Happy Hallowe’en! Roasted Pumpkin Seeds

Sucker Stand 41

Cheerio, all!  My costume this year is Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother.  I found this blue Shetland wool suit in a second-hand store last winter, bought the vintage hat from Vintage Me & Mom on Etsy, and, well, I already have the matching corgi!

Sucker Stand 40

So I will be sweltering in this itchy and unflattering getup (the suit is super bulky) all day at the office, but it’s worth it because it means I get to enjoy the office Hallowe’en lunch!

Experimenting with Animal Portrait Settings
Did you say LUNCH?

Until then, we’ve been snacking on roasted pumpkin seeds leftover from our pumpkin-off the other day.

Pumpkin-Off 2012

The first thing you need to do is separate the stringy orange stuff from the seeds themselves. You can leave it on, and it will add to the flavour, but it tends to burn. The easiest way to do this is to put them in a strainer and run water over them.  Or fill the bowl they’re in with water and filter them out with your fingers. Then dump the seeds into a towel and dry them off.

Pumpkin-Off 2012

Preheat your oven to 350°F and haul out a rimmed baking sheet or roasting pan. In a large bowl, toss your pumpkin seeds with 2 tablespoons melted butter. Then add whatever spices or herbs or what have you that you’d like. I went with a sprinkle of sea salt, some freshly ground black pepper, and some grated parmesan I had left over in the fridge. Make sure all those lovely ingredients get all over everything.

Pumpkin-Off 2012

Spread them out on your baking sheet so they’re in a single layer and roast for about 30 minutes. I made sure to stir them around about every 10 minutes.

Pumpkin-Off 2012

If you find them a little oily when they come out of the oven, dump them on some paper towels to absorb some of the butter before serving.

Pumpkin-Off 2012

Here they are, fresh from the oven and ready for snacking!

Pumpkin-Off 2012

I challenge you to a pumpkin-off!

Pumpkin-Off 2012

Or, to be more precise, I challenged the Pie to a pumpkin-off.  You see, we don’t really get trick-or-treaters on our street.  Like, at all.  So we long ago gave up on decorating for Hallowe’en.  But carving pumpkins is just so much fun.  I used to get really elaborate with mine as a kid, using those tiny knives to get tiny details and scraping away layers of pumpkin to create a translucent layer of orange pulp.  The Pie, on the other hand, says that traditionally he had two pumpkin styles: one with two pointy teeth, and one with one snaggle-tooth.  And in eight years together we have only carved pumpkins together once.  So why not do so now?  We won’t have anyone to show them to, as we don’t get trick-or-treaters here on Elizabeth, but at least we’ll get to enjoy them.

Pumpkin-Off 2012

Some tips for happy carving:

Give your pumpkin a good scrub to loosen dirt and other unmentionables (they come from farms, people), especially if you’re planning to eat the contents.

Pumpkin-Off 2012

Cut your “lid” just slightly larger than your fist, and cut the sides at an angle so it stays in place.

Pumpkin-Off 2012
Incorrect angle. Don’t worry, he fixed it on the next stab.
Pumpkin-Off 2012
The correct angle.

Scrape the inside flesh as thin as possible, leaving maybe 1/2″ behind.  This means that you get to keep most of the flesh for cooking without having it left out to spoil.  It also makes it easier to do more detailed carving.  And to add to that, if you’re going to go for the translucent look, where the light shines through the pumpkin flesh, it’s a good starting point for thinning the flesh to where you want it. I find a metal spoon works really well for good scrape-age.

Pumpkin-Off 2012

We had three separate bowls going while we were carving, to save us time later on. One was for the pumpkin seeds, another for usable/eatable flesh, and the third for scraps and bits of skin we couldn’t eat. Gren thought all of them were for his personal consumption and was quite put out when we wouldn’t let him have more than a few pieces to himself. I guess after a puppyhood of digestive issues where we gave him pumpkin on a regular basis, he’s developed a taste for it.

