Friday, November 4, 2011

"Punkin" Pie...a Gardening Adventure

So, here is what I had for dessert last night:

YUMMY! I love Pumpkin Pie this time of year, and with freshly (real) whipped cream it was divine...but what the heck is so interesting about pumpkin pie that I would blog about it? Well, let me tell you!

This tale goes back to the spring time, see I have wonderful parents-in-law who love to help us with projects, play with our girlies, and just are generally all around awesome people. They don't like to stay still, though, and on a visit this spring they dug up the corner of our front yard, right next to our porch, because MIL (mother-in-law) was trying to grow some sproutling flowers and was going to give me some. Well, the flowers were a no go, they got hammered by some crazy early spring weather. My MIL felt bad,  though, about this big patch of turned up dirt in our front yard and asked if I might like to plant some veggies there.

Secretly (or not so much), I would love to be a green thumb, grow wonderful plants and vegetables in my yard and house to enjoy. But... I'm not. I've neither the time, nor money to really invest yet in "gardening". What we have around our yard is: hardy buffalo grass that my hubby maintains, some flowers that my MIL has helped plant in years past that keep on growing and blooming (see I don't even know the difference between perenial and annual, I just know these keep coming back), a sad little Lilac plant that I need to move and tend to (I love lilacs, and I want to keep this one), a crazy grape-vine that came with the house and we tried desperately to kill that I'm deciding I just need accept as part of our family, LOTS of wood chips, and...well...weeds. When we moved in, weeds were the landscaping, and on a 13000 square ft lot, well, it's taking time and persistence to deal with, sigh. Anyways, I have wanted a veggie garden since we bought the house, so when MIL offered to help with just a little one, I said "sure, why not"

So, she gave me seeds (yes, we sure did start from seeds), instructions, and a plan and we got to work. Adding nutrients to the soil, building little hillocks and rows for plants, and carefully planting our little seeds. Then, I said "alright, here's hoping". I can't believe I never took pictures of the progress of our little garden, but I can say that it far exceeded my expectations. We ended up with 2 zucchini bushes, 3 pole bean plants strung to the roof, 1 pat-a-pan squash plant, 4 butternut squash vines, and 1 head of spinach (I tried for some lettuce and more spinach...not super successful, but the spinach was the tastiest I've EVER had). We also grow tomatoes and basil in earth boxes on our front porch, but we get these as plants so not as super exciting...although the homemade spaghetti and pesto is! It was REALLY cool to see, and to show my kids "how does your garden grow", from tiny little seeds, some soil, water, and attention (thank you hubby) we had ALL of these plants growing FOOD for us, WOW!

The harvest from these plants was no less amazing. I have a picture of our final harvest:

In that basket were about 10 butternut and 7 pat-a-pan squashes AND this doesn't include 2 butternut or 4-5 zucchinis (yes, that same size) we'd already given away or eaten, another 3-4 harvests of beans earlier in the year, the spinach, or any of our tomatoes. Pretty much, our garden went NUTS.

Fortunately I REALLY REALLY like all of these veggies. I've also shredded and frozen some of the zucchini to use in breads, muffins, and chili throughout the winter. So, turns out I am a happy gardener! Lately, I've been hearing that it is hard to find canned pumpkin, and that it is expensive this year, so I was kind of bummed I didn't try growing pie pumpkins...which brings me to my pie story.

Monday being Halloween, and I being so on top of it, my girls had pumpkins that they really wanted to carve into Jack-O-Lanterns. They were small pumkins, reminded me of pumpkin pie pumkins and I though "mmmm pie". Would I really deprive my children of this festive activity just for pie, short answer- yes. Well, what I was thinking was "I could just have them paint these this year with washable paint, then wash them later and turn them into pie" See, not a heartless Mom. So, I hopped online and started looking at how to make pumpkin pie from actual pumpkin, a new experiment for me. This is where is got very interesting. At the end of the day, the pumkins looked like this:

So where did the pie come from? Well, my internet search led me to discover that canned pumpkin often comes from a form of butternut squash, so in a pinch you can use a butternut squash for pumpkin pie. WHAT!?!?! you mean I have like 10+ pies worth of squash sitting in a basket in my kitchen, this MUST be tried. So I did. Here's how is went:

The first step is just basic cooking squash technique: cut it in half lengthwise, scoop out seeds, cut into managable peices, place in baking dish with an inch or so of water face down, bake at 350 for 45min-1hr until soft. This is only half of the squash I cooked, I remember half way through scooping to take a picture for blog-land.

Here's this inside onces it is cookes, nice and orange. You can serve this in peices with butter, salt, and pepper as a yummy side if you want...but it gets better.

Scoop as much of the orange yummy-ness out into a blender or food processor (I recently "borrowed" my Mom's old Cuisinart from my Dad's house...this may be a permanent kind of borrow, unless they ask for it back, I LOVE this thing). Blend or mix until it is as very smooth as you can possibly get it. It looks something like this.

Now, with this mixture you could make one of my other yummy Butternut squash recipes: soup. Sautee some diced onions and garlic, add with some (1 can-ish) chicken broth to the squash during puree, put back in a pot on the stove, mix in some milk or cream until the right consitency for you, add some fresh grated nutmeg, salt, and pepper to taste. Viola, Butternut squash soup. This is a favorite of mine, I'm not a fan of tomato soup, so this with grilled cheese is my idea of comfort food ;-)

The instructions I was reading said to strain the pureed pumkin, and since I have a metal strainer I decided I would go ahead and do this step. I'm not sure how essential this step is with butternut squash. It might have been a little smoother, and it did catch one little peice of unpureed squash, but I might try skipping this step next time. Here's what my puree looked like:

This was about 4 cups of squash puree from a decent size (not the biggest we have) squash. The pie recipe I had called for 3 cups of puree, so I stuck the extra in a baggie in the freezer ("pumpkin" muffins anyone?). I then made a crust (from scratch, big pat on the back, decided to try this in my processor too, and it worked like a charm, SUPER yummy too). Added 1 1/2 cans of evaporated milk, 2 cups sugar, 4 eggs, and all the usual spices, baked for an hour and viola, PIE!!!!

We tried it that night, while it was still slightly warm with some ice-cream and it was really good, but not quite the same as my idea of pumpkin pie. We had it last night after chilling with whipped cream and it was AMAZING, the best "pumpkin" pie I've had! Here's where I found recipes and such.

So, my kids got their jack-o-lanterns and I got my pie and everyone was happy. It is official, butternut is my favorite squash. I've always liked it as a side, just sweet and smooth enough to be yummy, then I discovered soup, and most recently I've had Butternut Squash Ravioli which was impressively good, and now PIE, it doesn't get any better in my mind. Now, I think I need another peice, just to make sure it's as good as I remember ;-)

1 comment:

Just_Megs said...

Butternut Squash Soup is one of my fall fav's so I thought I'd share my favorite recipe with you:)

I only use the first portion of this recipe and its dedlicious!!