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Goodbye, Libby’s (At Least For Now)

This year, I carved my first pumpkin in a long, long time. The last pumpkin I carved was based on advice from Martha Stewart (or the like) when I was working at a credit union in Fairbanks. My office held a carving contest and my pumpkin was truly something to behold – I made a leaf pattern and cut out leaves around the pumpkin, carved veins in them, and then pushed the leaves partially back through the holes in the pumpkin so that when I lit it up, the leaves looked like they were floating around said pumpkin and glowed. But — story of my life — the pumpkin rotted and liquefied the night before judging and I lost.

I can’t say this year’s pumpkin was a triumphant return, but it was nice to feel festive again.

I *also* decided that for the first time ever, I would roast the seeds instead of tossing them out…and, boy, am I glad I did! It was sort of hard to find a recipe I liked…so I ended up just rinsing them, tossing them in olive oil, adding salt and roasting on a sheet pan at about 300 degrees for 45 minutes. They were perfect! My mother said it was really hard to get all the orange pumpkin gunk off of them, but I didn’t think it was actually that bad. And it turned out that T’s favorites were the ones that were a little darker because they were roasted with gunk on.

I also heard that you should consider boiling the seeds first…but I thought the roasted seeds were fine sans boiling.

Now my goal is to make a pie from an actual pumpkin. I’ve never done that before either. And even though my baking enthusiasm has dimmed considerably and may never be what it once was, I’d still like to try out real pie this year. Another friend had a taste test last year in which she made a pie from scratch and a pie from a can and asked guests to guess which was which. It seemed obvious to me — the pie made from real pumpkin was a darker color and sort of less pleasant to look at…although I don’t actually remember how they tasted (…which may actually be because I thought the canned pumpkin pie tasted better, but I am too ashamed to admit it).

But, as a general rule, I’ve been perfectly happy with Libby’s all my life. There – I said it. If that makes me Whiskey Tango, so be it.

So I’m not sure I’ll turn pie-from-an-actual-pumpkin into a holiday tradition for years to come. But, like seeing Mount Rushmore or going waterskiing, it seems like something I should do once in life.

And yet…the Web seems to be barren of useful pie-from-a-pumpkin resources. Could it be that the difference is negligible and so no one bothers?

Granted, my research was not as exhaustive as it perhaps could have been, but every pie recipe I saw on Epicurious.com (my favorite!) called for canned pumpkin. Ditto FoodNetwork.com.

And I’m surprised that given the annual food mag task of making old Thanksgiving news new again that they haven’t jumped all over this. I would think that Alton Brown of all people would have made a pumpkin pie from an actual pumpkin at least once — after all, I saw him harvest coconut using a power drill — but, alas, I cannot find a recipe from him either.

Thankfully, my go-to cookbook when the Internet fails — The Joy of Cooking — has perfect instructions. I will give it a shot soon (and maybe make a Libby’s pie, too, just for old times’ sake) and report back.

And…just a reminder: There are rumors of another canned pumpkin shortage this year…so if you don’t want to experiment with real pumpkins, make sure to pick up a can of Libby’s before the Thanksgiving rush!

Image via cardamom/Flickr

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Filed under Alaska, books, Food Network, Halloween, holidays, pie, pumpkins

The Comfort Food Roundup

Oh, my little blog, it’s been such a long time since I’ve written a proper food post…and not just used you to help celebrate friends’ birthdays…so, I think at this point, the wisest course of action would be to do a little roundup to get us back on track…:

1. Carrot Cake, I Seek Comfort in Thee

For all intents and purposes (…which I always say as, “all intensive purposes…”), I have a massive sweet tooth. And when things in life get rocky, I cope with an entire mouth of sweet teeth. And so I indulged myself recently with a carrot cake. My favorite recipe is one my mother found in Saveur that includes crushed pineapple and coconut flakes. (I used to really not like coconut, but I think it’s growing on me…) I was on a cooking binge a couple of weekends ago and wasn’t sure I’d have room in the fridge…but I’m glad I rearranged things to make space on the bottom shelf — this cake is best after it has been refrigerated (…and, frankly, it was so hot in my apartment that I’m pretty sure the frosting would have melted right into the cake had I left it out). In short, you cannot be sad when eating this cake. (I have to be careful though — I recently caught a snippet of Dr. Oz’s weight loss secrets…one of them? “Don’t wear pants with elastic waistbands.” And that’s basically what I’ve resigned myself to while I feed my feelings…)