Pumpkin-Off 2012

Also, it’s a good idea to go into pumpkin carving with a plan. The Pie and I took two different routes: he went with a stencil of Spider-Man, and I free-handed an approximation of Grenadier. So he was going to scoop out all the black stuff on his, and on mine, the black stuff is untouched pumpkin skin, the gray is scooped out but not cut pumpkin flesh, and the white is entirely cut out pumpkin.

Pumpkin-Off 2012

The Pie taped his design to his pumpkin, making sure to cut darts in the sides so it would fit on the curve.

Pumpkin-Off 2012

Then he set to work with a wee punch, poking holes around the edges of his design to use as a guide for cutting later on.

Pumpkin-Off 2012

Then he started peeling off the skin of his design with a sharp knife. You’ll note he kept a copy of his stencil by his side so he could remember which parts he was supposed to cut and which parts were negative space.

Pumpkin-Off 2012

I drew my design directly onto my pumpkin skin with a pencil. It doesn’t leave a huge mark, which is good if you decide to change your mind later on. Which I did.

Pumpkin-Off 2012

Then I started peeling and cutting, according to my plan, which I kept at my side.

Pumpkin-Off 2012

Can’t say the finished product looks much like the subject, though.

Pumpkin-Off 2012

When we got to a certain stage we started testing the translucence of our pumpkin with LED tea lights stuffed inside. It’s a simple matter to scrape away more of the flesh from the inside and out. I went with a bit of texture on mine to emphasize the fuzziness of my hound. It does show up when you look at the lit pumpkin up close.

Pumpkin-Off 2012

So here’s my finished pumpkin, from the ears angle:

Pumpkin-Off 2012

And from the tongue angle:

Pumpkin-Off 2012

And the Pie’s, from one angle:

Pumpkin-Off 2012

And a bit closer:

Pumpkin-Off 2012

I made Gren pose with the finished version of him. He was not amused.

Pumpkin-Off 2012

And who won the pumpkin-off? Well, Gren seemed to like mine best, as he kept licking it. So I’m going to take that as a vote for my side.

Pumpkin-Off 2012

Plus we definitely plan to have some posts in the days following Hallowe’en about the things you can do with your carved pumpkin.  Stay tuned!

Vote for my pumpkin!

You’ll see more about this in my post tomorrow, but the Pie and I have entered a contest over at Movita Beaucoup.

Please feel free to vote for my pumpkin and not the Pie’s.  But if you like his better then I guess it’s okay if you vote for his …

See the entries HERE!

And as a reward, see this corgi that isn’t mine but is also awesome.

Roasted Chicken and Rice Soup

Roasted Chicken and Rice Soup

So I made a roasted chicken to go with our poutine from earlier, and the Pie and I ended up, in the events of that week, forgetting about the leftovers completely.

So let’s make some soup for those busy periods in our lives (which, this term, is pretty much every day).

Pop your carcass and any other bits of chicken you have, skin, bones, everything, in a large pot.  Cover it with 1 litre chicken stock and the rest with water.  Bring that to a boil and reduce the heat to a simmer.  Let that bubble away for about an hour.

Roasted Chicken and Rice Soup

Remove the pot from the heat.  Set a large colander in a larger bowl and pour the contents of the pot into the colander.  This makes getting the wee bits of non-meat out of the broth easy.

Roasted Chicken and Rice Soup

Pour the strained broth back into the pot.  Strip the chicken of bits that you want in your soup, and chuck those bits in with the broth.

Roasted Chicken and Rice Soup

Chop 1 carrot and 1 onion and add those in.

Roasted Chicken and Rice Soup

Add 1 cup rice.

Roasted Chicken and Rice Soup

I was going to add a can of tomatoes to this, but it turned out I didn’t have any (which was kind of a shocker, considering that I normally have about four on hand).  Instead, I had a little over 1 cup pumpkin purée, left from the Pie’s first attempt at pumpkin pie, so I added that in.

Roasted Chicken and Rice Soup

Sprinkle on some herbs (I used oregano) and add salt and pepper.  I also added a pinch or two of chipotle seasoning.

