.

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Give them a good washing to remove any dirt.

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Preheat your oven to 350°F and grab yourself a nice big rimmed cookie sheet or baking dish.

Decapitate your pumpkin by gently sawing off its stem.

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Cleave the pumpkin in two vertically.

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Eviscerate your pumpkin by scooping out the seeds and guts. You can wash and dry the seeds for roasting later on. They’re very good for you but may make you a little gassy. Just sayin’.

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Brush the fleshy surfaces of the pumpkin with vegetable oil. If you’re roasting this pumpkin for savoury purposes, then you would probably dust it with salt and pepper as well, but we’re using it for un-savoury purposes (as in, sweet, not nefarious), so you probably shouldn’t do that.

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Place the pumpkin halves face-down on the baking sheet and let that roast for about 45-60 minutes (depending on your pumpkin size). If you want this whole thing to go faster, then cut the pumpkin into smaller pieces.

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When the pumpkin is done the whole thing can be stabbed easily with a sharp knife.

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While that is baking, try to figure out how to scrub the residue off your hands. It’s harder than you think.

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Let the pumpkins cool a little bit so you don’t burn yourself, then scoop out the flesh and discard the skins.

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I ate some toasted pumpkin seeds while I waited for the pumpkin to cool a little bit more.

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I puréed the pumpkin flesh in a food processor to make it extra smooth.

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Because fresh pumpkin is more watery than canned pumpkin, you might want to drain it a bit. These mesh bags are actually for picking produce at the farmer’s market, but they’re also perfect strainers for thick substances like mashed pumpkin.

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I ended up with about 4 cups pumpkin goo, which is pretty much exactly what I needed for two pies. I shoved it in the fridge for a couple of days before I made the pie.

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Now for the crust, which I prepped the night before I made the pie. Gluten-free pie dough still needs to rest, just the same as regular pie dough, so that the flour can absorb all the liquid properly. This recipe, adapted from Martha Stewart, makes one pie shell bottom, so I did it twice.

As with regular pie crust, you still want all your ingredients to be ice cold when you work with them, and you want to handle them as little as possible.

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Start by whisking together 1/2 cup gluten-free all-purpose flour, 1/2 cup white rice flour, 1 teaspoon xanthan gum, and 2 teaspoons castor/superfine sugar in a small bowl.

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As well, assemble a small pitcher of ice water. Cube 1/2 cup cold butter and put that in a bowl as well. Finally, crack 1 large egg into another bowl and scramble it a little. Shove the water and the egg into the fridge and the butter and flour into the freezer for at least 15 minutes.

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When you’re ready to go, dump your flour and your butter into the bowl of your food processor.

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Pulse the dough until the butter forms little pea-sized crumbs.

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Tip in the egg, as well as 1-2 tablespoons ice water and pulse until the dough clumps together.

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I would err on the side of less water as opposed to more. In this batch I think I added 2 tablespoons water and you can see it’s very sticky (gluten-free dough will be stickier by nature, but not this sticky).

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So the next time round I used less water and got this more crumbly dough.

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Squish your dough into a patty and wrap it in plastic. Let it chill in the fridge for at least an hour, preferably three hours, at best, overnight.

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When you’re ready to roll (literally), place a piece of waxed paper on your work surface and lightly dust it with gluten-free flour. Plop your dough patty down and dust that with flour as well.

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Place another sheet of waxed paper over top and carefully use a rolling pin to spread out your dough. Work from the inside out, and flip it over and lift up the waxed paper as often as possible so it doesn’t stick in weird wrinkles.

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When you’re ready to plop the dough into your 12″ pie pan, remember that the dough will stick more to the waxed paper than regular dough, so you might want to chill it a bit beforehand.

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Trim and crimp the edges as usual and chuck it back in the fridge.

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If you’re only making one pie, then halve the ingredients for the filling, but if you’re making two (because really, why not make two?), then here’s how you do it. In a large bowl, whisk together 4 cups pumpkin purée, 3 300mL cans sweetened condensed milk (900mL total), 4 large eggs, and 2 tablespoons pumpkin pie spice.

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Nice and smooth and sweet!

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Pour the filling into your two shells and carefully shove them into the oven (preheated to 425°F) on the same rack, if possible. Bake for 15 minutes at 425°F, then reduce the heat to 350°F and bake for another 35-45 minutes.

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They will be done when the middle is almost set and you can jab a knife into the filling about an inch from the crust and it comes out clean.

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Set those on a rack to cool completely, then EAT!

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Cherry Crumble

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I’m starting to think I should have a section in here just for crumbles, pan-dowdies, buckles, and the rest.  This we found in the paper but due to missing ingredients we changed it enough that we can call it our own now.  This recipe serves four decent bowls of the stuff, so if you want a big one for parties, I’d double it.

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Start with 1 1/2 pounds sweet cherries.

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You’ll want to pit those suckers.  We used this convenient cherry/olive pitter and it was super fun.  Once you’ve done that, preheat your oven to 350°F.

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Spread those pitted cherries in an 8″ x 8″ dish (or the oblong/oval equivalent) and toss them with about 3 tablespoons granulated sugar and 2 tablespoons lemon juice.  If your cherries are on the tart side you may want to increase the sugar amount.

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In a smallish bowl, mix together 1/2 cup flour, 1/2 cup oats, 2 teaspoons ground cloves, and 3/4 cup brown sugar.

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Add to that 1/3 cup butter and use a pastry blender or your fingers to rub the butter throughout the flour/oat mixture until it resembles coarse crumbs.

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Sprinkle that stuff all over the top of the cherries in your dish and bake for 30-35 minutes, until the fruit is bubbling and the topping is nice and brown.

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Serve hot or cold — extra good with ice cream.

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Pumpkin Soup

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Right.  So.  In my effort to effectively use all the pumpkin purée left over from our Pumpkin-Off, all 14 cups of it, we are starting to get sick of pumpkin (though the amount of fibre that has been added to our diet is extraordinary).

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The solution?  SOUP.  Most pumpkin soup recipes call for a single can (a little less than 2 cups) of the stuff, but I’m just gonna giv’er and dump in the rest of what I got.  BLAM.  It came out to about 2 1/2 cups.

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I don’t really feel like blending this soup, because the pumpkin is pre-puréed, so I’m just going to cut everything else up really small. It’s a really quick recipe, too, no need to simmer for a long time, so you can make it, say, just before lunch, and then eat it right away.

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First I got my spices ready: minced garlic, a little bit of cumin, some curry, and a bit of chipotle.

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And the incidentals: lemon juice (don’t mock my plastic lemon, it’s the best I can do in Newfoundland), chicken broth, and coconut milk.

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Then my vegetables: three carrots, an onion, and a red pepper.

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The carrots I scrubbed and grated with the skins still on.  That’s good vitamins for ya.

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The red pepper and onion I diced up.

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In a large saucepan, then, heat up a bit of olive oil on medium-high and toss in your onions.  Cook those until they’re softened.

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Then add in your cup o’spices, and stir that around for a minute or so.

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Chuck in your grated carrot and diced pepper and stir that around as well, spritz it with lemon juice, then add in your coconut milk and stir until fully incorporated.

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Add in the pumpkin finally (it was already cooked, so I didn’t want to overcook it), and pour in the chicken broth until you’ve reached a consistency that you like.  Let that simmer for about 20 minutes and that’s it, you’re all done.

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Season with salt and pepper, and a little more lemon if you like.  At the eleventh hour I added a teaspoon ground cloves to boost the pumpkin.

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This one came out a bit spicy, because I guess my curry was hotter than I had previously thought. I would recommend serving with a bit of yogurt or sour cream.

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