2. Real Olive-y Olive Oil

A J-school classmate recently invited me to a launch party for a new line of olive oil. (Thanks again, Columbia! My degree still hasn’t procured gainful employment…but, thanks to you, I made a friend who works with a guy who knows a guy who launched his own olive oil!) For all my blathering about food, I have realized in more recent history that I’m not exactly a “foodie.” (I just wrote a cover letter for a editorial food gig in which I tried to explain that if I was ever on The Next Food Network Star and Bob Tuschman or Susie Fogelson asked about my chef persona, I’d have to call myself something like the “curious novice,” by which I mean that I experiment a lot and learn as I go…and there are plenty of quasi-disastrous teaching moments.) Case in point: I bought 1.5 liters of extra virgin olive oil the last time I was at Costco. And…I can say with complete certainty that the samples of Ritossa Extra Virgin Olive Oil and Delmonico’s — yes, that Delmonico’s — were definitely more olive-y than Kirkland Signature Filippo Berio…but that’s about it. I don’t think I have a very fine palate. My companion could tell subtle differences by sampling the oils in quick succession…but I, alas, could not. The Delmonico’s bottle says, “Savor the intense and alluring aroma of fresh-cut grass…” which my friend definitely picked up on. But…it’s kind of like me and wine-tasting or what celebrity someone looks like — I never pick up on it by myself…but once someone says, “This wine has a hint of cat pee…” (which some wines do! Ask any oenophile worth his or her salt!) or, “She looks like Chloe Sevigny,” it hits me. (This is certainly not the plug the folks at Ritossa were hoping for, I’m sure…and I hope they are comforted that a) my mother is the only one who reads this; and/or b) I have included a cheer-you-up carrot cake recipe above. I will also vow to experiment with Ritossa and Delmonico’s once my Kirkland Signature is gone…and maybe there will be a noticeable difference in my food. Stay tuned.)

3. Martha’s One Good Recipe?

I’m not a huge fan of Martha Stewart’s recipes. There — I said it. Like Rachael Ray, I think they sound good (and easy) in theory, but usually come out bland and are not worth the (minimal) effort and I vow to never make them again. Not true with Martha’s Mediterranean Tuna Melt though. (Tuna melts are another Lisa comfort food. I think one of the best I ever had was at Lori’s Diner at SFO. But…since a cross-country flight was not an option, I had to find a Plan B.) The olives and capers really give it some zing and differentiate it from all the other tuna melts you’ve had in your life…although I’d advise against spooning it on two halves of French bread — I think it’s easier to just make the tuna and store it in the fridge and make individual melts as you go along. And…since her Mediterranean Tuna Melt renewed my faith in Martha’s recipes a bit, I also stocked up on ingredients to make her Spicy Black Bean Cakes. I hope I don’t regret it.

4. The Best 25 Cents You’ll Ever Spend

I have a friend who knows that sweets make me happy…and who brought me some 25-cent candy bars. I sort of forgot about them until I ran out of carrot cake (and — cringe — pudding…but the latter has lots of calcium so it’s good for my bones!)…and was happy as a little clam when I discovered them in my refrigerator last night. They’re Sunbelt bars. And…you know what? They’re really good. The chocolate-covered coconut bar reminded me a lot of the Samoa Girl Scout cookie. And it was only a quarter! (I recently decided that I can’t be such a spendthrift and drop off my laundry anymore…and was pleased to discover that it actually isn’t that bad to do my laundry myself at the Laundromat around the corner. Just $3 a load to wash and dry…and a little over an hour. So…I have to save my quarters for laundry…but my dimes and nickles will be going toward Sunbelt bars from now on!)

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Filed under cake, chocolate, Food Network, grilled cheese, Martha, olives, weight loss