Roasted Chicken and Rice Soup

Put your pot back on the heat and simmer it for about half an hour, until the rice is cooked and the carrots are tender and everything is hot and yummy.  Taste, and adjust your seasonings if necessary.

Roasted Chicken and Rice Soup

Serve hot or freeze for later on.  It’s that simple!

Roasted Chicken and Rice Soup

Dog Digestion and Pumpkin

Gren has been living a chaotic life these past few weeks, adjusting to new people, new places, and new food.  He’s also been eating a lot of random objects on the side of the road, and that can wreak havoc with a puppy’s digestive system.

If your dog has a bit of a traveler’s gut, diarrhea, or is constipated, there is a quick and easy solution, and I will let you in on the secret.

Ready?

It’s pumpkin.

I’m serious.  It has all this lovely fibre in it to help ease a dog’s digestion, without the sugar of your regular fruits.  I’m sure it works on people as well.

You can give your dog up to a tablespoon of pumpkin purée a day.  Just plop it in the dog’s food and all will be well.  I give Gren a teaspoon in the morning and one at night and he’s good to go.

I also add a teaspoon each time of plain yogurt, to make sure his little tummy has all the good bacteria in it that it needs.

Make sure when you’re buying pumpkin in a can that you get the plain stuff, not the pumpkin pie filling.  Your dog doesn’t need the spices and the sugar.

And because you probably won’t need to go through a whole can before your dog’s gut is back to normal, you can freeze the pumpkin in individual serving sizes (like I did here in ice-cube trays) for the next time you need them.

Happy Hallowe’en Cupcakes

Hurray!  It’s Hallowe’en!

These spooky cupcakes come from my favourite cupcake book, Cupcake Heaven by Susannah Blake, and they’re easy as pie.  Or cupcakes.  And pumpkin is an awesome thing to bake with.

‘Twas an ominous storm a-brewing this afternoon when I made them up.  It almost ruined my light! 

Preheat your oven to 350°F.

Beat together 1/2 cup packed brown sugar, 1/2 cup sunflower oil, and 2 eggs.

Fold in 1 cup grated pumpkin or butternut squash (you can used canned pumpkin, and I usually add a little extra for moistness) and the grated peel of 1 unwaxed lemon.

Combine in a separate bowl 1 cup self-rising flour (or one cup minus one teaspoon all-purpose flour mixed with 1 teaspoon baking powder, though for this recipe regular flour works just fine), 1 teaspoon baking powder, and 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon.

Sift flour mixture into pumpkin mixture and fold in.

Spoon mixture into 12 paper liners and bake for 18 minutes.  I only had medium liners (so I ended up with 24) but usually I make large ones.  Also, make sure to flatten out your batter so it’s level before baking, as the batter, having no butter to melt, won’t do it on its own.  Obviously, I forgot that step.

Cool completely on wire racks.

In a double boiler or heatproof bowl over gently simmering water, melt 5 oz chopped white chocolate

In a separate bowl, melt 1 oz chopped bittersweet or dark chocolate.  Allow the chocolates to cool for about 5 minutes.

Spoon the white chocolate evenly to cover the top of the cooled cupcakes.

Make a parchment paper cone (fold it into triangles and snip off a corner, though don’t snip the corner until you’re ready to pipe the chocolate).

Pour the dark chocolate into the cone.  It’s easiest if you have an extra pair of hands, but we do what we can with what we have.  Fold over the opening of the cone several times to avoid gooey messes.

Pipe the bittersweet chocolate onto the cupcakes with a central dot surrounded by two concentric circles (you can use a spiral if you have difficulty making discrete circles).

Use a toothpick or skewer to drag lines from the centre chocolate dot out to the edge of the cupcake, about six or seven of them, to make a spiderweb pattern.  Normally they turn out better than this, but I’m not one to dwell on small mistakes.

You can also ice them however you wish, really.  It’s up to you after all.

The cupcakes are best eaten when the chocolate is still gooey, but they can also be chilled in the refrigerator until set.

And hark!  The sun makes a final, feeble attempt to burst through the clouds.

Alas, forces of darkness take over.

Have a very happy and safe Hallowe’en!